Frank Lampard is coming to MLS, we all know that, but what we don’t know is why the league decided to pursue a 36-year-old that’s at the of his career, even though the league is trying to get rid of the ignominious “retirement league” label.
No offense to Lampard, but I thought the league was past the time when international superstars came to America ‒ in the famous words of AS Roma’s fullback Ashley Cole – “to sit on the beach?”
A little part of me welcomes this move, because even in his late thirties, Lampard is still a quality player. In fact, he is already the second best, if not the best, midfielder in the league. The only person that might be a step ahead of him is another aging international superstar that made the move to the young league earlier this summer; Kaka.
Like it or not MLS fans, but “Lamps” is better than Javier Morales, Pedro Morales, Diego Valeri, Kyle Beckerman and even Michael Bradley. The English international is world-class, at least he was back in his prime, while those players aren’t.
On his best day, the serene midfielder is a creator and a destroyer. He can carve a defense open like he’s cutting butter with a hot knife. And once he gets a glimpse of the goal, not many goalkeepers can stop his shot.
He is also a winner ‒ at the club level, not so much with England. He has the experience, discipline and leadership skills to raise the infant franchise from the bottom to the top.
Finally, the cerebral midfielder has a great character and plays with ardor. Because his mind isn’t laden with arrogance and he isn’t insouciant, Lampard gets along with others. On the pitch, you might never find someone that’s more driven and competitive than “Super Frank.”
However, a huge part of me believes NYCFC shouldn’t have pursued, let alone signed the declining midfielder. I see two scenarios playing out during the course of Lampard’s two years (or more) in MLS, and neither of them is good for the league.
Firstly, he might be too old and tired to adapt to the league’s rigorous environments. The long distance traveling, artificial surface used by some teams, scorching summer weather and congested schedule will certainly affect the aging midfielder. His body could break down and he might not be able to run up and down the pitch for 90 minutes.
Secondly, Lampard could turn out to be one of the greatest acquisitions in league history. The well-respected midfielders could follow in the footsteps of Marco Di Vaio and Tim Cahill and have a very good season. NYCFC will benefit from their marquee player’s success, but MLS will be ridiculed around the world.
The league’s prestige will be tainted because a 36-year-old Chelsea reject is a dominant force in the league.
Warren Buffet, successful inventor and billionaire, once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
That “five minutes” was NYCFC’s unveiling of Lampard as the expansion club’s second Designated Player. MLS’ reputation was knocked and it’s going to take a few years before it gets back on its feet.
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