By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
After 21 years of professionalism, former Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard has decided to call it quits on his career as a footballer.
The 38-year-old, who spent last year with New York City in Major League Soccer (MLS) in the US, took to social media to announce his decision.
Below is his message, as he posted it on Instagram in the early hours of Thursday:
“After 21 incredible years, I have decided that now is the right time to finish my career as a professional footballer. Whilst I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing at home and abroad, at 38 I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life. I’m immensely proud of the trophies I’ve won, of representing my country over 100 times and of scoring more than 300 career goals. I have many people to thank. I thank my parents for instilling in me the values of hard work, dedication and professionalism, values which I have carried with me in everything that I do. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, my wife Christine and my two daughters Luna and Isla. What you have given me off the pitch has always been my strength on it. I love you all very much. Also, my friends and my own team that have always been there for me. I would like to thank the amazing team-mates, coaches, managers and backroom staff that I was privileged to work with. I’d also like to pay tribute to the clubs that I have represented. Firstly, West Ham United who gave me my debut in 1996. Thanks to the people there that believed in me at that young age. More recently Manchester City and NYCFC. I greatly enjoyed my last playing years at these two clubs and really appreciate the support I received from City Football Group and both clubs’ fans. Of course, the largest part of my heart belongs to Chelsea, a club which has given me so many great memories. I will never forget the opportunity they gave me and the success that we managed to achieve together. It is impossible to give thanks individually to all the people that helped and supported me in my 13 years playing there. All I can say is from the day I signed until now and going forward, I’m eternally grateful for everything and to everyone. Chelsea fans gave myself and my teammates such incredible support. Their passion and hunger drove me on personally to give my best year after year. I couldn’t have done it without them. Looking forward, I’m grateful to the FA for the opportunity to study for my coaching qualifications and I look forward to pursuing the off-field opportunities that this decision opens”.
Lampard made 649 appearances for Chelsea and won 106 England caps.
*Let us take a look at some of the records that highlighted his career, making him one of the greatest midfielders ever to grace English football
1. Only Ryan Giggs (632) and Gareth Barry (615) have made more Premier League appearances than Lampard (609).
2. His total of 177 goals is the Premier League’s fourth highest behind Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole.
3. He has scored more goals from outside the box than any other Premier League player (41).
4. Lampard scored against a record 39 different teams in the Premier League.
5. No England player has scored as many penalties as Lampard (nine), excluding shootouts.
*Frank Lampard’s legendary status and standing as one of the greatest players of the modern era is cemented by statistics.
When he left Chelsea in the summer of 2014, he was the club’s record goalscorer with 211 goals from 649 appearances – a truly remarkable return for a consummate professional plying his trade in midfield.
Lampard was central to the most successful spell in Chelsea’s history as he and they completed a clean sweep of trophies at home and abroad, a haul that reflected his stellar contribution.
He won 11 major trophies, including three Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2012. Lampard also won four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Europa League.
He was the model of consistency, respected and admired by team-mates and opponents alike.
Like his great contemporary Steven Gerrard he struggled to transfer club successes to his England career, but he was still a fine performer on the international stage.
Lampard’s next step looks certain to be into coaching – and with the knowledge gained over a lifetime from his father Frank Sr as well as working with managers such as Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Guus Hiddink, few would bet against him adding to his successes in this phase of his career.
Lampard joined Chelsea from boyhood club West Ham for a fee of £11m in 2001.
His club-record 211 goals helped the Blues win the Champions League, three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Europa League and a Community Shield.
He played a pivotal role as Jose Mourinho’s side delivered Chelsea’s first top-flight championship in half a century, scoring 13 goals including both in the title-winning 2-0 victory at Bolton in April 2005.
He added 16 league goals the following season as Chelsea retained their title, finishing runner-up to Barcelona forward Ronaldinho in both the Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year awards.
Lampard scored 10 or more Premier League goals in 10 successive seasons for Chelsea, reaching 22 as he collected a third Premier League winner’s medal in 2009-10.
Champions League success finally followed in 2011-12 as Lampard captained the side to a penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich in the absence of the suspended John Terry.
Lampard played a key role in bringing success back to Stamford Bridge, but he was unable to help replicate that trophy-laden touch with the national side.
He made his England debut against Belgium in 1999, going on to win the same amount of caps as Sir Bobby Charlton, but missed out on a place in both the Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002 squads.
Lampard scored three times as England reached the Euro 2004 quarter-finals, and finding a way to fit him and Steven Gerrard into the same midfield was seen as the solution to the national side’s problems.
The pair formed the core of what was tagged England’s ‘golden generation’, but both missed a penalty in a World Cup quarter-final shootout defeat by Portugal in 2006 and England failed to qualify for the Euros two years later.
A last-16 exit followed against Germany in the 2010 World Cup and Lampard missed Euro 2012 through injury, before playing his final major tournament for England in Brazil in 2014, when England went out in the group stage.
Lampard began his career at West Ham, making his debut in January 1996 having progressed through the club’s youth system. But the presence at the club of his dad Frank Lampard Sr, and uncle Harry Redknapp as manager, meant the teenager was singled out for criticism.
Lampard even claimed in his autobiography that some Hammers fans cheered when he broke his leg during a game against Aston Villa.
Later he would face a frosty reception when he controversially arrived at Manchester City after agreeing to join New York City – the MLS franchise set up by the Premier League club and the New York Yankees baseball team – in 2014.
Lampard refused to celebrate when he scored against Chelsea, and while his performances in Manchester saw his deal at Etihad Stadium extended, it prompted an angry reaction in New York.
Lampard finally made his MLS debut in August 2015, but critics were underwhelmed by his performances and, after returning from an injury this season, he was jeered by his own fans and described as “the worst signing in MLS history”.
But he rediscovered his scoring touch and the city celebrated Frank Lampard Day in September after he scored his 300th career goal. He went on to reach double figures in the MLS before announcing his time at New York had come to an end.
England, and indeed the world might just never see another Frank Lampard, who has earned the title “LEGEND” from many quarters of the game, footballers and coaches alike.