There was a considerable difference in the transfer fees that Chelsea and Arsenal respectively paid for their most recent star midfielders, Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas. Craig Farrell is here to discuss which side got a better return for their investment.
There is an expression: ‘if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Arsene Wenger has broken this assumption on numerous occasions, but none more so than with Cesc Fabregas. Chelsea have spent a fortune during the Roman Abramovich era but the fee they paid for Frank Lampard equates to peanuts, in comparison to the impulse buying that has taken place since the Russian took over the club.
Both Lampard and Fabregas joined their respective sides in or around the same time: Lampard joined Chelsea in 2001, while Cesc joined the Gunners in 2003 (coincidentally Cesc will kit-up for Chelsea replacing the void that Lampard has left).
The two men also performed the same role for their clubs. Their main responsibility was to feed the attack. That was first and foremost. Second to that came joining the attack – which both men did extremely well; managing to time runs into the box just as the ball broke, or a cross was swung in. Both midfield maestros also got stuck into the nitty-gritty in terms of tackles and attempting to break-up play – albeit Lampard was a little better at this due to his English nature than his continental counterpart.
Lampard spent thirteen years in the Blue of London, while Fabregas spent eight in the Red on London (although the first of those eight years Fabregas was in the Arsenal youth set-up.)
Lampard had the advantage of joining Chelsea from their London rivals West Ham United having just turning 24. He was accustomed to top flight English football having already racked up close to 150 appearances for West Ham. His fee of £11 million was by no means cheap, nor was it steep considering the money that had been spent on some players. Frank fitted right into the heart of the Chelsea set-up and missed just one game in his first year. He would then go three consecutive years without missing a single game in the Premier League.
On the other side of the coin was Fabregas’s move to Highbury (Arsenal’s home stadium at the time). Wenger took Fabregas as a 16-year-old pup from the Barcelona youth academy for the measly fee of £700,000 as compensation. This was a mere drop in the ocean in terms of transfers fees. Fabregas spent his initial year in London adjusting in Arsenal’s youth team, before stepping up to the mantle of the first team at the tender age of 17.
Both men quickly became irreplaceable in the middle of their respective teams and they would easily have been the first names on the team sheet on match day. Both players took responsibility for set pieces, corners and penalties (although Lampard did have to appease Drogba in this area from time to time). In 2008, Fabregas was named captain, despite being just 21-years of age.
So which signing was greater? It depends on how you evaluate the rewards.
Lampard played more than twice the number of leagues game, and scored more than five times that of Fabregas.
Lampard played 30-plus games in more than nine Premier League campaigns for The Pensioners, and trotted out a minimum of 24 times a season in the league for them. Fabregas went over 30 games in his first seasons in the first-team but never managed to surpass 30 during his final trio.
Scoring was Lampard’s forte, while is was Cesc’s Achilles heel. Lampard went a decade straight with a league goal tally in double figure from 2003/04 to 2012/13 (he hit 22 goals in a single campaign). Lampard only failed to hit ten in his first two season and in his concluding year. Fabregas hit 15 in his penultimate season as a Gunner, other than that he only went over three league goals once – in 2007/08 when he hit the net on seven occasions.
Lampard cost Chelsea a little more than £25,500 per league appearance (just under £17,000 per appearance in total) whereas Cesc cost Arsenal just over £3,000 per league appearance (which drops by £1,000 if you include all his caps for Arsenal).
Each of Lampard’s league goals cost Chelsea just under £75,000 ; £52,000 per goal in all competitions. Cesc cost The Gunners £20,000 per league goal and a little over £12,000 per goal in total. Cesc’s main attribute to Arsenal came in setting up goals in which he had 77 league assists during his tenure in north London. Although the Gunners have a right to be disappointed by Fabregas’ goal return. During his three year spell at the Nou Camp the Catalan midfielder was just seven goals shy of equalling the tally he netted during his seven years in the Arsenal first team.
But as the saying goes ‘money talks’. Arsenal received £35 million in return for allowing the Spaniard to return home. A cool profit of £34.3 million after seven years of service. Compared to the big fat zero that Chelsea received on their return as they allowed Lampard’s contract to expire.
Cesc brought Arsenal a great deal of talent but very little silverware – only an FA Cup in 2005 and a Community Shield the previous year (if that is even worth mentioning). Lampard was at the heart of all of Chelsea’s success. He is one of the few common pieces in the London outfit that won three league titles, four FA Cup’s, two League Cup’s, the Champions League and the Europa League trophy. Lampard gave Chelsea everything: in terms of in his performances as well as in relation to trophies.
There is a saying states that ‘money can’t buy loyalty’. That may be true, but it can buy the best of service for 13 seasons and accomplish great successes. Arsenal earned a lot but gained little in terms of Cesc Fabregas’ sale. Arsenal have grown very little since the Catalan’s departure, while Chelsea grew expeditionary thanks to Lampard’s service. There is no loser here, but only one winner.
Craig Farrell, Pundit Arena