Ed.note: Frank Lampard is leaving New York.
A week after New York City FC were eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs, both the team and Frank himself have confirmed that he will be leaving the team in December when his contract expires. NYCFC did have a club option for an additional year, but as one of the highest paid players in MLS at age 38, time was always going to be Lampard’s greatest enemy (despite his excellent goalscoring record this year).
So what’s next for Super Frank? His Instagram post teases that he “will be making an announcement very soon” as he embarks on the next stage of his career. I think we all know what should happen. Here’s Llion to spell it out for us, following on from a report in The Guardian as Chelsea await the return of the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, one who never got to properly say goodbye (and now he wouldn’t have to!).
[Chelsea] will offer their record goalscorer either an ambassadorial role or a position on the coaching staff, depending upon his ambitions, as they seek to retain close links with their most successful generation of players.
-source: Dominic Fifield in The Guardian
Frank Lampard is widely recognized as one of the greatest English midfielders of all-time — some would even argue one of the greatest midfielders of all-time. They would not be wrong.
Over 300 career goals for club and country, over a dozen major trophies, and countless individual honours — Lampard’s two decade-long career at the top of the world game is the stuff of legends. His accomplishments are especially remarkable considering that many thought his path to football was shaped firmly on his family connections rather than footballing aptitude — father Frank Sr and uncle Harry Redknapp are legends of the English game and West Ham United, specifically. But wherever Lampard has played, he consistently proved his doubters wrong. His time at New York City was no exception.
Admittedly, Lampard’s transition to life in America was anything but seamless. The controversy that ensued following his move to NYCFC by way of a loan at Manchester City that turned into a full season, coupled with persistent injury troubles was scarcely the recipe for success. Earlier this year, he was labeled the worst signing in MLS history and booed by the home crowd at Yankee Stadium. In quintessential fashion, he responded with 12 goals in 20 games this season, including NYCFC’s first ever hat-trick. The boos turned into applause and the Twitter hashtag #ThankYouFrank was overflowing with appreciation.
Clearly, MLS doesn’t rival European leagues in terms of splendour, recognition, or, for that matter, level of competition, but to achieve what Lampard has at the age of 38 is yet another splendid demonstration of his footballing calibre. To dispute his importance to New York would be foolish and naïve in equal measure; his influence both on and off the field has been undeniably positive.
Lampard’s decision to depart New York City, and seemingly call time on his playing career, does provide Chelsea with this opportune moment. Such reunions of clubs and club icons are often the result of decisions made by hearts rather than minds. Nostalgia is a powerful force. However, I sincerely believe that Frank Lampard doesn’t fit into this category. A return to Stamford Bridge would be an auspicious proposition for all parties.
If Lampard were to return to the Blues in a coaching or ambassadorial capacity, he could attain the experiences and qualifications needed to guide his progression towards becoming a football manager — an ambition he had spoken about previously.
Lampard is renowned for his qualities when the ball is at his feet, yet NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira felt that Lampard’s contribution extended far beyond just the pitch.
“Everybody talks about Frank’s goal-scoring record from midfield, but I can tell you after a year of working with him, he brings so much more to a team than just goals. What Frank has brought to the locker room is something just as – his experience, his elite mentality and his mentorship for the younger members of our squad have helped us greatly this year.”
A player with the experience and unique skill-set of Lampard is hard to find and now Chelsea could reap the benefits of his presence for a second time. As a player, Lampard has seen, done, and experienced just about everything in the world of top level professional football. As a coach, mentor, or ambassador, his character and leadership could make a vital contribution to Antonio Conte’s team.
Over the years, Chelsea have slowly dismantled the “Old Guard”. Now, slowly, we can put them back together in a supporting, behind-the-scenes role. The likes of Paulo Ferreira and Carlo Cudicini are already here, while Eddie Newton and Tore Andre Flo are just two other former Blues fulfilling various staff roles at the club. Didier Drogba was close to returning last winter (and may yet do so this January), while it’s almost a certainty that John Terry will one day be back in some sort of capacity as well. Once a Blue, forever a Blue, as Michael Ballack has been recently tweeting.
As sentimental as this all may seem, Lampard's return to Stamford Bridge would be an astute acquisition to reinforce an already great coaching staff. His Chelsea tale may well be far from complete.