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The Eternal Debate: Who Is Better Gerrard Or Lampard?

With the culmination of the Premier League this season calling time on two of the most enduring figures in British football over the last 15 years as they make their way across the pond, there couldn’t be a better time to open up that old question – Gerrard or Lampard?

If you look at the cold, hard facts Steven Gerrard has scored 185 goals in 710 total appearances for Liverpool, as well as 21 goals in 114 games for England, winning 10 trophies in the process. Whilst Lampard has notched 259 goals in 882 games, 211 of which came for Chelsea, also scoring 29 times in 106 caps for England and winning 13 major honours. So what does this tell us? Nothing that we really didn’t already know… Lampard is the better goalscorer, but then again he is arguably the greatest goalscoring midfielder of his generation, one of the last in a dying art of central midfielders who could score for fun and had a timely knack of arriving in the box late to devastating effect.  To put it in perspective, Lampard has had 9 separate seasons where he has scored 15 or more goals, that’s something which Michael Ballack only achieved four times, Steven Gerrard thrice, Paul Scholes once and the likes of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane never accomplished in their whole career – truly remarkable to say the least.

Lampard has also had the more successful career, with three more winners medals to his name. However, he has been lucky enough to be a part of more stable teams with the likes of Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Didier Drogba an integral part of Chelsea’s spine for the majority of his time there and world-class managers such as Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti at the helm.

Steven Gerrard, on the other hand, has often been the only constant in what has seemingly been years of transition for the Merseyside outfit, overseeing an array of different managers and having the burden of being the man everyone relies on during times of need.

Just one look at Liverpool’s line-up against AC Milan in that infamous Champions League Final in 2005 - a match in which Gerrard single-handedly galvanised them, scoring their first goal and winning a subsequent penalty as they remarkably erased a 3-0 first half deficit – shows exactly how much he overachieved in many ways.

A side with Djimi Traore in defence and an attacking duo of Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros really should have had no right to cope with an iconic Milan side that included Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Kaka, Shevchenko and Crespo; however a Man of the Match display from the Liverpool captain led them to one of the most unlikely Champions League wins in memory.

These moments of inspiration seemed to go hand in hand with Gerrard’s career. In the same season he had that ‘beauty’ of a strike in the dying stages of their match against Olympiakos that had enabled them to progress into the knockout stages of the tournament and then a year later in even more dramatic fashion he scored a 30 yard screamer in the first minute of added time to break West Ham hearts and take their FA Cup Final into extra-time… a match they eventually won on penalties. Numerous goals against rivals Manchester United and Everton, including a hat-trick in a 3-0 Merseyside Derby victory in 2012 proved he really was a man for the big occasion.

In contrast, it would be fair to say that Lampard probably wasn’t relied on as heavily during these times of need for Chelsea, however it would be a falsehood to suggest he didn’t have such moments of inspiration in his time there. Frank had his own FA Cup Final moment with a winning goal against Everton in 2009 with only 18 minutes left on the clock. He also had a Man of the Match performance in a Champions League Final, although unfortunately for him he was a John Terry slip away from this meaning a lot more, after a 2008 penalty shootout defeat to Manchester United.

He gained redemption in 2012 when he was called upon to lead Chelsea to the final once again when taking the armband from John Terry, after the defender’s dismissal early on in their semi-final second-leg against Barcelona.  His beautifully weighted chip through to Ramires in a rare Chelsea attack gave them a pivotal away goal which they defended admirably. Lampard went on to captain Chelsea to Champions League glory in Munich’s own back yard a few weeks later. He backed this up the following season when he was called upon to captain the Blues in a Europa League Final with Terry injured on this occasion… once again Lampard delivered the goods.

So what legacy will each of these legends leave behind in England? Gerrard will arguably go down as the best Liverpool player of all time in many eyes and his connection with the city will surely bring him back one day in the Anfield dugout. His type really is a dying breed in the modern game, both in terms of playing style and in his affinity for the club, with an instant comparison to Raheem Sterling doing no favours for the 20-year old.

Ultimately a costly slip against Chelsea with Liverpool on the brink of their first Premier League title last season will inevitably live long in the memory, as will a red card 30 seconds into his last ever encounter against fierce rivals Manchester United and a 6-1 defeat in his final match for the club. It is fair to say it isn’t the way he wanted to go, however none of these instances should taint what has been an iconic career.

Lampard will similarly leave on a bit of a sour note with successive trophyless seasons for Chelsea and Man City, a lot of which has been spent on the bench. However, given the longevity and success of their respective careers prior to this, they will undoubtedly both be mentioned in any future talk of all-time Premier League greats.

Perhaps in a most fitting of endings, not only did they both score in their final Premier League games, but they were also jointly recognised in this season’s PFA Awards with the PFA Merit Award, the first time this has been given to two recipients in the same year since it’s inaugural ceremony in 1974.

Maybe we should learn from this and prevent an inevitable comparison occurring between two of England’s greatest ever players and just appreciate them in unison, in a similar manner to the way we appreciate Xavi and Iniesta as almost a joint entity, or maybe we should continue this debate for the next decade and have them eventually fight it out live on Monday Night Football with Jamie Carragher as a referee in 2016… either option is acceptable.

In a final twist of the tale despite my inclination to recommend an appreciation of both rather than an outright choice, I will have to avoid sitting on the proverbial fence for the integrity of this article. I have always held great admiration for Frank Lampard in particular and he has had a career where nobody could possibly argue that he hasn’t made the most of his talents, however I will have to lean on the side of Steven Gerrard simply for his ability to grab a match by the scruff of the neck and turn things round effectively single-handedly, just as he did in Istanbul, a sign of true greatness.

Who would you pick?

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