BROOKLYN, N.Y. – There were no conversations with David Beckham when Frank Lampard was weighing his options after leaving Chelsea in the English Premier League.
But like Beckham did during his time with the LA Galaxy, Lampard values the responsibility of being an ambassador for the sport and his new club, New York City FC.
“It’s important, and I’m very aware of that role. I take it very strongly,” Lampard said at Brooklyn Bridge Park after being introduced as the club’s fourth and latest signing Thursday. “Hopefully my football will do the talking. But as an ambassador to a new franchise, I think it’s important not just what we do on the pitch, but embracing the community.”
Lampard, who will be 37 when he plays his first Major League Soccer game next March, said he isn’t coming to America for an extended vacation.
“We’re here to play serious soccer and to try to win something. … This is going to be a great experience for me, I hope,” Lampard said. “I’ve seen what the MLS has done, the improvements over the years, the quality of players who play here. I think that perception is dated.”
New York City FC director of football Claudio Reyna said he isn’t worried about Lampard’s fitness or his desire to win.
“He’s at a very high level still, he keeps himself very fit, he’s very serious,” Reyna said. “He’s already talking about where he’s going to train and going to the gym later on. That’s him. There’s no concerns from a team and how he fits in and how we best maximize his qualities.”
New York City FC coach Jason Kreis said there wasn’t much of a sales pitch to convince Lampard to join the expansion team and play in New York.
“That’s a credit to Frank Lampard,” he said. “I believe someone of his character looks at this as a challenge and wants to take it up.”
Kreis is also confident Lampard can succeed in Major League Soccer because of the Chelsea legend’s burning desire to win. It’s a trait Kreis said Lampard shares with Beckham.
“I think he’ll do fantastic,” Kreis said. “I’ve always had the opinion that players who come over that are good players, it’s only going to be a question of what is their motivation, how bad do they want it.”
Reyna is also impressed with Lampard’s character, both on the field and in the dressing room.
“He’s an exemplary professional and player,” Reyna said. “Players like Gianfranco Zola, the biggest players in Chelsea have always commented that when asked who is one of the best pros they’ve ever played with, it’s his name that comes up.”
Lampard joins Spanish international David Villa as two of New York City FC’s first four signings. That foundation is something that has Kreis very excited.
“I came to this club thinking about what a terrific opportunity it could be. Now I’m seeing that starting to come to its fruition,” Kreis said. “To have the opportunity to work with a player like Frank Lampard and a player like David Villa is like a dream come true for a coach like myself.”
Conversely, Lampard is also impressed with Kreis in their limited conversations so far.
“He’s young, he’s forward thinking, he’s got a great success rate already. I think it’s a really smart move to bring in a manager like that,” Lampard said. “They could have easily as a new franchise brought in a big world name who wasn’t aware of the ins and outs of the MLS and the draft system. He’s the complete man to take on this job.”