Billy’s Soccer Beat
It’s official MLS fans: Frank Lampard is staying at Manchester City for the remainder of the Premier League season and may be there beyond that. However, the question remains, is this the precedent that Manchester City wants to set regarding their newest $100 million investment in MLS?
Is the team slated to begin play in March simply a farm team for its parent club or is it an entity all its own?
What happens to the fans, who spent their hard earned cash on the pretenses that Frank Lampard will be in a light blue uniform in Yankee Stadium when the MLS season begins? Unfortunately for American soccer fans, the English Premier League will once again reign supreme.
There’s definitely a part of me that feels like I’m overreacting to this announcement, don’t get me wrong. After all, Frank Lampard will come to MLS eventually. That time will likely be sometime in mid-May, after he has helped Manchester City with their title defense and struggle to succeed in Europe, all while making the rounds at the various stadiums around England in what is likely to be his final Premier League season.
For American fans, think Jeter or Mariano Rivera in their final season. Lampard is a legend in the Premier League (fourth all-time in goals as a midfielder) and beloved on the English national team, making his final season in England’s top flight that much more special, however, it does not take away from the difficult tone this sets for the beginning of Man City’s foray into the MLS.
For years, soccer fans around the globe have criticized the MLS as a “retirement league,” a place where old, washed up stars can ply their craft for wealthy American owners for far more money than they would make elsewhere, all in the name of growing the world’s sport in the world’s most sports obsessed country.
While Lampard’s age certainly doesn’t help this stereotype, his play on the field certainly does. It’s become clear to anyone who’s watched the Premier League this season that Frank Lampard can still play at an extremely high level. In fact, the thousands of soccer fans across the nation tuning into NBC on Saturday mornings have likely seen the heroics of Lampard with City, and hoped they would be able to see him live when he comes to play in New York City.
Unfortunately for those fans, the hopes have been dashed.
The Lampard situation brings a number of new problems to light: the complications of having parent clubs, the difficulty of loan situations, and most importantly, the global reputation of MLS. If Man City can keep Lampard from joining NYC FC, what’s to stop them from snatching up every good young player in the academy, raiding the MLS talent pool. And, more importantly, is that such a bad thing?
After all, Lampard will eventually come to MLS, and apparently, he is still good enough to compete for a starting role on the defending Premier League champions.
Neither David Beckham nor Thierry Henry could play at that level by the time they came to MLS, putting Lampard in a league of his own. Despite his amazing level of play for his age, the idea that Man City takes precedent over their MLS club to this point, where they would deprive their team of a star, should come as an embarrassment to the league and the New York City Football Club.
This is a market and a fan base hungry for world-class soccer. It’s going to take a lot more than Frank Lampard to give it to them.
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