As one of the biggest names in world football for the past decade, there’s no doubt that Frank Lampard’s arrival in MLS is a major coup for the league.
Scoring a club record 211 goals in 648 appearances for Chelsea, Lampard leaves Stamford Bridge this summer after 13 seasons at the top of English game, with three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the 2012 Champions League and the 2013 Europa League to his name.
Capping a momentous 12 months for the league, during which various other stars such as Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, David Villa and Kaka have all signed on, the England international’s sheer presence alone should invite newfound interest in the US domestic scene.
However, having sealed a two-year deal with expansion side New York City FC, who are set for their inaugural season in 2015, we're still left to wonder what kind of impact the Blues legend can have on the pitch.
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At 36 years old, Lampard is clearly no longer the player who once enjoyed a 27-goal campaign from midfield but was still a valuable contributor to a top three side in 2013-14, albeit in a lesser-role than previous seasons, as well as a member of the Three Lions World Cup squad this summer.
Joining Spain’s all-time leading-scorer David Villa at NYCFC, with the former Barcelona striker signing last month, he becomes just the fourth name added to the club’s roster for 2015 thus far, so there remains no clear picture of how the side will line-up for their top-flight debut.
Another Barca legend, Xavi, was also rumoured to be close to joining last week but whether the team will keep up their interest, after his reported decision to remain with the Catalan giants until at least the start of 2015, is far from certain.
Head Coach Jason Kreis made the 4-4-2 diamond his calling card during his seven seasons managing Real Salt Lake, and one could envisage Lampard being used in the same role that Argentine maestro Javier Morales has thrived in for the perennial postseason-contenders, acting as the side’s talisman at the tip of the midfield, where his aging legs wouldn’t be so taxed.
Kreis has stressed that he will be flexible, moulding the lineup around the personnel at his disposal but, in that position close to the opposition area where he was so lethal for Chelsea, a 10-plus goal, 10-plus assist season is feasible – numbers which would be sure to make him a leading MVP candidate.
While that may sound an ambitious projection, the Manchester City-backed outfit will be be able to assemble an impressive supporting cast over the next six months, even under the league’s cap restrictions, which should make them competitive right out of the gate.
Fourth on the Premier League’s all-time appearance list, Lampard has proven a durable customer throughout his career and, despite his age, is far from as washed up as some have labelled him in recent months.
In a league in which savvy veterans are consistently among the top performers, it would be wise to bank on him becoming the latest established name to taste MLS success, in addition to helping the US game to further grow its profile.
Will Lampard be a success in MLS?