#5. Frank Lampard – West Ham United to Chelsea: £11m
When Frank Lampard switched East London for West London in 2001, it was a scenario that seemed to suit everybody. A product of West Ham United’s famed academy, Lampard – son of former Hammers star Frank Snr and Nephew of Harry Redknapp, who also represented West Ham in his playing days – was vastly under-appreciated by the Upton Park faithful.
The fact that Lampard Jr emerged into first-team reckoning when his Uncle Harry was the manager and his father Frank was assistant probably didn’t help matters. His private education also ostracised him from West Ham’s working-class, socially deprived fanbase. At times, Lampard’s GCSE results – notably an A* in Latin – were more widely-discussed than his performances in the famous claret and blue jersey.
What West Ham would eventually lose, would turn out to be the single most important signing in Chelsea Football Club’s history.
Shortly after Redknapp and Lampard Snr left West Ham United by mutual consent, Lampard Jr followed them out of Upton Park. Constantly criticised and questioned by Hammers fans – despite clearly being one of the club’s better players – the man they labelled “Fat Frank” had nowhere else to go when his only allies had left the club.
If you haven’t seen the YouTube video of Redknapp defending Lampard Jr at a fan forum event, then check it out – Redknapp’s words are especially poignant when reflecting on Frank Lampard’s illustrious career.
At a time when former West Ham Chairman Terry Brown was selling the club’s prized assets in quick succession, it wouldn’t be Jermain Defoe, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole or Glenn Johnson that would be the biggest loss to the East London club. Frank Lampard, his loyalty, talent and overall future success at rivals Chelsea, would come as the bitterest pill for West Ham fans to swallow.
Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge two seasons before free-spending Russian Roman Abramovic took control of Chelsea, when he’d be joined by former teammates Cole and Johnson. This may initially make the £11m fee seem more substantial than it was, but when you consider that Chris Sutton, Jesper Gronkjaer and Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink had signed for the club for larger fees in years gone by, £11m was a snip.
If you still need convincing, Lampard went on to win the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups with Chelsea. He’s also Chelsea’s all-time top goalscorer with 211 goals in all competitions, 147 in the Premier League.
No player in Premier League history has scored more goals from outside the box than Lampard (41), his stint of 164 consecutive appearances in the Premier League is also a record. No English player has scored as many UEFA Champions League knockout stage goals as Lampard, either, and his haul of 22 goals in Chelsea’s 09/10 Premier League campaign remains a record for a central midfielder.
Only five outfield players have represented England more times than Frank Lampard (106 caps), and Lampard has also been awarded an OBE for his services to football. How silly those West Ham fans must feel now… it’ll always be a case of “what might have been”. Lampard is now Manager of Chelsea, joining ahead of the 2019/20 Premier League season after a successful season as manager of Derby County in the Championship.