Frank Lampard still proving them wrong - Chelsea legend only man who can add authenticity to MLS
It looks like Frank Lampard will have to do it all again. An action that has become synonymous with his career, as much as his goalscoring feats – silencing critics and proving them wrong, that is. It’s often said that David Beckham did it better than anyone else in football, but Lampard’s own dishing out of humble pie is equal to, if not more devastatingly delivered.
Question marks have tailed Lampard all his career
The list of misdemeanours against Lampard’s character, and talent, goes on. From the early days at West Ham when Harry Redknapp had to defend his player from a prowling member of the press, to the question mark over whether he could deliver on a higher level with Chelsea. Then there was England too, and whether he could still do it at Manchester City despite being well into his thirties.
Now, the freshest batch of criticism is surrounding his move to MLS, and New York City FC. The club, the latest addition in an ever expanding top flight in the States, have got off to the worst possible start from a PR perspective. NYCFC and City clearly got their wires crossed as their relationship is in its early stages, and quite frankly, it might not be the last we hear of this deal, or another in the future.
Now the more pertinent issue is what Lampard will offer to MLS. With Steven Gerrard also following him over the waters, it’s a new era for the ambitious league. Throw in the presence of Raul, David Villa and Kaka too, you get the feeling there is something exciting to behold in a league that in all honesty, has not been taken seriously enough yet.
Sound growth of football in USA
A solid performance from Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team emphasised the progression football has made in the country however, and the German has been key to that. Klinsmann’s work behind the scenes, bringing on youth football in particular, has been heralded as a key step in the US.
With the arrival of established names such as Lampard, it gives young American footballers something to aspire to, in terms of playing alongside or against, players they have seen in the Champions League and Premier League on TV, where football is expanding at a rapid rate and has even beat off established US sports in ratings.
NYCFC themselves are part of this new era, with their team, helmed by owner Sheikh Mansour, desperately looking to avoid being a farm club for his other team in Manchester. Lampard, along with David Villa, will be the designated players for the team. They have been brought in to - of course - push the team on, and get their brand out there, but also to give the club and MLS, authenticity.
Beckham was brought in to be THE brand, and push MLS on from a media perspective. It was flashing lights and sounds with the former Manchester United man, but with Lampard, it will be about bringing quality from a football perspective for the most part.
Lampard still has plenty to offer
Lampard still has plenty to give in that sense, as can be seen by his performances with City. Even in his final days with Chelsea, while the energy was not there from previous years, he could still provide the team with impetus only an experienced individual could. There was too, the trademark finishes and runs into the final third.
NYCFC will get all of that, the industry and technique Lampard can offer, and bring perhaps a new perspective for fans of the game in the country. John Harkes, formerly of West Ham and a man who had Lampard as his boot boy while at Upton Park, picked up on this in recent comments.
“Frank doesn’t just have technical ability on the field, but also in his approach to the game. It's a great mental strength he has and I think that will see him through for the next couple of years."
Lampard has indeed always viewed the game differently, his approach almost un-English. From a tactical point of view he’s got the intelligence of a player on the continent. This will be new territory for many in the US, who are used to having big names thrust upon them, and their star appeal. There is more to Lampard, Villa, Kaka and co than just a big name however.