Lampard double-century cements his legacy beyond Chelsea

Posted by Phil Lythell

Julian Finney/Getty ImagesYet another milestone for the legendary Frank Lampard who continues to amaze.

In the summer of 2001 when it was announced that Chelsea had signed Frank Lampard for £11m, there was a sharp intake of breath from most football observers, including the vast majority of Chelsea fans. These days £11m would not even be enough to secure the signature of Steven Fletcher, but in those days it was a substantial figure and represented Chelsea's second most lavish signing after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's arrival for £15m a year earlier.

Two hundred goals later and that £11m represents, arguably, the greatest bargain that the club have ever secured.

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Factor in the slow start that Lampard made at his new club scoring just five times in the Premier League in his debut season after being shunted out to the left side of the midfield by then-manager Claudio Ranieri and his rise towards the elite of Chelsea marksmen is even more remarkable. The tally has been accrued in 595 games giving him a strike-rate of a shade over a goal every three games. To be able to do that for one season is laudable; to repeat it every season while his club has contested the very biggest prizes in football is just ridiculous. This campaign, for instance, has seen him miss a chunk of it through injury, no longer an ever-present when fit and be posted in a more tactically disciplined role, yet he has still managed to place the ball beyond opposing goalkeepers on no less than 14 occasions.

Of course a player -- especially a midfielder -- is judged by more than just his goal return and it would be extremely narrow-minded -- insulting, almost -- to define Lampard solely as a goal-scorer. His contribution to the team in every aspect of his play has been essential to the team's success over his dozen years at Chelsea. His vision, composure, leadership and temperament have been every bit as important as finding the back of the net. Some have chosen to highlight his lack of assists this season as evidence of his restricted ability, though that would selectively omit the fact that he is now playing a far deeper role than before with a trio of dedicated playmakers now stationed in front of him. When playing in a stronger side with a world class striker at the top of his game, Lampard proved to be an excellent provider, the 17 Premier League assists that complemented his 22 goals in the 2009-10 title-winning season underlining his influence.

But with such an eye-catching number of goals next to his name, inevitably the focus will always be upon that element. Having reached his double century, Lampard now sits second in the all-time list of Chelsea goal-scorers between Kerry Dixon and Bobby Tambling, both of whom were excellent strikers with an unerring eye for goal. But even if Lampard does not go past Tambling's record of 202, his haul will always put his two nearest competitors for the title of Chelsea's deadliest finisher in the shade due to the fact that all of his goals have come at the very highest level.

Dixon and Tambling plundered goals in the top flight but also netted several strikes for the Blues while the club plied its trade in the division below. By contrast, all of Lampard's goals have come in England's major league and cup competitions, not forgetting his contributions in Europe where he has scored against top opposition on a regular basis including one in the 2008 Champions League final.

In addition, it must be remembered that Tambling, Dixon, Didier Drogba and the rest of the top ten in Chelsea's list of goal-scorers are all indisputably forwards. Lampard is indisputably a midfielder. Most "midfielders" that have impressive goal-scoring statistics are normally those that play the number 10 role and play much further forward with their emphasis almost entirely on operating in the final third. Lampard might not quite be a midfielder in the classic box-to-box mould of a Roy Keane or a young Michael Essien, and he is certainly not a defensive shield such as Claude Makelele, but he could never be bracketed among the forwards with his game more about prompting the play than trying purely to get on the end of crosses and through-balls.

Some people with an axe to grind -- mostly West Ham and Liverpool fans -- will no doubt point out that a large proportion of his 200 goals have come from the penalty spot, but that would be to overlook something very important. Sure, almost a quarter of his tally (47) have come through the award of a penalty, though maybe the focus should instead be on the fact that he has a 87% conversion rate and that does not even take into account his reliability in shootouts where he has done his part in two Champions League finals.

Lampard's consistency at the pinnacle of the football pyramid means that he will go down as the greatest goal-scoring midfielder of his generation in the world and, arguably, of the modern era. That might sound a touch hyperbolic but it is virtually impossible to conceive that his achievements will be surpassed in the foreseeable future by any midfielder at the top level, not least because of the widely adopted system of 4-2-3-1 clearly dividing the differing roles of offensive and defensive players.

Having breached the 200 goal mark, there is now just one more landmark to overcome to officially put his name at the top of the tree. But irrespective of whether he manages it or not, Lampard will always be regarded as a true legend at Stamford Bridge and, in this writer’s mind at least, the greatest player ever to play for Chelsea Football Club.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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