Two years ago I was running a weekly football newspaper, Football First, and at Christmas 2004 we asked this question of our readers.
At the time Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were, to most commentators and fans, the two best midfield players in the country.
Many would have argued they were the two best in the world, perhaps with the exception of Zidane, but he was ageing even.
In that year Lampard was named the second best footballer in the world after Ronaldinho and it was on the back of all this ‘quality’ that we felt England had another chance to win the World Cup.
Two years on, you can certainly ask who is best, Lampard or Gerrard, but are either really world class players?
The jury is out for me. It could be a case that we talked these two players up so much in our desire to win the World Cup that we weren’t being realistic.
Certainly this season it is only in the last few weeks that either both have started to play up to their top form, which could be a hangover from the World Cup.
More likely both played poorly in the Germany because they were knackered after the long seasons they had played in the two or three years running up to the tournament.
Lampard had barely missed a game for over two season, and Gerrard had played a lot of games, particularly in Liverpool’s Champions League win.
But is their fatigue hiding their failings? I think it is.
For me Lampard is no more than a good domestic player, what used to be called a good club player. His all action style has echoes of Bryan Robson. Does anyone think Robson was a world class footballer. I hope not, because he wasn’t.
Lampard is flattered by the number of goals he scores, but is he really of the same quality as Deco, Ballack, or as good as Zidane was? No
As for Gerrard, the truth may be the same. He and Lampard are different players, and he is also flattered by scoring a lot of goals in an average Liverpool side.
He also does not dominate games on a regular basis, big games, the way the truly top players do.
I think Gerrard could go on to be a better player, but he will need to play for a better team. I suspect Lampard has reached his peak, and if Chelsea are smart they will sell him to Barca at the end of the season.
It doesn’t matter who is best, the reality is, neither as good as we think or as we want.
Lawrence Gosling is group editorial director at Incisive Media (publisher of IFAonline).
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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From 6 April 2019