Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted he did not foresee the young Frank Lampard going on to enjoy the stellar career he had at West Ham and Chelsea.
Lampard announced his retirement on Thursday, aged 38, having played 187 times for the Hammers and 648 times for the Blues.
He ended his time at Stamford Bridge in 2014 as Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer, with 211 goals, surpassing Bobby Tambling’s previous best mark of 202.
Wenger has seen virtually the whole of Lampard’s career in England – the Frenchman started work at Arsenal in October 1996, six weeks after the midfielder’s first start for West Ham.
And, speaking at a press conference ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Chelsea on Saturday, the Gunners boss gave his candid thoughts about Lampard’s early days.
He said: “I saw him start at West Ham and honestly I would not have bet that he would have made a career of that calibre.
“That shows that he was focused, motivated, intelligent and had a huge stamina in his desire to play, and that is a quality you cannot give to players.
“The consistency of his performances through the years was absolutely unbelievable.
“He got in the box with the right timing and he was a great finisher, because when he hit the ball, it was never in the stand, it was always on target, that’s why he scored so many goals.”
Lampard played against Arsenal 42 times, for West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City, and was on the winning side on 12 occasions, scoring five goals.