A couple of month back, I watched the movie ‘Goal!’ on television. When the protagonist is informed of his father’s sudden death, he immediately leaves to the airport to get back home. Waiting there at the lounge, he thinks long and hard and decides that the best way to honour his dad’s memory would be on the football field and returns back to the club. Although this is not exactly similar to the story of Frank Lampard, I think we can all agree that not many players can return after such a personal tragedy after just a week and guide their team to the Champion’s League final like he did.
Frank Lampard, or Super Frankie Lampard as the Chelsea faithful like to call him, is probably Chelsea’s greatest player ever. Not just because he is the club’s all time highest goal-scorer. Or because he won 3 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League, 4 FA Cups and 1 Europa League title and many other personal accolades. Chelsea fans will always love him because for the better part of the 13 years he spent at the club, he was an integral part of every single success for the Blues. When the rest of the Chelsea Old Guard had their fair share of controversies and blunders, Lampard always managed to stand ahead of the rest and let his football do the talking on the pitch.
Lampard scored a brace against Bolton as Chelsea marched on to win their first ever Premier League title and then scored 16 goals in the next season to win back to back titles. Under Ancelotti, he scored 22 goals in the League, including the winner against Liverpool at Anfield in the second last game, as he won the PL title for the 3rd time in his career. In the FA Cup, he assisted two of Drogba’s winners, against Manchester United and Liverpool, while also scoring a cracking winner against Everton the final in 2009. In the Champions League, he scored the equalizer against Manchester United in the final at Moscow as Chelsea agonizingly lost in the penalty shoot-out. In 2012, he scored key goals in the comeback win against Napoli and the quarter final win over Benfica. Against Barcelona, he stepped up after John Terry’s reckless red card and assisted Ramires’s goal which sparked an epic triumph over the defending champs. In the final, he scored an emphatic penalty past Neuer as Chelsea won their first ever Champions League title. Even his record breaking goals against Aston Villa, which made him the club’s all time top scorer, came when Chelsea were a man and a goal down at the break and needed to win to secure CL qualification. A good number of footballers have probably won more titles than the Englishman, but very few have actually earned it like he did. While Ashley Cole and John Terry were constantly involved in controversies and with Drogba losing his head at crucial moments, Lampard was a true leader on the pitch and a classy gentleman off it.
The most inspiring part about Lampard is that he’s not what you would call a born talent. He had to work hard to improve his game and his style of play. He didn’t have the explosive pace and power of Gerrard or the defensive and passing abilities of Scholes. So he trained hard to improve his abilities and played to his biggest strength – his goal scoring prowess. His ability to time his runs to provide a second option for the cross at the edge of the box is almost unrivalled while his finishing ability is among the best as he leads the Premier League record books for most goals from outside the box. It was his uncanny ability to find the back of the net that made him outshine even the best forwards of his time, Shevchenko and Torres. He is the highest scoring midfielder in the Premier League history with over 150 goals and even racked up over a 100 assists during the time(5th highest). He even hold the record for the most consecutive league appearances for an outfield player (164), showing how much importance he gave to fitness and training. During his time at Chelsea, he was joined by some technically gifted players in the likes of Robben, Ballack, Deco and Mata, but he managed to outshine all these legends and that is testament to how much effort he put in. For every aspiring footballer who dreams of reaching the very top, Frank Lampard’s career is a perfect blueprint to achieve it.
After watching how Gerrard got his farewell at Anfield, I was bitterly disappointed that Chelsea did not do something similar for Lampard. As much as I love the club, their treatment of club heroes leaves a lot to be desired. But when he returned to league with Manchester City and scored the equalizer against his former club, it felt like justice had been served and I was glad that it happened. What made it even more special was the standing ovation he got from the Chelsea fans afterwards despite them dropping points on the day. It was the perfect way to show that despite his age, scoring goals was something he was born to do and Chelsea fans proved that no matter what happened, Frank Lampard’s contribution for the club will never be forgotten. It is moments like this that makes you realise that you don’t always need statues to immortalize legends.
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