Frank and Francesco - The tale of two legends
June 26, 2006. Penalty to Italy. Injury Time. Four years back, Hiddink was smiling with the South Korea side. Not today, he believed. Totti takes it past Schwarzer. And sucks his thumb in celebration.
April 30,2008. Penalty to Chelsea. Micheal Ballack steps up. It’s a tough job already that Lampard has come to play against Liverpool at the semi final despite the death of a loved one in the family. Lampard just looks up to Ballack. No words. Ballack steps back. Lampard sends Reina the wrong way and looks up at the sky
Frank, the No. 8 – Francesco, the No. 10
They seem to be just carved out of a John Grisham novel. The two have lived completely different lives; still they have attained success in their stride. Frank was known for being the witty one. Francesco was Il Re di Roma, the King of Rome. While one was termed as Super Frank, the hero who, along with his friends, always saved Chelsea in his trademark style; the other was the gladiator, who single handedly led the attack for Roma.
Frank always had an antagonist. Comparisons were always made with Steven Gerarrd, a legend in his own. Everyone wanted to know who the better one was. They seemed to be good at every footballing skill. The rivalry got the best out of them. But when combined, they were ordinary. No one understood why, till this day. The fitness problems of Gerard made it difficult to match Lampard on a day to day basis. Fitness took Lampard to 164 consecutive appearances. The legend was getting popular.
Francesco had no rivals. No one really matched him position to position. Allesandro Del Piero could have been his antagonist, a man with the same passion for his club. But Francesco’s frequent changes in style and position gave him the upper hand. He surpassed Del Piero’s total goals even though he wasn’t an out and out striker.
Frank had all the luck with him. He got one of the greatest partner in Makelele to let him take those powerful strikes. He had another leader in John Terry, to relieve him of the pressure to perform. Lampard never needed to look at the back while gunning for glory. The success ladder was placed horizontally by them.
Just a few hours away was Francesco. If Frank had a Special One to guide him, Francesco had two. Fabio Capello and Spalletti built the team in such a way that it could thrive on Totti’s immense passing talent. He was the pioneer of the term, the trequarista. In 2006-07, Totti reached his all time high of 26 goals in a season.
On the International front, Frank came in as a superstar. England would thrive with Frank, they believed. In 2006, Lampard missed the most chances, including his penalty kick. In 2010, he never seemed to convince the referee about the ball crossing the goal line. Fate had deserted him on both counts. He was not as invincible as before.
2006 for Francesco was a dream come true. The laurels that eluded him in his club life were gained through the World Cup win. The inch perfect penalty against Australia had made all the difference. Though rivals at the clubs, Francesco availed the services of Pirlo, Gattuso, Cannavaro and the like. He could finally reach the zenith of his career.
As both grew older, the chinks in the armour could be seen. A young new manager suffered the wrath of keeping Lampard out of the team to bring upon a new and young Chelsea. The old guard, in a fairytale epic, won the Champions League. But with Drogba, Anelka and Carvalho leaving the club, it was evident that the time had come. With Terry and Cole out injured, and the impressive performances of Mata, ,Luiz, Hazard and Oscar, the fans were ready to believe in Chelsea after Lampard. Even with goals galore, Chelsea have still been adamant to not give Lampard even a one year contract. The same Lampard who had got a 5 year deal at the slightest hint of leaving. Maybe it was time to move on.
Francesco too, had found himself leaving the core of the team. The rotation policy of Ranieri saw the emerging talents of Jeremy Menez and Marco Boriello. His outburst against Sampordia showed the gladiator wasn’t ready to be just a pawn in the game. The Er Pupone tag was coming back in the news. It suddenly looked as though Totti would be leaving the club. It wouldn’t be a surprise. His old friend, Del Piero had done the same. The same Totti, who had got ten year contract to recognize his monumental achievements. Maybe it was time to move on.
17th March 2013.
Frank gets 200 goals. Francesco gets 226 goals. One playing a trequarista. The other a box to box midfielder. Asked about their achievements, they both say the same thing. They are just happy to play for their clubs.