Frank Lampard says his Italian connection for both club and country can make the next year the defining season of his career.
Lampard leans on Italians
Frank Lampard is renowned for being England's only footballer with a qualification in Latin, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that he believes his Italian connection for both club and country can make the next year the defining season of his career. Lampard - preparing for Sunday's Community Shield match against Manchester United and then an England friendly against Holland three days later - took an examination in Latin as a teenager before becoming a professional footballer and it is now proving unexpectedly useful.
With England looking increasingly like contenders for the 2010 World Cup under Fabio Capello, Chelsea are now also under Italian guidance following the appointment of former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti. Lampard, who was signed for Chelsea by Italian Claudio Ranieri, has always been regarded as the kind of player willing to learn from different managers and different cultures and is relishing the prospect.
"It's weird that Italian football has been such a big influence in my career but I love the Italian mentality of football - I think they are winners," he said. "I think it's going to help me. I haven't worked with Ancelotti for long but I can see similarities with Capello in their toughness and their willingness to succeed. "When you see them you know they are very determined people. That's the major similarity I've seen so far and that's probably why they've been so successful at a huge club like AC Milan.
"To be honest all my Italian managers have had their influences on me. Ranieri when he first signed me, Capello as an England manager and in the few weeks I've worked with Ancelotti I've sensed he will have a big influence on me and the team too." There is little doubt that Capello has been a huge success with the England national team, turning them from Euro 2008 flops into a team regarded as one of the favourites for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa. Now the hope at Stamford Bridge is that Chelsea can tap into the same vein of knowledge.
"There is a real ethic with Italian managers and their thinking on football is very similar," revealed Lampard, who was speaking at an event organised by England sponsors Nationwide Building Society. "They are organised and work very hard. They press very hard to win the ball and want to be hard to beat first and foremost and then play football from there. What you want is winning football." Such has Capello's influence on England been since he arrived last year that a point against Croatia in September should be enough to see the team qualify for the World Cup. And of course the arrival of Ancelotti - regarded as a Champions League expert - at Stamford Bridge means Lampard has a real chance of making 2010 the greatest year of his professional life.
"I hope so," he said. "Last season was in my opinion the best season I've had in club football and I hope to carry that on. "With all the big things coming up it would be an ideal time to hit my peak. But I just know I need to keep on working hard and if I can do that then hopefully these will be my peak years in football and I can win big trophies. "There's a lot of possibilities this year. If I can be successful with Chelsea and go into the World Cup and be successful and get anywhere near winning it then it will be a special year.
"I've already achieved quite a lot in my career that I'm proud of so hopefully this can be something to top it off. But there's a long way to go." The biggest aim of all, of course, is World Cup glory, especially as England have come nowhere near winning silverware since lifting the trophy in 1966. "I'm confident this time," said Lampard. "We're playing as well as we have done for a long time. There's a real confidence and a real togetherness about the group. But there are also a lot of good teams out there so it's important that we train hard and keep improving and give it our best shot."