When David Villa and Frank Lampard signed up for New York City there was always a sneaking suspicion that one, or both, could find themselves wearing the sky blue of Manchester City, before heading off to the Big Apple.
Villa fresh from Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title would have slipped in effortlessly with Manuel Pellegrini’s style, and would have been reunited with David Silva, his Spanish international and ex-Valencia team mate.
Sadly that wasn’t to be as the accomplished, and still very capable, striker heads off to Australia with Melbourne City FC, prior to the MLS season kicking off next March.
More surprisingly, it’s ex-Chelsea legend Lampard, who is swapping royal for sky blue between now and the end of January.
Surprising in the sense that Lampard is synonymous with Chelsea and all the glories of the Abramovich era. It was always difficult to see him playing for another Premier League club, let alone Chelski’s principal rivals…but that’s exactly what is going to happen.
Often lauded as one of the most intelligent of modern day footballers, Lampard’s professionalism will be put to the test, not only in giving 100% when called upon by his temporary employers, but especially if he takes to the field against Mourinho, Terry & Co.
Putting the ‘shock’ factor to one side and ignoring the hate and ignorance waged by disaffected Chelsea fans and unenlightened City supporters, it’s a move that makes complete sense.
Like tens of thousands of City fans on match days, I have barked insults and derision at ‘Fat’ Frank, but only because deep down, we all knew he had the ability to hurt our team, to strike a goal or produce a telling through ball that would deprive the boys in sky blue of precious points.
Put into perspective, if Arsene Whinger is moaning about it then you just know it must make sense and must be to Manchester City’s advantage.
Wenger and the rest of those who support the contradiction in terms known as UEFA Financial Fair Play, have only self interest at heart.
The fact that Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini are savvy enough to land a classy, experienced and, perhaps most pertinently, English, player for next to nothing,is a beautifully crafted two-fingered salute to the corrupt cartel which seeks to exclude newcomers like City from European football’s elite.
City are operating under a net transfer spending restriction of £49m this summer – a figure that will be all but spent when Eliaquim Mangala is finally confirmed as City’s new centre back this week.
The club are desperately short of players who fit the ‘homegrown’ criteria, the rule that demands eight players in a squad of 25 are either English, or have spent three consecutive years with a club or clubs, under the auspices of the English Football Association, whilst aged between 15 – 21 years.
Of those that qualify at City only Joe Hart, James Milner and Gael Clichy can be considered truly viable. The others, namely Richard Wright, Dedryck Boyata, John Guidetti, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and the perplexing Micah Richards, wouldn’t make Pellegrini’s starting line-up or bench out of choice.
Lampard gives Pellegrini a wealth of experience and still, at the age of 36, an ability to make a more than valid contribution in the PL and, even more vitally, the Champions League.
City are restricted to five homegrown players in the CL with the squad being slashed to 21 under FFP penalties. Lampard is ideal for the CL Group stage, especially as the European game is often conducted at a slower rate than the frenetic pace of the PL.
Along with Yaya Toure, ‘Frankie Boy’ will be the only City player to know just how it feels to lift that big old Champions League trophy aloft…his insight won’t go amiss.
That said, James Milner, who is undecided about his long term City career depending on how much playing time he is afforded, must always be a preference ahead of Lampard.
There are those City diehard fans who claim Lampard’s involvement will impede the progress and development of the youngsters seeking to step up from the ranks of the Elite Development Squad. Nonsense.
The man with 106 England caps and, who may yet seek to prolong his international career, is clearly at the Etihad for the short term only.
It’s a brilliant piece of pragmatism by City as the club flatters the numb-nut UEFA dictators, into thinking that they have actually hurt the Abu Dhabi ‘project’.
If and when Frank Lampard takes to the field in a Manchester City first team shirt he will have my unreserved support. If he gives of his all in my team’s colours there can be no issue whatsoever.
Yes, his heart will always be with Chelsea – of course that will be the case, he’s only human and it’s totally understandable.
I’ll happily settle for his head and his shooting boots over the next six months, as City seek to retain the PL title for the first time ever and progress into the Champions League knockout stages.
By David Walker