CHELSEA have hailed all-time top goalscorer Frank Lampard as one of the all-time great midfielders after the 35-year-old announced he had played his last game for the club.
England’s vice-captain at this summer’s World Cup scored 211 goals in 648 appearances, but his contract is set to expire on 30 June and will not be renewed, ending his trophy-laden 13-year stay at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard captained the Blues when they lifted the Champions League in 2012 and also won the Europa League, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.
And the west London club believe they may never see a better midfielder in west London.
“He fundamentally changed how players operating in midfield would be judged,” said a club tribute. “He has set the benchmark for goalscoring midfielders who frequently changed the course of a game. In that respect, he can be considered one of the greatest of all time.
“Any Chelsea supporter who has had the good fortune to watch super Frank Lampard in full flow will know we have never seen his like in our midfield before and we will be very blessed to again see his equal.”
Lampard, who moved from West Ham to Chelsea for £11m in 2001, has attributed his glittering success to billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, who shook the foundations of English football upon his arrival in 2003.
“Roman Abramovich, the man who saved our club and took us all to new levels,” he said. “His desire to push the club to the top of the football world has rubbed off on everyone.
“When I arrived at this fantastic club 13 years ago I would never have believed that I would be fortunate enough to play so many games and enjoy sharing in so much success.”
Lampard is expected to delay an announcement on his future until after the World Cup, but has been tipped to join Manchester City-owned New York City.
The recently formed franchise yesterday announced the signing of striker David Villa from Atletico Madrid ahead of their induction into Major League Soccer in March.
“Whatever the next challenge is for me I will always be amongst you [Chelsea fans] and have Chelsea in my home and in my heart,” added Lampard, who has scored 29 goals in 103 England appearances.
“Hopefully I will get to see you all soon to say goodbye properly. In the meantime, thank you for the memories and keep making history.”