Frank Lampard has agreed to call time on his career with Chelsea and end his association with Premier League football, after agreeing to sign for New York City along with Spanish striker David Villa.
The 35-year-old, who turns 36 next month, is undoubtedly one of the finest midfielders that English football and possibly even the world has ever seen. He is the highest scoring Premier League midfielder of all-time and also leads the scoring charts for Chelsea F.C. with 211 goals.
Even those with no strong ties with Lampard or Chelsea will undoubtedly feel a pang of sadness as Lampard moves on, and surely nobody will begrudge him the move away from English football. The contract he has signed is reportedly worth substantially less than what he was earning with Chelsea, bucking the usual trend of high-profile European players travelling over the Atlantic to receive one final big pay-off before retirement, though he is set to receive extra bonuses and incentives.
Lampard is of course most famous for the time he spent with Chelsea, though it is easy to forget that after a 13 year stay at the club he actually played a significant amount of time at West Ham.
‘Super Frank’ made his Hammers debut on 31 January 1996 and collected his first start the following season in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. The 1997-1998 season was the first in which he made his first real impression on top flight football, making 42 appearances and scoring 9 goals – a record that displays his goal-scoring prowess even at an early age.
In the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons Lampard finished as West Ham’s 3rd top goalscorer, behind only (as usual) the club’s two main strikers. The 23 goals that the midfielder notched up in these two seasons were unsurprisingly enough to generate an awful lot of interest and Chelsea snapped him up for £11m.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Lampard and Chelsea enjoyed a period of incredible wealth and success, winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League.
In his prime during Jose Mourinho’s first reign at Chelsea, Lampard was often heralded by his own manager and some sections of the media as ‘the best player in the world’ and when one sneaks a peak at his goalscoring record, it is not hard to see why. His goals-per-game ratio would be good for a top-level striker, so for a central midfielder it is truly incredible. In all competitions since joining Chelsea, Lampard has scored at more frequently than one goal every three games and is undoubtedly one of the finest finishers ever to grace the Premier League.
As you would expect from a central midfielder however, Lampard is not only a fantastic goalscorer. He possesses a fantastic range of passing and is a highly intelligent player, displayed by his adaptation when age eventually caught up with his legs. It is only in the last couple of seasons that his physical condition has prohibited him from playing almost every single game in a season and even so he has still been a regular fixture and often on the score sheet for Chelsea.
Possibly the only regret that the 35-year-old will have about his career is a failure to achieve success with the English national side. Although he is set to be a part of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, unless England are to achieve unlikely heroics, then Lampard will depart the international scene without any significant achievement along with the rest of the much maligned ‘Golden Generation’. This is mostly based on an inability to form a perfect partnership with Steven Gerrard and some blatant and persistent tactical ineptitude from successive England managers. It is incredibly disappointing that the Lampard/Gerrard axis never worked out for England, though the players themselves are not entirely blameless.
Nevertheless, Lampard leaves the Premier League as one of the most decorated English players in history and will be remembered fondly for the humble way in which he rolled up his list of honours. It shows both the measure of the player and the man that even most fans of rival clubs will wish him well as he moves over to the other side of the world.