Is Frank Lampard the Greatest Goalscoring Midfielder of All Time?

John BainesCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2013

Is Frank Lampard the Greatest Goalscoring Midfielder of All Time?

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    There have been plenty of strikers who have hung up their boots without scoring 300 career goals, so the amount of midfielders who have come close to that tally is minimal.

    At present Frank Lampard has so far found the net 266 times across a 17-year professional career, so does this make him the greatest genuine midfield goalscorer of all time?

    Despite the Chelsea board seemingly wishing to call time on Lampard's Blues career, the 34-year-old has reached double figures for the 10th season in a row as he closes in on Bobby Tambling's club record of 202 goals.

    Lampard is already far and away the highest scoring midfielder in the history of the Premier League, but can his record be bettered anywhere else?

    Tactical changes through the ages have seen wingers become become wide forwards and attacking midfielders have converted into advanced play-makers and second strikers, but in terms genuine middle men, can anyone lay claim to Lampard's crown in terms of consistency and quantity of goals?

    For the purpose of this survey I have opted against including the likes of Bobby Charlton, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Zico, Gheorghe Hagi, Michel Platini and many more on the basis of them operating with more freedom and in more offensive role's than Lampard.

    So I take a look at five contenders and pretenders to Lampard's title.

    Alternative suggestions are as always keenly welcome.

Bryan Robson

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    Manchester United and England's "Captain Marvel" was banging home goals for club and country long before Lampard was learning Latin at Brentwood School.

    Robson began his professional career at West Bromwich Albion where his spectacular strikes from midfield quickly elevated him into the England setup and made him one of the most sought after players in the country.

    In October 1981 his former Baggies boss Ron Atkinson broke the British transfer record to take Robson to Manchester United and the Durham Dynamo continued to find the net on a regular basis at Old Trafford.

    In his first seven seasons for the Red Devils, Robson scored an impressive 61 league goals in 218 games before injuries took their tole and reduced his effectiveness.

    Robson had a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder but in truth his record leaves a lot to be desired. He only passed double figures on a handful of occasions and hung up his boots with well under 200 goals to his name.

    Frank Lampard's cool volley against Brazil recently took the Chelsea man past Robson's tally of 26 England efforts and the Londoner's league record is far more prolific than that of his Three Lions predecessor.

Luis Enrique

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    Spanish midfielder Luis Enrique was perhaps the best goalscoring midfielder of his generation straddling either side of the millennium.

    Enrique began his career at Sporting Gijon and scored 17 times in his debut season to earn a move to Real Madrid.

    He was used in a variety of positions during his five year stay at the Bernabeu and only scored 18 goals for Los Blancos—including one in a 5-0 demolition of Barcelona—before jumping ship to join the Catalans.

    Enrique finally forged himself a niche as a goalscoring midfielder at the Camp Nou and between 1996 and 2003, the Spain international scored over ten goals seven seasons on the bounce.

    In total Enrique scored a credible 109 goals in 300 appearances for Los Blaugranas, but although that strike rate puts him on par with Lampard, the Englishman has been just as prolific over a far longer period of time.

Lothar Mathhaus

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    Has there ever been a more complete footballer than Lothar Matthaus?

    The German accrued a World Cup and European Championship winner's medal, seven Bundesliga titles, one Serie A, two UEFA Cups, three German Cups, three German League Cups and a European Footballer of the Year gong during a glittering career, and was also a great goal scorer and a scorer of great goals. 

    Matthaus began and finished his playing days in defence but in between he was a marvellous midfield general who regularly found the net.

    After moving forward a position in 1981, Matthaus scored over 10 goals in a season on 10 consecutive occasions for Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich and most impressively in Serie A for Inter Milan.

    In 1990/91 Mathhaus scored a career high 23 goals in 46 appearances for the Nerazzurri to help the club win the UEFA Cup for the first time, and his overall record of 40 goals in 115 Serie A games was hugely impressive given the defensive nature of the game in Italy at the time.

    In total Matthaus scored well over 200 career goals for club and country but they were spread over many more games than Lampard.

    The German was undoubtedly the better player, but he wasn't the better goalscorer.

Socrates

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    In my opinion Socrates was one of—if not the—coolest footballers of all time.

    You've got to be a bit special to be named after a Greek philosopher, and few men could pull off an afro, headband and skimpy shorts combination quite as well as he did.

    The skipper of the greatest side never to win a World Cup was one of the best players of his generation, and belonged to an era before sports science and pass completion percentages infected the game.

    Solid facts are a bit sketchy to get hold of for Socrates, and that's partially why I've put him in the list. I felt a tribute was needed to the "Doctor" and one which didn't need to be backed up with actual evidence.

    From what I can ascertain, Socrates scored 172 goals in 297 games for Brazilian side Botafogo, 22 in 60 for the Brazilian national team and six in 25 appearances in Serie A for Fiorentina.

    His record for Botafogo possibly deserves a higher ranking in this list but plenty of those were probably plundered in Brazil's regional competitions.

    Regardless, it's my list and I'm putting Socrates in and if you've got a spare 10 minutes to waste, please waste it wisely by watching the attached video, aptly named, "Socrates:  The elegance of football."

John Wark

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    Throughout the 70s and 80s, moustache-wearing midfield maestro John Wark played a pivotal part in the domestic and continental successes of both Ipswich Town and Liverpool.

    Ironically Wark began his career as a central defender but was moved into midfield by Ipswich's legendary boss Bobby Robson, and once the goals began to flow there was no looking back.

    The Scottish international was a fearsome fighter in an era of English football where diving was for the soft continentals and coloured boots were something your wife wore.

    Wark's stamina and drive from midfield meant he was a relentless mover between boxes, but as with all goalscoring midfielders, the art of arriving at the right time was refined.

    Between 1974 and 1990 Wark smashed home just short of 200 goals in under 600 appearances for Ipswich and Liverpool before returning to his defensive station to see out his time at Middlesbrough and Ipswich for a third spell.

    Wark broke the 20 goal barrier on four occasions and found the net a remarkable 36 times in the 1980/81 season as Ipswich finished second in the English top flight and won the UEFA Cup.

    The Glasgow born player also rattled home seven goals in 29 appearances for Scotland meaning his record whilst playing in a genuine midfield role was virtually on par with Frank Lampard.

    However, the ban on English clubs playing in Europe meant that the majority of Wark's goals were only scored domestically, and therefore Wark can only command second place in the list.

Frank Lampard

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    As I've previously said, Frank Lampard is already well clear of every other midfielder in terms of goals scored in the Premier League and by my reckoning, he's also the best goalscoring midfielder of all time from any league and era.

    His overall record of 199 goals in 590 games for Chelsea is better than one goal every three apperances and only John Wark comes close to that, yet Wark didn't play anywhere near the amount of games Lampard has in Europe's premiere club competition.

    After notching for the 13th time this this campaign against Brentford on Sunday, Lampard is on course to hit the 15 goal mark for the ninth time in ten seasons and also boasts a brilliant Champions League record of 22 goals in 94 appearances.

    The former West Ham United trainee scored at least twenty times in five consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2010 and his 27 international strikes is just one shy of breaking into the top 10 England scorers of all time.

    What also weighs things in Lampard's favour is not just the volume of goals, but the significance of many of them too. The 34-year-old has scored in five Champions League quarter-finals, two semi-final's and the final itself, as well as three FA Cup semi's and one final.

    Surely there can be few arguments that against all criteria, Frank Lampard is indeed the greatest genuine midfield goalscorer of all time?

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