LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The Frank Lampard saga appears to have finally reached a conclusion, as New York City FC Director of Football Claudio Reyna, in an interview with MLSsoccer.com, reiterated his comments in a Friday New York Times report that Lampard signed on Thursday night an MLS contract that will begin on July 1.
Lampard was initially unveiled as a New York City FC Designated Player in July 2014. After completing a media tour in New York City to announce the move, Lampard jetted to Manchester, where he joined NYCFC parent club Manchester City for what was then thought to be a half-season stint with the defending English Premier League champions.
It was originally planned for Lampard to leave Manchester and join the MLS expansion club on January 1, 2015, in time for the start of NYCFC’s first preseason. However, Lampard has played a larger than expected role in England, scoring five goals in 15 EPL games and helping the Citizens to the knockout round of the Champions League.
Those performances led to the Dec. 31 extension of his stay with Manchester City through the end of the current European season and plenty of consternation from NYCFC supporters regarding the player's contract situation, which was cleared up this week.
“Initially, as was somewhat already stated, [Lampard] agreed to a broader deal with City Football Group [owners of Manchester City and New York City FC] for two seasons,” Reyna told MLSsoccer.com over the phone on Friday. “But, in a unique situation with us not being in season, we had an opportunity for him to play in Manchester. It was great for him, it was great for us and as it stands now he’s on a Manchester City Football Club contract, which he signed in the summer and it was extended. So he has a New York City FC contract agreed and signed which starts, as I said, when he joins up with team [in July].”
In a statement issued on Friday, Lampard reiterated the timeline that he will "start playing for NYCFC at the end of this current Premier League season."
Reyna traveled to Manchester in recent weeks to finalize the arrangement that would keep Lampard in England through the end of the EPL season. He and NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis both said on Friday that the decision for Lampard to stay in England was made collectively by the entire City Football Group, with NYCFC a part of that decision.
“We made a decision collectively,” Reyna said. “I think that’s the most important thing. Frank’s been playing great there. The reality is it was never the intent at the outset, it was never intended for him to stay on all the way, but circumstances change. He’s playing at a fantastic level and the decision was made. So we’re absolutely calm about it, he’s still coming, he’s still part of our team. We’re excited. He’s fully committed to NYCFC, and I think that’s important. He’s still coming and we’re really good. We’re moving on, we’re really positive about the whole situation with our team and where we’re at.”
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Reyna also addressed NYCFC fans’ concerns about Lampard’s delayed arrival. New York City FC supporters group The Third Rail issued a terse statement expressing their feelings about the situation earlier this week.
“We understand fans’ disappointment,” Reyna said. “However, it’s also exciting to see the level he’s playing at. He’s playing in the Premier League, on the reigning Premier League champions, in the Champions League and he’s still coming, so we’re really excited to have him.
“Frank’s a fantastic player, an incredible professional and when he comes in July, he’s going to make a strong squad even stronger with his experience and goal scoring abilities and all the qualities that he’s shown over in Manchester. So we’re certainly positive, and we’re calm about the whole situation, as well…. We’ve just absolutely moved on and really feel good about the squad that we’re building.”