It was perhaps symptomatic of the way Frank Lampard's year has gone that no sooner did he launch his little-viewed, but much-criticised, television channel, Frank TV, than an American comedian announced a programme with the same title.
Frank Caliendo, an impressionist, is likely to get rather more viewers on US cable TV company TBS than Lampard's Frank TV will on the Orange mobile network. That, though, is Caliendo's day job, while Lampard is only moonlighting in this field.
Of more concern in recent months has been Lampard's ratings in his day job, playing football, but on the evidence of this week the Chelsea and England midfielder is coming back to the form of 2004 and 2005. After orchestrating Chelsea's 6-0 drubbing of Manchester City at the weekend Lampard scored a hat-trick in Wednesday's thrilling Carling Cup defeat of Leicester City. The treble took him to 96 career goals for Chelsea, an impressive tally for a midfielder, and eighth-highest on the club's listings.
Lampard has played 339 matches for the club since his £11m move from West Ham in 2001, which gives him a return of one goal every three-and-a-half matches.
"Where I am now is up with a lot of Chelsea greats and I'm very proud to be among them," he said yesterday. "If I can get 100 I'll be very happy. That will be a real milestone, it would mean a huge amount."
Lampard was a devotee of Jose Mourinho. Though he has always acknowledged the role Claudio Ranieri, who bought him to Chelsea, played in his development he feels the Portuguese helped him move to another level. Now, however, he seems to be prospering anew under Avram Grant's attacking philosophy. Lampard agrees the team have become more enthralling to watch, but admits to reservations.
"Of course you prefer 4-3 to 1-0 at the end, but I'd prefer not to be 3-2 down with five minutes to go, it's not an enjoyable feeling. There must be a happy medium. It sounds great talking about exciting and expansive football but you have to make sure you have a sound base from the start. Of course we want to play exciting football, but on the training ground we're talking about winning games. Football clubs are always enjoyable when you're winning games so at the moment we're all happy."
Lampard's return to form is welcome. Over the last 18 months he does seem to have had his head turned by celebrity – even those close to him admit he has changed – but he is an intelligent man and there have been signs, in recent weeks, that he may have taken stock. A fit, in-form and focused Frank Lampard would be a valuable asset for England as well as Chelsea.
All the more reason, then, for the latter to tie him to a new contract, but there seems no immediate signs of a resolution to this long-running saga. It is nine months since Peter Kenyon, the chief executive, said, "I think it is fair to say we are well down the line with a new contract [for Frank]." When the issue was put to Grant the head coach said: "I am not involved in the money situation. They are negotiating and at the end of the day they will find a solution. Frank wants to stay at Chelsea and Chelsea wants Frank. It is only negotiating."
Lampard's contract expires in June 2009 which means, under Uefa law, he is free to buy his contract out for around £4m next summer. The 29-year-old has been learning Spanish and Elen Rives, his fiancée and the mother of his two daughters, hails from Barcelona. The goals were Lampard's first since his return from injury earlier last month.
"It was a frustrating time, but I've been very lucky with injuries over a long time," he said. "I feel very fresh and hungry at the moment and just want to keep playing as I am.
"Maybe it has freshened me up. You save your legs for a few weeks laying around and when you come back you want to get hold of things and get on the ball and you feel a real hunger to be a big part of the team."
The Stamford Bridge 100 Club
(1959-70) 202 gls/370 gm
(1983-92) 193 gls/420 gm
(1948-56) 150 gls/367 gm
150 goals in 380 games
(1957-61) 132 gls/169 gm
(1929-43) 123 gls/239 gm
(1906-12) 107 gls/164 gm
AND... FRANK LAMPARD
96 goals in 339 gamesReuse content