Frank Lampard can show he is the king of Chelsea with victory in the Champions League final

Lifting the trophy in Munich tomorrow could prove the midfielder is the club's greatest player

It is one of the signings of the Premier League era, one that ranks up there with the acquisition of Thierry Henry by Arsenal or Roy Keane by Manchester United. For all the money that has been thrown around by Roman Abramovich in the last nine years, Chelsea have probably never spent a better £11m than that which they paid for Frank Lampard almost exactly 11 years ago.

To put it in perspective, that same summer of 2001, Sir Alex Ferguson spent around £29m on Juan Sebastian Veron, long since gone and little more than a peripheral figure in the history of English football's last two decades. If Ferguson had decided to buy Lampard from West Ham, how differently might the history of the league – and the history of Chelsea – have panned out since then?

It is one thing to make a brilliant signing who turns into a key figure in the life of a team, it is another to acquire arguably the greatest player in the club's history. Chelsea have Peter Osgood, Gianfranco Zola and, of course, John Terry but if it is Lampard who raises the European Cup above his head at close to midnight in Munich tomorrow it will be hard to argue with the premise that he is Chelsea's best ever.

Just look at the record. Tomorrow will be Lampard's 558th appearance for Chelsea, all but 36 of them have been starts. In that time he has scored 186 goals for the club, just 16 shy of Bobby Tambling's record. He has three league titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups – just one short of Terry who has an extra FA Cup winners' medal from 2000. The Champions League would give Lampard the full set.

"I would love to win it," Lampard said this week. "I've said before, even if we don't win it, I'd have no regrets looking back. I'm very pleased and proud of the career I've had here. I've been very lucky to be at a great club and win a lot of things. But in terms of the full set on the table, it would be just that. You can't hide away from that."

Lampard was speaking earlier this week at Chelsea's Champions League final open day ahead of tomorrow's game against Bayern Munich, an interview conducted in a windswept, rainswept marquee on the edge of one of the Cobham training pitches. Lampard is one of the few who can still remember the days when the club trained on the Imperial College pitches at Harlington under the Heathrow flightpath, a wind-buffeted patch of land so ill-suited for elite sport that even current tenants Queen's Park Rangers are moving.

For Chelsea supporters, the relationship with Lampard has always been one of uncomplicated adoration but he has one year left on his deal and it is not inconceivable that tomorrow's game could be his last. The long, lucrative contracts on offer in China's professional league will be a temptation but then it would surely be difficult to leave Chelsea having finally won the Champions League.

Would this be the club's greatest moment? "I don't know really, I don't want to write us off in future years," Lampard said. "But every year we get asked the same questions: 'Is this the year? How inspired are you by the failures of years before?' And every year we have failed obviously because we haven't done it. We are one step closer to making it. Every year that goes past without winning makes it even more [pressurised]. The fact we are in the final is a great incentive."

Without the suspended Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles, and with injury concerns over Florent Malouda, this is a tall order for Chelsea. "[To win it] would be the greatest achievement," Lampard said. "We have four players out who have been some of our best performers of the season. It would be a huge achievement but I think every step has been a huge achievement – the Barcelona game and the turnaround from Napoli.

"We were struggling. It's not just because I was sitting watching from the outside. You could see that. You would not have looked ahead and seen this. I'm experienced enough to know things can change; but on that night I don't think any one of us thought it. We were despondent in the dressing room afterwards. The home game [a 4-1 win] was the major turning point."

The 3-1 defeat in Naples on 21 February was a low point for the club, but particularly for Lampard who was left on the bench by Andre Villas-Boas. Watching that night, could he have imagined that in little less than three months he would be contemplating potentially his greatest night ever as a Chelsea player?

"Maybe it was one of the lower times. But you learn through these things. I knew I wouldn't play 160 games consecutively (164 was his record-breaking number of consecutive Premier League games) all the time. These records don't go on forever. But it was tough at times for me when I wasn't in the team and frustrated individually.

"I sat back at times and got the hump indoors but I tried to carry on working hard and in the end it has turned around personally; but not quite to the full extent yet. If we win the final then I can probably answer that better."

Lampard is one of the survivors from the defeat to Manchester United on penalties in Chelsea's only other Champions League final appearance, in 2008, a game in which he scored. There is also the issue of qualification for the Champions League next year, with Chelsea having finished sixth, which Lampard described as a sideshow but conceded was at the back of the players' minds.

There is much at stake for Chelsea tomorrow but who would have thought, 11 years ago, he would have ended up here? In his autobiography, Lampard recalled his amazement when the Chelsea crowd first sang his name just for hitting a good pass. At West Ham, where the support had taken against him, it never happened. Four years after he joined Chelsea, he was named the second-best player in the world by Fifa. Winning tomorrow would top it all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice