As Frank Lampard edged towards the final chapter of his 13 year success story with Chelsea, the up and coming American MLS beckoned for the midfielder. It’s just another example of the anticlimactic trend of players over 30 to finish their careers off in America and not to retire with their long-term clubs, when looking at Lampard and Gerrard for example. The perfect fairy tale of players ending their careers at the clubs they’re classed legends at has completely vanished, and it’s a shame – or maybe thats just the romanticist in me coming out.
No one was really surprised with Lampard’s cross atlantic move, but his change of Premier League jerseys did shock a few. Soon after agreeing the deal to move to newly formed New York City, it was announced that Lampard would be returning to the Premier League on loan, but to many people’s horror, it was not a return to West London. No, Lampard had joined Chelsea’s rivals Manchester City, part of the same franchise as his new parent club, on a short-term basis. The reason being to ‘add match fitness’ before joining the American team for their season in March.
He knew when he made the move to the English champions that he wouldn’t be a starting player every week, and this he wasn’t. Only starting 3 Premier League games for the sky blue’s in the League throughout the whole season he’s been n ever present character on the substitute bench, being used 20 times as a substitute and playing a total of 469 minutes for City – just an average of 20 minutes a game.
If you had told Lampard this time last year that he would be making his 600th Premier League appearance with Manchester City, I doubt he would have believed you. Even at the beginning of this season, his long term future with City was non existent. It took quite a time for people to get used to the ex-England international in the light blue jersey. So, in just his second game for City, he came on as a second half substitute against his former club Chelsea, and with Chelsea one up with ten minutes to go, a Lampard equaliser seemed to be already written in the script. As the ball bobbled into the bottom corner, the surreal events of the last few months had been completed. Not only had he left Chelsea, which many thought would never happen, but he had joined MLS side New York City just to be loaned straight back to Chelsea’s title rivals, Manchester City where he scored the equaliser in just his second appearance against the club where he remains a legend, and their all time top goalscorer – a series of events fit for any average soap opera.
Lampard remained a regular sub for City throughout the season, providing extra cover for the first choice midfielders. He began to pick up a knack of appearing in the last stages of Manchester City games and he was doing well, adding something to their game and most importantly providing huge cover. Having scored 5 goals in the Premier League, Lampard stands as City’s fourth top scorer this season.
In December of last year, it was announced that Lampard’s stay in Manchester would be extended until the end of the season, hence missing the beginning of the MLS campaign, which has just started now in March. This caused huge controversy back in America, with fans outraged that Lampard would not be joining David Villa at the Yankee Stadium come the start of the season.
City had seen that with Yaya Toure jetting off to the African Cup of Nations, Lampard was needed as cover in case of injury or suspension to either Fernando or Fernandinho, and with City competing in all 4 major competitions at the time – this cover was greatly needed. Lampard was hardly going to turn down the chance to continue his playing career in the Premier League just that bit longer, and there was even talk at the beginning of January that he was considering a second season with City, but to the delight of several New Yorker’s – these rumours were soon crushed.
But was there much point in Lampard’s stay in Manchester? It still wouldn’t have seemed right for Lampard to just serve half of his swan-song season in England, and it would just leave it more unfinished than it was before, so in that sense – yes there was the point. But on the pitch, Manchester City would be no worse off without him this season, apart from his 5 goals, he hasn’t added a great deal and with Toure returned, it doesn’t seem that Lampard will be needed a huge amount in City’s last 9 games as they try to catch Lampard’s ex-club, Chelsea at the top of the table.
In May, Frank Lampard will make the journey over to America, where he will serve the rest of his retirement in the bright lights of New York. There is no question whatsoever that it is a step down for the ex-England and Chelsea captain, and it just seems like he has decided to relax into retirement, rather than to continue to play to his very high calibre and push himself at the highest level. Nevertheless, Lampard’s final season in the Premier League has been enjoyable, not just for him but for us – he just couldn’t quite get enough of it could he?