Frank Lampard was not an elite international footballer at his peak, according to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
While the Red Devils' legend insists that Lampard has been a "marvellous servant" for Chelsea, the Scot never rated him as one of the world's very best midfielders.
Most Chelsea supporters would have read this quote and gasped in horror. So too would most followers of the Premier League, who have watched the England international score a remarkable number of goals throughout his hugely successful spell at Stamford Bridge.
But does Ferguson have a point? Was the 2005 Ballon d'Or runner-up a rung below the very best, even during his peak years?
It's become a cliche to even suggest that the term "world-class" is overused but, nevertheless, it's true. Ferguson carefully used the words "elite international footballer" in his new autobiography - and we can hazard a guess that when he talks about world-class players, he means world-class in the real sense, not in the Martin O'Neill/Ashley Young sense.
The Scot has managed some of the best players the Premier League has ever seen - and set his teams up to face some of the best players the world has ever seen. He subsequently has a fairly good idea about which players over the course of the past three decades should be described as elite international footballers.
Of course, there's no surefire way of quantifying what makes an elite international footballer, and in this case it's just one man's opinion - albeit the man who ended his career as the most successful British manager of all time.
But, that said, could you honestly say - hand on heart - that Lampard was on par with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Xavi or Andres Iniesta?
Few would argue that the aforementioned trio were elite international footballers during their peak years - in Iniesta's case, he's still at his peak - and better footballers than Lampard.
That's nothing for Lampard to be ashamed of. There's no doubt that he has made the most of his talent and maximised his potential through tireless hard work both on the training ground and during matches.
He's an example for all young footballers and Chelsea pulled off one of the deals of the decade when they signed him for a bargain £11m from West Ham in 2001.
But he's had dips in form, scored many of his goals against second-rate teams or from the penalty spot and failed to inspire his country at a major tournament - unlike Zidane, Xavi and Iniesta.
Again, that doesn't make him a bad player. As Ferguson says, Lampard has been a marvellous servant for Chelsea, but comparing him to the likes of Zidane and Iniesta just seems a step too far.
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