Frank Lampard is set to sign a short-term deal with Manchester City. The former Chelsea midfielder has agreed to join City’s Major League Soccer team, New York City, but they will not begin playing until March.
Lampard rejected the chance to play in Melbourne at City’s other new venture and, although Queens Park Rangers appeared to be leading the chase for his signature, the 36-year-old favours a spell with Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
The shock move will enable Lampard to keep fit and, provided there are no last-minute hitches, City will register him for their Premier League and Champions League squads. He is likely to sign a six-month contract which will run until he begins pre-season training with New York.
It is a deal which is believed to suit both parties, with City keen to boost their quota of English players in a squad packed full of foreign imports while Lampard, who has yet to announce his international retirement, will remain in the England manager Roy Hodgson’s gaze.
Pellegrini’s side are in the US for Saturday’s International Champions Cup game with Olympiakos and, even if they reach Monday’s final in Miami, will return to England on Tuesday. They hope to have Lampard training with them before Sunday’s Community Shield match against Arsenal.
The move will raise eyebrows throughout the Premier League, nowhere more than at Chelsea, where Lampard earned legendary status after 13 trophy-filled years. The two clubs next meet on 21 September at the Etihad Stadium.
City’s chief executive, Ferran Soriano, who has been working tirelessly on both sides of the Atlantic, has said players could be swapped with New York for the good of both clubs. “We have some very bright star players, young players in Europe [and] we might ask them to come to New York to play before they play at Manchester City,” he said.
Porto’s French defender Eliaquim Mangala is set to seal his protracted move next week, which will bring to an end Pellegrini’s summer spending. The option of bringing such an experienced campaigner as Lampard into his squad was too good an opportunity to refuse for the Chilean.
“We have a new right-back [Bacary Sagna], a new holding midfielder and we will have a new central defender and that’s it,” Soriano said. “We don’t need to sign new players for the sake of it. We need to sign the players that the team needs because the team has a balance.
“To win you need to keep the balance. Our squad is very strong and it’s the second year they play coached by Manuel Pellegrini so they’ll do much better.”
Meanwhile, City’s tour here could come to an uncomfortable end with the pitch here at the TCF Bank Stadium having been laid only in the past week.
Pellegrini is not happy and, with Liverpool playing four hours after City’s match, the squad will be left in limbo waiting to see if they will be required to travel to Miami for Monday’s final match.
It is not ideal preparation for the City coach who is worried about the safety of his players.
“I think this pitch is not in normal condition to play an important game,” he said. “It is high risk for the players to have an ankle or knee injury.
“I hope today or tomorrow they can make it a little bit better but at the moment it is very difficult to play football on this pitch.
“It is not a reason to select one player or another, it is a reason to be worried about what will happen to all the players. That’s the problem at the moment.
“It’s very difficult to give the players special instructions. They are running and if pitch is not in good shape maybe they can have some problems.
“It’s a problem for injuries but also for playing good football. We’ll see tomorrow what we can do. I did not expect to have this kind of pitch here.”