Paul Scholes vs Steven Gerrard vs Frank Lampard: 19 footballers who have answered the debate

  • Rob Swan
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There are a host of debates in football which will probably never be settled, but that doesn’t stop fans from constantly discussing them.

These include Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele vs Diego Maradona, and who was the best player out of Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

All three were world-class midfielders at their peaks and will forever be adored by Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea fans, respectively.

Everybody has their own opinion about which of the three English midfielders was the best of the bunch.

But what do their former teammates and opponents think?

As it’s Scholes’s 46th birthday (happy birthday, Paul!), we’ve decided to find as many examples as possible where footballers have attempted to settle the debate.

But which player comes out on top?

Cesc Fabregas - Steven Gerrard

Cesc Fabregas played against all three midfielders during his spell at Arsenal but the Spaniard named Gerrard as his toughest opponent.

"If I have to say one - and I really enjoyed playing against - I would say Steven Gerrard,” Fabregas told BBC's Match of the Day’s podcast.

"He was physically the most difficult opponent to handle. He was the box-to-box player, he could be on his right or left, shooting from the outside of his boot. He was a machine."

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Bruno Fernandes - Paul Scholes

Bruno Fernandes currently wears Scholes’s No. 18 shirt at Manchester United, so it’s no real shock that the Portuguese midfielder rates the Ginger Prince as the best of the trio.

"I think Scholes was one of the best midfielders in the world,” he told Sky Sports this week. “For England, a lot of people talk about Frank Lampard because he scored a lot of goals of course, one of the best in England too, you have Steven Gerrard too, but I think Scholes is the one who makes more difference than anyone else.

"And before everyone starts talking about this, I haven't seen every midfielder in England, ok?! But I think in the last generation, those three were the three best ones, and for me Scholes was best."

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Michael Owen - Steven Gerrard

Michael Owen played alongside all three stars during his illustrious career.

The former England striker would have Gerrard as the first name on his teamsheet ahead of Scholes and Lampard.

"Stevie's on a different level than anything I've seen or played with and as you've said, I'm not blowing smoke up my a***, I've played with some great Man United players, Liverpool players, Real Madrid, England,” he told Jamie Carragher’s The Greatest Game podcast earlier this year.

"Put it this way. If I'm saying tomorrow rewind the clock, you're going into battle now, you're playing in the Champions League final, who's your first pick? I'd have Steven Gerrard as my first pick out of anyone."

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Toni Kroos - Paul Scholes

In December 2017, Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Toni Kroos answered the debate with a simple two-word tweet: “Paul Scholes”.

Kaka - Steven Gerrard

Like Scholes, Gerrard and Lampard, Kaka is one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.

The Brazilian revealed his preference for Liverpool legend Gerrard in an interview earlier this year.

"I like Gerrard," he told SPORTbible. "Because we had this challenge between ourselves in 2005 and 2007, I really admire him.

"Of course, Lampard was pretty amazing, Scholes the classic. But I'll have Gerrard."

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Thierry Henry - Paul Scholes

Arguably the greatest player of the Premier League era, Thierry Henry went head-to-head against all three midfielders on numerous occasions.

In 2015, the Frenchman said on Monday Night Football that Scholes was the best.

"He was just ahead in his head," Henry commented. "He made Manchester United tick. Every time we were playing them we needed to find a way to stop him.

"It's true. I think Stevie G comes really close to him. But Paul Scholes would have to win."

Deco - Paul Scholes

Deco played alongside Lampard for Chelsea but the former Portugal international was a huge fan of Scholes.

"I played with and against so many fantastic players in midfield like Gerrard," he was quoted saying by Bleacher Report in 2016. "I had the opportunity to play with Lampard together at Chelsea.

"I think, because he was a different type of player to all other types of English midfielder, Paul Scholes was the best player that I saw playing for an English midfield and one of the best players in the world."

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Kieron Dyer - Paul Scholes

Kieron Dyer trained and played with the three midfielders at international level, but one stood out above the rest in his eyes.

“The best player I ever played with is Paul Scholes,” Dyer told Soccer AM. “The [debate] has always been who’s better: Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. In my humble opinion, Scholes was the best.

“People who played with him and against him know that he was so special and unique. He could do everything except the tackle!”

