With Frank Lampard’s recent performances for Manchester City fuelling speculation that his loan from New York City FC could be extended beyond January, MLS fans could be forgiven for wondering whether the league is heading for another “Beckham saga”.
After his first full season with the LA Galaxy in 2008, Beckham moved to AC Milan on loan in January 2009 in order to keep himself in England contention, with the aim of returning to the US in time for the start of the following season.
He impressed to the point where his move was extended through to mid-July, amid efforts to make the switch a permanent one, before eventually returning to the Galaxy to receive a hostile reception from fans, only revitalising his reputation after guiding the club to the 2011 MLS Cup.
Lampard almost certainly won’t be looking to make his City move permanent, while his England ambitions are now over, but one has to wonder how an increased role with the Blues over the coming months might affect his scheduled return to the States.
Should the former Chelsea midfield prove an integral part of a side which is still challenging on all fronts come the turn of the year then Manuel Pellegrini may well push to keep him until March, and possibly even beyond the start of the 2015 MLS season if club feel his services are required for the final run-in.
Lampard himself has recently spoken of his desire to extend his stay, and if he can continue to show that he still has a great deal to offer the English top-flight then leaving the Etihad Stadium might prove harder than first imagined.
Indeed, after scoring twice in the 7-0 Carling Cup rout of Sheffield Wednesday in midweek to add to Sunday’s strike against his former club, the 36-year-old seems ready to become an important squad player going forward, leaving a potentially difficult decision ahead.
‘That will obviously be a club decision first and foremost. I wouldn't want to get too ahead of myself. It's not my place to do that,’ Lampard told Sky Sports.
‘I'll just train as hard as I can and play as well as I can – that’s the important thing – then we'll see what happens. I'm signed here until January so that's all I can say at the minute.’
The fact NYCFC are backed by Manchester City clearly puts MLS in a tricky situation, given the league will want the expansion franchise’s star man around for the start of the side’s inaugural season, but won't want to risk upsetting the new "flavour of the month" either.
The club’s major draw alongside David Villa, Lampard’s promotional pull is an obvious coup, but his potential absence for at least the early part of 2015 would be a far from ideal proposition for a team which is just looking to get off the ground.
There is no need to panic yet at this early stage, with NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis ruling out any kind of loan extension, but it’s evidently a situation which has the potential to get somewhat messy, although perhaps not quite on the same scale as the Beckham transfer saga.