On 2 February, Frank Lampard announced on Instagram that he was hanging up his boots after a 21-year career. Lampard noted that whilst he ‘received a number of exciting offers to continue playing,’ at 38-years-old he feels ‘now is the time to begin the next chapter of my life.’ Lampard will be remembered by most for his 13-year tenure at Chelsea, but he made his Premier League debut as a substitute for West Ham United in January 1996 against Coventry City. Little did anybody know at the time that the fresh-faced 17-year-old would go on to become one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.
After helping West Ham to their highest ever Premier League finish of fifth in the 1998/99 season, and scoring 24 goals in 148 appearances, he moved to London rivals Chelsea for £11 million in June 2001. Lampard would wait four more years to secure his first piece of silverware before scoring both goals in 2-0 win against Bolton Wanderers to hand Chelsea their first Premier League crown, and first league title in 50 years. The following season, despite helping Chelsea to their second consecutive title win, Lampard would finish runner-up to Brazilian great Ronaldinho in both the Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year awards.
Lampard would overtake Dennis Wise as Chelsea’s highest scoring midfielder with 77 goals for the club with a trademark goal from outside the box. Lampard would score 21 goals in the 2006/07 season and assisted Didier Drogba’s winner in the FA Cup final, as well as picking up a League Cup winner’s medal. The 2007/08 season would not bring any success trophy-wise for Lampard but he was named the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year as Chelsea lost out to Manchester United on penalties in the Champions League Final in Moscow, despite Lampard scoring the equaliser.
Lampard scored the winner in the FA Cup Final the following season and netted a career-best 27 goals in the 2009/10 season as Lampard lifted his third and final Premier League trophy, as well as his third FA Cup. The 2011/12 season would end with Lampard lifting his fourth FA Cup, again assisting Drogba’s winner in the final against Liverpool. In addition, he captained Chelsea in John Terry’s absence to their first Champions League trophy on penalties against Bayern Munich.
The 2012/13 would hold the greatest personal success for Lampard as he marked his 500th Premier League appearance with a goal against Aston Villa. A goal in a 4-0 win over Brentford made Lampard Chelsea’s highest ever FA Cup scorer with 26 goals. Arguably his greatest achievement came in May, when he scored an 88th minute-winner against Aston Villa to become Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer – finishing with 211 goals for the club. Lampard again captained Chelsea to European success that season as they overcame Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League Final – Lampard’s final Chelsea triumph.
Lampard also achieved success internationally, playing at three World Cups and one European Championship. He finished his England career with 106 caps and 29 goals – the most goals for an England midfielder.
After his release by Chelsea at the end of the 2013/14 season, Lampard joined MLS side, New York City, and went on loan to Manchester City, where he would score against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw. Lampard would leave with a total of 609 Premier League Appearances. After playing only 29 games in America, Lampard announced his retirement from football.
With Lampard’s retirement coming at a time where the heroes of yesterday, such as Steven Gerrard and Philipp Lahm are stepping away from the game, you can’t help but to look back and appreciate what unique and special players they truly are. This surely must teach us to enjoy our favourite players while we still can.
Image courtesy of l3o_ @flickr