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Chris Sutton - Steven Gerrard

Premier League striker-turned-pundit Chris Sutton revealed that he sits in the Gerrard camp, albeit only just.

"Tough one there but I'm going to say Gerrard," Sutton said when asked for his thoughts. "I think he was a better all-rounder. His range of passing... it's a tough one but Gerrard."

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Paul Ince - Paul Scholes

There’s absolutely no doubt in Paul Ince’s mind who’s the best of the trio.

"Scholesy all day long," the former England international responded immediately. "Better passer. He had everything."

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Bryan Robson - Steven Gerrard

Manchester United legend Bryan Robson was a very similar player to Gerrard, so that might be why he went for the Anfield hero over the other two.

"For me he [Gerrard] can do everything and that's the reason I'd say he was the best of the three if I had to split them ahead of Scholes and Lampard in that order," he told the Daily Mail in 2013.

"They are all top professionals and each brought different attributes and strengths but Gerrard can tackle, defend, score goals, head it, make a telling precision pass, dictate the tempo and is a powerful runner. He has a bit more to his game."

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek - Steven Gerrard

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a Chelsea man, so it was a surprise when he selected Gerrard over the Stamford Bridge legend in 2017.

“I think I’m going to say Gerrard, because he could do everything," the midfielder said, per the Metro.

“Obviously Lampard was top at what he did, and what he did was score goals, and no other midfielder can do that like Lamps. But the way Gerrard leads as well, I’d say Gerrard.”

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Gary Neville - Paul Scholes

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher had a fascinating debate on this very talking point on Monday Night Football several years ago.

Neville argued that Scholes was the greatest footballer he ever played with, including Cristiano Ronaldo and, yes, both Lampard and Gerrard.

The former Man Utd captain said: “They’re three completely different players but all I will say is that Paul Scholes is the best player I ever played with.”

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Jamie Carragher - Steven Gerrard

Carragher, though, said he would put both Gerrard and Lampard ahead of Scholes.

“I’d go Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes. I put Stevie top because of his big-game influence - Istanbul, Cardiff, cup final. Lampard next for the same [reason]. I’d just put them slightly ahead of Scholes.”

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Wilfried Zaha - Steven Gerrard

Scholes retired in the same summer that Wilfried Zaha joined Man Utd, which may explain why he opted for Gerrard.

"Me personally, I would say Gerrard," the winger said, per 90min.com. "That's my opinion, just the way he plays, controls the game, technique, the way he strikes the ball.

"I remember training with England, and he hit the ball with such power, and no run-up. I'd have to run from the halfway line to smash that as hard as he's hit that".

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Robbie Savage - Steven Gerrard

Robbie Savage made a nuisance of himself against all three midfielders, but he says Gerrard was a “nightmare” to face.

"I played against Scholes, Keane, Vieira, Makelele, Lampard - some of the best we've seen in the Premier League - but for me, Steven Gerrard stood out," the Welshman said in 2016.

"He could pass it 50, 60 yards and you couldn't get close to him. He could tackle you, take free-kicks, he could whip balls in, he could score goals - as a midfield player, he was a nightmare.

"For me, he goes down as the greatest ever Liverpool player."

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Rio Ferdinand - Paul Scholes

Asked to name his dream 5-a-side team of players he played with, Rio Ferdinand told GIVEMESPORT: “I’d go [Edwin] van der Sar. Cristiano [Ronaldo]. [Paul] Scholes, Roy Keane and [Wayne] Rooney.

“[Steven] Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard on the bench.”

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Wayne Rooney - Paul Scholes

After Scholes announced his first retirement in 2011, Wayne Rooney told talkSPORT that his revered teammate was the best player he played with and against.

“He’s the best I’ve played with and against,” Rooney told the Keys and Gray show. “He’s only small but it’s so difficult to get the ball off him. Every United fan will miss him.”

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Mark Noble - Steven Gerrard

In a Twitter Q&A earlier this year, West Ham’s Mark Noble said Gerrard was more complete than both Scholes and Lampard.

“Trust me when I say you only realise how good a player is when you play against them,” he said. “All 3 were top top players in their own right but all round player.

“Stevie G was the complete footballer.”

Total votes

“Drum roll, please…*

Paul Scholes - 9 votes
Steven Gerrard - 10 votes
Frank Lampard - 0 votes

Debate finally settled?

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