A file photo of Chelsea striker Frank Lampard. (AP Photo)
London: Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri must take a lot of credit for Frank Lampard reaching the 200-goal milestone for the club, according to former Stamford Bridge great John Hollins. Italian Ranieri, now Monaco coach and who was dubbed 'The Tinkerman' for his habit of chopping and changing the team at Chelsea, bought midfielder Lampard from West Ham United for an eye-popping fee of 11 million pounds in 2001.
Lampard spent much of his debut season on the right of a four-man midfield and the majority of fans were sceptical of the new boy's value to the team. But Ranieri moved him to the middle in his second campaign and that switch kick-started his career. "Frank told him, 'look I don't want to be substituted and I don't want to be rested unless I'm injured'," Hollins told Reuters in an interview. "Full credit to Ranieri. He listened to that and ... in his second season Frank came into his own in the centre of midfield."
Hollins, a lung-busting, goal-scoring midfielder in the Lampard mould, chalked up 592 appearances in two spells at Stamford Bridge between 1963 and 1984. That was the third highest total at the club, behind Ron Harris and Peter Bonetti, until Lampard overtook him this season.
"Frank has that uncanny knack of being a great passer of the ball and also being able to get in the penalty box to score goals," said the 66-year-old Hollins. "In the modern game players are rested, changed and swapped about - no one gets any consistency. But Frank rarely gets injured and he has got better and better over the years.
"He's got a great engine - all he needs is a battery charge now and again. When he gets a knock, he doesn't need a rest; he just shrugs it off and keeps going," added Hollins. "I think he will go down as a Chelsea legend in that he dedicated his fitness and everything else to his job."
Lampard's 12-year spell at the club looks like drawing to a close because his contract expires at the end of the season and Chelsea seem strangely reluctant to offer him a new deal. "I think he'll be irreplaceable when he goes," added Hollins who played in the team that won the 1970 FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup a year later.
"He sees the game better than others. He will go up front at the right time but he is also aware of what he has to do at the back. He has 'The Full Monty' in terms of his ability to play, the ability to see, the ability to shoot and the ability to take free kicks - he's the complete package," added Hollins.
"All the managers who have come and gone at Chelsea down the years, they all wanted him in the team. That is a rubber-stamp that they didn't have to worry about Frank, although they may have had to worry about some of the other players."
Lampard, who has also won 94 England caps and is in the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, is two goals short of Bobby Tambling's record of 202 Chelsea goals following his strike in the 2-0 win over West Ham on Sunday.
"He'll break the record and at the end of the season I think he may say, 'I've done my bit now, I've done everything, maybe I can do another one or two years somewhere else'," said Hollins. "He doesn't need to move for the money; he just needs driving and pushing and he just wants to play.
"Frank has also proved himself with England, so perhaps now he'll want to go somewhere else where he can be the focal point for the last one or two years of his football career."