• Former Chelsea man yet to retire from international game
• Lampard vows ‘to pay respects to US dead at 9/11 memorial’
For Frank Lampard, the easiest decision has already been made. Now comes the hard part. With José Mourinho showing no desire to keep the club’s all-time leading scorer, the 36-year-old wanted another challenge. So when the chance arose to sign for New York City, the US branch of Sheikh Mansour’s plans to establish Manchester City as a true global brand, there was little hesitation.
Whether to follow Steven Gerrard’s lead and retire from international football, though, is a far harder question to be answered. The dismal showing at the World Cup would have left most seasoned internationals, especially one with 103 caps, content to leave that world behind him once and for all.
Yet Lampard insists he is uncertain as to where his England future lies. If he is to play a part in the push for Euro 2016 qualification he will need to find somewhere to play with NYC FC not starting until the next MLS season, which is due to begin in March 2015.
A loan spell at City is highly unlikely, according to Etihad sources, as is spending time at Melbourne Heart, phase three of the club’s global outreach programme.
QPR’s manager, Harry Redknapp, remains keen to take his nephew to Loftus Road although at this present time, England is at the forefront of his mind.
“It was a bad tournament for us but I’ll tell you what, I had a bit of a moment after the last game against Costa Rica,” Lampard said. “The reception we got off the fans. Considering the way we’d played. It made me very proud to experience that.
“I’m going to make the decision very soon. I wanted to get this cleared up first. I’ve enjoyed my time with England. I’m too proud an Englishman to make a decision like this lightly. I have to be completely sure it’s the right call for me. I’m going to take a view on it now. It’s one of the things I want to do quickly – talk with my family. I have to think about what playing for England means to me. I know I have to decide soon because obviously the games start coming round soon enough.”
Having seen Gerrard join Ashley Cole in international retirement, does that make it easier for Lampard to follow suit? “I didn’t need to see them retire to know that the end will come for me at some stage, of course it will,” he added.
“You get to a point when you just know. We need young players to come through. I’m not silly. I know it can’t go on for ever. People might have thought that the last game at the World Cup, when I was captain, that was going to be it. But then I was vice-captain – Stevie wasn’t playing. If that turns out to be my last game I’ll go out a very proud man.”
Quitting Chelsea after 13 years was tough to take but with Cesc Fábregas quickly brought in during the summer, the writing was already on the wall.
Lampard admitted: “I was aware before the World Cup that I was leaving Chelsea. I had a decision to make and I didn’t want to make it during the World Cup – even though I was thinking about my future.
“There were other options, yes. Some in England, other parts of the world, but this was the one that always stood out to me. The idea of coming to this city and playing for a new team with a really good vision for the future – it just made it easy for me. It wasn’t a hard decision.
“We had some conversations about QPR and so did my dad. I think my dad spoke to Harry quite a lot. But it wasn’t really an option for me.
“I had 13 years at Chelsea and it’s something very dear to me so it would have been difficult to play for a club so close. So from that point of view, coming out here to New York is a good option – it’s a new start.”
Lampard received the warmest of welcomes from football mad fans desperate to get a glimpse of the new hero in town. But he was quick to respond to claims he was disrespectful to New York in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks in 2001.
The 36-year-old was with a group of team-mates who were fined by Chelsea for insulting US tourists in a west London hotel hours after the atrocities. “I have some regrets. I was naive and a young boy at the time,” Lampard said. “I was out on a day I shouldn’t have been – I certainly wouldn’t do it today, put it that way. It’s very important to pay respect. There’s a huge memorial and I will certainly go there to pay my respects.”