Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalties and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
To say Frank Lampard has football in his blood would be an understatement. Sure, his father was a West Ham legend and his uncle is former West Ham (and current Queens Park Rangers) manager Harry Redknapp, but it’s more than that. Watching Lampard on the pitch, it is fairly evident he was born to play the game: his intelligence, his knack for scoring goals from the midfield position, his improbable consistency throughout the years. He’s one of the greatest English midfielders of all-time, yet for some reason, he has been slightly overlooked in his time. Undoubtedly, this has driven him in some form or another. Let’s take a look how.
“Right to the Very Top” – Club Career
When you’re the assistant’s son and the manager’s nephew on a major English football club, there is going to be some raised eyebrows. A product of the West Ham United youth program, Frank Lampard made his debut for The Hammers in 1996. Suspicions of nepotism arose, and a ’96 press conference shows Redknapp vehemently defending a young Lampard against criticism.
If you’re an 18-year-old Lampard and you have a fan questioning your skill right in front of you, this has to light a fire. Redknapp makes it clear in the video that he believes Frank will go “right to the very top” of midfielders in the game. Maybe most uncles would say this about their nephews, but Redknapp actually turned out to be right. Following 148 appearances with West Ham through 2001, Frank decided it was time to move on after his uncle was fired after a lackluster season. While Lampard had proven himself there, his skill suggested he should get noticed by a top-level club where he could really show his chops. The next club that signed him would be where he would create his legacy.
Frank Lampard’s inextricable tie to Chelsea Football Club is unlike most in the sport. His time with the team has left him decorated with individual and team awards. He has the most goals in club history (208 and counting, remarkable for a midfielder), is a 3-time Chelsea Player of the Year, and was the runner-up for the 2005 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year. He played a crucial role in Chelsea’s English Premier League titles in 2005, 2006, and 2010, in addition to their 4 FA Cup wins. Even in the twilight of his career he has found great success. Chelsea won the Champions League title (their first) in 2012 and then the less prestigious Europa League title (also their first) in 2013.
Although he’s not just a Chelsea legend. His unbelievable consistency to play at the highest level of English football since 1995 has made him one of the great Premier League midfielders of all-time. He has the most EPL goals by a midfielder and is 2nd in assists for all EPL players. His current form, while not what it used to be, shows that he still has a few years left in the tank. However, when he does leave Chelsea, you can expect a tear-filled farewell for Super Frank.
The Disallowed Goal – International Career
If there is an area of Lampard’s career that he might be dissatisfied with, it would probably be his international career. While this would be true for every English player because of England’s disappointing Euro and World Cup results over the past decade-plus, any Lampard detractors point to his at-times lackluster play on the international stage. He did start off strong, however, with three goals in the 2004 Euros that saw England get knocked out in the quarterfinals. His other two Euro opportunities have been taken from him, as they failed to qualify in 2008 and he sat out with an injury in 2012.
Through two World Cups, Lampard has not scored despite heavy playing time. However, if you remember their knockout match vs. Germany in the 2010 World Cup, he did “score” one of the most controversial disallowed goals in history.
Many of the most fervent (and possibly delusional) England fans believe that if that shot is rightfully counted as a goal, England win the match and Lampard’s national team reputation is changed forever. We’ll never know if that’s true, but certainly Lampard could use a solid performance in the upcoming World Cup to shift the conversation a little – in fact, so could just about every English member. Still, he has over 100 caps as an international player and only eight other Englishmen have that many.
Super Frank is considered a quintessential box-to-box midfielder, meaning he can play skilled soccer offensively and defensively from one penalty box to the other. His knack for scoring goals as a midfielder is truly impressive and allows him to always be considered a threat to put it in the back of the net. Blessed with brilliant intuition on where to go with the ball, he is routinely recognized as a whip smart player. His decision-making, composure, and poise all prove that he is easily one of the most intelligent players on the pitch every time out. Combine this with his obvious passing acumen and his immaculate ability to stay healthy, and we have one of the most durable, effective players in recent history.
Off the Pitch
Known as a consummate professional on the field, Lampard has not experienced too much attention off it. Certainly this is how he likes it. The interviews he does show a quietly affable personality that makes him seem slightly aloof as well. His intelligence on the pitch probably translates off of it, because apparently his IQ is around 150. He fathered two daughters with his former fiancee Elen Rivas. After the split with Rivas, Frank would later get engaged to Irish TV broadcaster Christine Bleakley in 2011.
Lampard’s boot preference should also be noted. He has been sporting the adidas adiPure 11Pro and this choice makes sense for him because of its versatility. Being the adaptable and versatile player he is, Lampard should continue to be a strong contributor for Chelsea even into his upper 30s. With this, he will only become more highly regarded and his legend will grow, particularly at Stamford Bridge, once he moves on from the game. By now, he has certainly proved the doubters wrong, if they even still exist.