For all the football that Frank Lampard has played at Chelsea, all the goals scored and trophies won, he feels his greatest moment at the club could be ahead of him.
Lampard, along with Didier Drogba, the other great lieutenant of the Jose Mourinho generation, plays the FA Cup final at Wembley this afternoon. Every final is important, but one two weeks before the Champions League final could be even more so.
Chelsea have won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups since Drogba – and, of course, Mourinho – joined Lampard at Stamford Bridge eight years ago. But all of that could be dwarfed by two big wins this month.
"The first league we won here was amazing," Lampard said yesterday, discussing his Chelsea achievements. "And if anything manages to beat that, then it would be truly special because that was amazing. But we are on the brink of something that could rival it, if not beat it.
"I think about it in bed at night. We all have those moments when you dream about being a part – and a big part – of a successful game, tomorrow or in two weeks' time. I know I've been fortunate enough to be part of big moments at this club and they've been the best moments of my career by a long way. And I'd love to be, I'd give everything to try and be part of a winning team for sure."
Of course, the prospect of winning Chelsea's first ever European Cup is an enticing one, and Lampard was not embarrassed to say just how much it would mean to him. "I think about it every night, I really do," he admitted.
"I've never been more aware about what a situation like this means, tomorrow and in two weeks. The FA Cup final is a game you are always going to want to win, and it's a massive game against a big team. And then that Champions League is something we've always wanted and I'm actually desperate to win it, I make no bones about that."
It all starts this afternoon at Wembley. Chelsea have never lost an FA Cup final in the Lampard and Drogba era, and the iconic Ivorian scored the winning goals in the 2007 and 2010 finals, and the equaliser in 2009. (Lampard, naturally, scored the other that time.)
Drogba certainly enjoys playing at Wembley, as shown by his remarkable opener in the semi-final rout of Tottenham Hotspur last month. "I feel comfortable on this pitch," he said. "When I decided I wanted to play football when I was young, I wanted to play in big stadiums like this. Maybe that's one of the reasons.
"We've had some good results there. We won, I think, all our FA Cup finals there, so it's a good stadium for us. Maybe it's our lucky stadium, I don't know."
Understandably, then, the stadium has a special place in Drogba's heart also. "I haven't been to the Maracana, but Wembley is, for me, the most famous one," he said. "Because it's England. Because my dream was to play at the old Wembley, where I saw all those big games: when Eric Cantona scored [against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final]. The fantastic atmosphere, everybody cheering, and fantastic goals. So that was my dream, but I am quite happy with the new one."
Not many players are lucky (or good) enough to score a winning goal in a cup final, but Drogba has now done it twice. "I feel like a kid, feel like a kid scoring a winning goal," he described. "It's the same feeling for everyone, scoringa goal in a big game, a final, it's just a dream."
If Chelsea can win this evening, Lampard hopes that they can take that momentum with them all the way to Munich. "You hope that you want to get a result there," he said, "and carry the confidence through of a result in the FA Cup against them."
At the Allianz Arena, Lampard will face Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, all of whom played for the Germany side which eviscerated Lampard and John Terry's England 4-1 in the last 16 of the World Cup in Bloemfontein two years ago.
Lampard is thrilled at the chance of testing himself against Europe's best again. "I've got lots of respect for them," he said. "I think that they're fantastic players and individuals. I've got loads of respect for Schweinsteiger – I've been singing his praises for years about what a top player he is – and Lahm as well.
"I love that German attitude they've got, the way that they approach their football and the determination they have as players. You saw that in their game at Real Madrid, going to the Bernabeu and digging that result out against all the odds. So it's not unfinished business, really, I'm just relishing the challenge of having to play against them again."
Lampard has been at the top of the European game for some time and knows that he has to make the most of his finite remaining finals. As impressive as Roberto Di Matteo's restoration job has been, the Mourinho generation will not last for ever. This month, eight and 11 years respectively after Drogba and Lampard came to Chelsea, could be their last shot at glory.
"Every final is different," said Lampard, who has no intention of letting these chances slip away through his fingers. "Your focus becomes even more, you understand, the bit longer in the tooth you get that finals don't go on for ever and you appreciate them. So I'll be looking forward to appreciating tomorrow."
Chelsea v Liverpool, kick-off 5.15pm (ITV 1/ESPN)
Ref P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Odds: Chelsea 6-4; Draw 9-4; Liverpool 15-8Reuse content