The truth about Frank Lampard’s curious career move


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So, it's finally official. Frank Lampard will continue his footballing career in the United States. It just feels like he still has something to offer at a higher level.

When David Villa put pen to paper and became New York City FC’s first ever signing he said he was joining the club to ‘try and help MLS continue to grow.’

Yeah, right.

The truth is that he’s joined a brand; a franchise or a project at best – and I’m not talking about the league itself.

Even with Major League Soccer’s salary cap and draft system, the new kids on New York’s block are unlikely to ever face much hardship on the pitch, with Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour in charge of the purse strings.

Mansour has the tools available to him to bring in some of the world’s best players to MLS, even if the league isn’t ready for them.

Following in Villa's footsteps was Chelsea legend Lampard, who became the latest man to sign his name to this new project. Like Villa, the Englishman could easily have provided a great deal to a top-flight club for at least another two years.


Instead, they're heading across the Atlantic in a bold move which at face value appears to have noble and pioneering qualities to it.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Major League Soccer, but who really believes Villa and Lampard joining New York to ‘help MLS continue to grow’?

One day the league will be ready to house players of such quality, but not yet.

And when Villa makes his debut in March 2015 expect to see him partnering a striker not fit to lace his boots.

In past pieces I’ve written that such mismatches can be endearing, and they can be, but who would possibly argue that Luke Rodgers or Bradley Wright-Phillips partnering Thierry Henry up front is a sign of a healthy and blossoming league?

Villa is a player who was seconds away from helping Atletico Madrid to a historic double. Even without the 2014 Champions League to his name, beating Barcelona and Real Madrid to the La Liga title was an achievement that defies superlatives.

From that, he became a one-man club, for the first few weeks at least, representing a side that in the eyes of many will make the Milton Keynes Dons appear to be brimming with history and identity.

To cap things off, it looks as though both Lamps and Villa - as well as a few others, more than likely - will have to kick a ball around for NYCFC's sister club Melbourne City in Australia for a few months just to stay sharp enough for the American side's debut in March 2015.

Like Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero, they're embarking on a well-paid working holiday. It's a more glamourous version of any well-known footballer who goes and players in Qatar.

Normally I would be very interested to see how Villa and Lampard get on but in this case I’ve little interest in such a charmless franchise.

The bottom line is there will be nothing incredible about a New York City MLS Cup triumph in 2015 with the tools at their disposal.

In Lampard and Villa Mansour has brought in - or bought in, to be more specific - guaranteed goals, but it warms me to know that even a man with a family fortune of around £1trillion cannot buy history.

I’ve heard the ‘it’s a young league’ line so many times when it comes to making MLS history, but ever since Eddie Pope headed DC United to the inaugural championship, teams have defied the odds left, right and centre.

And THAT's what makes it worth the time of the avid football fan.

In 2009 Real Salt Lake did it when they beat David Beckham’s LA Galaxy on penalties to lift the MLS Cup in Seattle and a year later Colorado Rapids, who placed 5th in the Western Conference, ended as victors with no household names in their line-up.

In a part of the world that loves the underdog, the odds will always be stacked in favour of Mansour and NYCFC and the arrival of their first ever players is proof of that.

Neither Lampard nor Villa will need to get out of first gear to make an impact in MLS come 2015, but as someone who sincerely wants the league to grow, I won’t be rooting for them or New York City FC.

Jimmy Stone | Follow on Twitter

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