During his 13 years at Stamford Bridge, Frank Lampard won a lot more than just trophies. He may have departed last summer with three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, a Europa League crown and, last but not least, the Champions League, but his biggest personal achievement was perhaps the way that he went about winning over even the most begrudging of neutrals to earn his place among the greatest top-flight players of all time.
It all started on this day in 2001, when a fresh-faced 22-year-old made the move across London from West Ham United to Chelsea in a deal worth £11m. Shortly after the Hammers had announced Glenn Roeder as their new manager, a far more permanent fixture was being welcomed up the River Thames as Lampard stepped foot into his new surroundings for the first time.
The departure of the his uncle, Harry Redknapp, alongside his father, played a big part in Lampard's decision to swap East London for West. A desire to stay close to his home also had a major say in the future club legend's decision to join Chelsea, with Aston Villa and Leeds United also showing an interest in tying him down to a long-term deal.
"A lot happened at West Ham but I will always be grateful to them - they gave me my chance," he explained to the Daily Mail upon signing a five-year contract with the Blues.
"It's always been my ambition from day one to play European football. Hopefully I can test myself against the best players in Europe and we can contest for trophies. The chance of European football and working with a well-respected coach will bring my game on."
Test himself against the best over the next 14 years he certainly did. That "well-respected coach" mentioned by Lampard was one Claudio Ranieri, who made the youngster his first English signing since taking charge. Chelsea may not have received quite the same financial backing in those days that they enjoy now, but £32m was splashed out that summer on four new purchases.
Alongside Lampard, Bolo Zenden and Emmanuel Petit (both £14.5m) were brought in from Barcelona, while William Gallas joined from Marseille. None of them would make quite the same impact as the Englishman, however, who would go on to become the club's leading goalscorer en route to securing that impressive list of titles.
Of course, the England centurion shrouded his achievements at Chelsea somewhat by controversially joining Premier League rivals Manchester City on what was essentially a season-long loan. Despite this, Lampard still received a positive reception from supporters when returning to Stamford Bridge earlier this year, even after scoring a crucial goal in the reverse fixture last September.
An ability to pop up in the right place at the right time and incredible longevity at the top level, 'Lamps' will depart for New York City FC in the coming weeks with all his ambitions ticked off at club level this side of the Atlantic.
"With careers and where I am now it's easy to look back on various phases," he recently told The Telegraph. "I had a phase when I felt on top of my game for a few years and nothing could break me. I didn't have to think; I just played.
"Then you get parts of your career where every bad game people write you off, managers come in with slightly different ideas. But I just took it all on the chin as I got older and from the age of around 32/33 it was going to be a different career for me and looking back from that stage they were probably my most successful years."
Success tends to follow Lampard wherever he goes, certainly on a personal level - he contributed seven goals in just 10 starts for City in the top flight this term. The column inches being afforded to outgoing Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard may have heavily outweighed that of his former international teammate, but there is no denying that the Romford-born midfielder bows out of English football on a real high.
Source: Sport Mole