Opinion: Frank Lampard divides the critics but you can't argue with his career stats

Frank Lampard's scoring record for Chelsea is remarkable. Photo: PA

There are few footballers who polarise opinions quite like Frank Lampard, write's PA Sport's Frank Malley.

To some he will always be overweight, overrated and the man whose international midfield partnership with Steven Gerrard was one of the most disappointing aspects in English football over the past decade, so much so that at times the boos have rung out at Wembley in response to his name being read out on the teamsheet.

To others he is a midfield genius, the player who has now clocked up 200 goals for Chelsea and been the most consistent English footballer of his generation. It is the goals which grab the headlines. It is the goals which set Lampard apart.

Some players are never truly appreciated until they hang up their boots and the chapter on Lampard in the history books will be filled with statistics which might not be bettered for generations.

The cold figures might be stark and grey but stick with them because they reveal the true value of a player whose work-rate, range of passing and ability to influence the outcome of a football match is up there with the greats.

In Lampard, Chelsea have a player who scored 20 goals or more in five successive seasons from 2005-2006.

Compare that record with Spanish playmaker Andres Iniesta, who has never scored more than nine goals in a season for Barcelona.

Compare it with Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who will be 34 in May, the same age as Lampard, and in 12 years with AC Milan and Juventus has never scored more than nine goals in a season.

Now compare Lampard's goal-scoring record with the all-time midfield greats such as Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane.

In reaching 200 goals for Chelsea yesterday by heading the opener against West Ham, Lampard took his overall career tally to 240 in club football from 791 appearances, with a further 27 to his name from 94 games for England.

Admittedly, Platini, the most attacking midfielder of all-time, boasts even better statistics, having scored 312 goals in 580 club appearances plus 41 in 72 matches for France.

Zidane, however, universally regarded as the most talented playmaker the game has seen, scored 128 goals in 681 club appearances and 31 in 108 games for France.

You can see why Lampard fits snugly in such illustrious company. Of course, attacking midfield artistry extends further than precision passing, imagination and goals scored.

It includes vital qualities such as commitment and loyalty and the ability to lift the game and the spirits of team-mates. In short, leadership.

Lampard is not a player content to work his ticket in the twilight of his career. He has been the heartbeat of Chelsea too long for that, barking orders, pointing instructions, injecting life and purpose.

It has brought him three Premier League titles, four FA Cup medals, two League Cups and a Champions League trophy during his 12 years at Stamford Bridge.

His England career will always split the critics and that is a shame because any perceived lack of effectiveness was largely down to the inability of successive managers to forge a system which drew the best from the Lampard-Gerrard axis.

The natural instinct of both has always been to surge forward. That is when they are at their best, and both were forced to compromise part of their talent in the national cause.

Yet Lampard's career is punctuated with wonderful highs to offset the occasional lows, such as his four goals in a 6-1 rout of Derby, his Champions League semi-final penalty against Liverpool in 2008, and his equalising goal against Manchester United in the final in Moscow during a season in which he was named UEFA club midfielder of the year.

Then there was his winning FA Cup goal against Everton in 2009 after which he re-enacted the corner flag celebration of his father Frank snr, from when he scored the winning goal for West Ham in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

Ironically, for a man who has made a career out of scoring so many goals, Lampard might be remembered most for the one which got away - the 20-yard shot against Germany in the 2010 World Cup which bounced off the crossbar and clearly crossed the goalline, but neither the referee nor his assistants saw it as a goal.

It is the incident which speeded up efforts by FIFA to bring in goalline technology and in the future could be seen as the gateway to new technology in football.

If anything that sums up Lampard. A player who makes things happen. A player who will be 35 in June and who Chelsea might be about to let go.

Yet there are at least 200 reasons why the Chelsea faithful continue to chant "Sign him up". In terms of midfield fire-power Lampard has no modern-day peer.