New York City FC made Frank Lampard their second designated player Thursday, signing the England and Chelsea veteran to a two-year deal that will pay Lampard almost eight million dollars per year.
On the face of it, this is a shaky move. Lampard is 36, and he’s getting paid a lot of money. And Lampard has a lot of baggage with New York City. As a young, stupid, and drunken 23 year old, he, along with a handful of Chelsea teammates, abused grieving Americans stranded due to the attacks of September 11.
Lampard has some explaining to do.
That’s first and foremost. Then, we can get to the soccer.
Frank Lampard – leading scorer in Chelsea history, most goals for a midfielder in Premier League history, eleven major trophies, England captain in a World Cup – could have retired. Or he could have carried on playing and transitioning into a coaching role at Chelsea under one of his biggest fans, Jose Mourinho.
Instead, Lampard is coming to MLS. NYCFC should be thrilled. He’s exactly the kind of player you want to model a franchise after.
Contrary to the tired and sanctimonious cries of “retirement league!” upon Lampard’s signing, this deal shows the exact opposite – that Lampard is not ready to retire. He took a pay cut in excess of five million dollars to come to the States.
Hailed in England as one of the most intelligent footballers and best professionals the Premier League has ever seen, Lampard has traded a bit-part role at a monster club for a role at Yankee Stadium that will see him start every day, and presumably captain NYCFC in their maiden season.
Lampard’s work ethic, dedication, and commitment have never been questioned. Roy Hodgson took him to the World Cup almost solely for his positive influence and leadership qualities.
That’s key, because there are two kinds of highly paid forgien designated players in MLS. Those who care, and those who don’t.
Those who care are great. The ones who don’t leave sour tastes in everyone’s mouths and rarely last a year.
There’s no danger Lampard will be nothing but class on the field and off it. Of course, Lampard’s influence as a barnstorming, goal-scoring attacking player has waned as his age has advanced, but his overall influence remains huge.
As Lampard has gotten older, he’s dropped further and further back into a defensive midfield role – he even reinvented himself into a hard-running defensive midfielder at times under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 – using that supreme intelligence and terrific passing ability to pull the strings.