A goal in Rome on Wednesday could send Frank Lampard packing for New York. Manchester City squares off against AS Roma in its Champions League game at 2:45 ET and the result could either extend or bring to a close New York City FC’s first real transfer rumor soap opera.
Should Man City find itself outside of the top two teams in Group E – the club is currently tied in points with AS Roma and PFC CSKA – Frank Lampard could re-join New York City FC and end his loan with Man City. According to a report from The Telegraph, if Manchester City lose to Roma and is subsequently eliminated from the Champions League, the club’s lessened commitments in European competition could open the door for a Stateside return.
Ahead of the match today, let’s take a look back at how exactly we got to this point in the Lampard saga. With months of speculation and rumors flying on each side of the pond, the Lampard loan story is an entree for many new NYC FC fans into the tangled world of loans and transfers, and perhaps most confusing, the media’s coverage of them.
July 24, 2014
The day when it all began. Frank Lampard signs with New York City FC – a key distinction, as Raf points out – in a press conference at Brooklyn Bridge Park. For the first time in Frank’s career, he’s no longer on the fall-winter-spring cycle for clubs teams and has to wait until early March for the first club game.
August 6, 2014
Manchester City, confirming earlier reports, announces that Lampard will join the club on a five month loan, which ends January 1, 2015. Nothing funny about it yet; New York City FC’s first signing, David Villa, took a similar path and joined Melbourne City on a loan to fill the autumn gap.
September 21, 2014
Lampard plays in his second Premier League Game for Manchester City against his long-time club Chelsea and scores his first goal of the season.
September 22, 2014
Ah, the origin story of the whole issue. On the heels of a solid showing by Lampard against his old club, Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News pieces together some roster and calendar math to conclude that Manchester City will be short on midfielders in January as Yaya Toure will likely leave the team for the African Cup of Nations tournament.
Toure’s absence links up nicely with the end of Lampard’s loan and the timing of the MLS calendar for fostering rumors about Lampard extending his loan at the behest of New York City FC’s parent club. It doesn’t hurt that Lampard just scored an emotional goal against his old team, sweetening the narrative.
September 23, 2014
Following on Brennan’s report – which doesn’t have any direct quotes and isn’t attributed to sources (though in getting to the origin of this story I started to have questions about the protocol for attribution in English papers) – speculation explodes. The Independent, London Evening Standard, Sky Sports, The Daily Mail, The Daily Star, BBC, among others all run with the story.
The second day reports ranged from "Lampard’s loan spell with Manchester City could be extended," (Sky Sports) to Man City "planning to extend his loan" (London Evening Standard) to "Frank Lampard will stay at Manchester City beyond January" (Daily Mail) to "...club sources confirmed that Lampard will stay until February" (The Daily Star).
All the while, the only quotes from this day are non committals from Man City manager Manuel Pelligrini, who probably thought this would be the last thing he’d have to talk about during the week when the game against Chelsea ended. Via The Independent, Pelligrini said "I can’t answer about that in this moment. Frank will stay until January because until January he doesn’t have anything to do in the United States because they are not working."
Well put, sir.
September 24, 2014
A day later and the rumors continue. The Guardian checks in to relay another Pelligrini quote in which the manager absolutely, positively, definitively addresses the week’s news.
"It is not impossible for him to stay here. It is an issue that we will see further down the line. We will see what happens in January and we have two or three months to decide."
Ah, well that clears it all up.
September 25, 2014
Frank speaks. He tells The Mirror:
"I’m contracted to the start of January and that’s how it is at the moment. When I signed for City on loan, six weeks or so ago, it was always until January and that’s the way it remains, so I wouldn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. It’s not my place to do that. Obviously it would be a club decision, first and foremost, anyway."
So that doesn’t solve much, but there’s not much he can say at this point to put it to bed. Whether his loan is extended or not is mostly out of his hands. The decision is also three months away and he’s only played two games for Manchester City at this point.
But wait, always looking for an angle, the media speculates some more and grabs for new angles. According to The Daily Star, Lampard told the club he would be "happy to stay."
September 26, 2014
Here comes Arsene Wenger, like the third man into a hockey fight, to give his two cents. The Press Association andThe Mirror quote Wenger suggesting that if Lampard extends the loan with Manchester City, it would be immoral. Thanks Arsene, but you’re not helping.
We’re now at the end of this first cycle. We’ve gone from single speculative story, to full-on avalanche of coverage as outlets try to catch up to the non-scoop, to quotes from the manager, the player and, weirdest of all, another team’s manager who seems to have no stake in the issue.
October 5, 2014
Things quieted down for a few days until the day after the club’s win over Aston Villa. The Manchester Evening News gets Lampard on the record with a noncommittal quote about focusing on the field and letting how he plays decide the future. Yawn, nothing to see here.
October 6, 2014
Even though his the day before comments didn’t further the story, the Daily Mail, The Independent, Sky Sports and London Evening Standard followed on saying that Lampard "refuses to rule out," "appears open to extending" and "hints at extending" his loan.
October 15, 2015
Nine days later the story resurfaces when the local paper, the Manchester Evening News says Lampard is "still set to leave Man City in January." The story suggests a development when there’s been no change to what’s been said all along. This angle fizzles out quickly.
October 23, 2014
Ah, about a month after the original reports, we’ve got a new story! Manchester Evening News reports that Lampard could stay at Man City if NYC FC trains in Manchester, as Melbourne City did previously. No sources and no quotes from Lampard or club officials suggest that the paper might be fishing and, once again, pieces together a few different strands for a possible and plausible scenario.
November 3, 2014
The Daily Express has an "exclusive." Frank Lampard will stay at Manchester City! (Unless, of course, he doesn’t.) According to the Express, "His present loan deal expires on January 7, but City and Lampard have already signed an option to extend that loan deal with the Premier League champions until the end of the season."
This story doesn’t get picked up much. Why? Well, the erroneous end date of the loan doesn’t exactly lend much credibility to the reporting in the story. To date, all other outlets have reported January 1 as the end date.
November 3, 2014
We finally hear from Lampard’s full-time club., you know, the one who theoretically will make the decision. At the unveiling of the home jersey, NYC FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, when asked about the issue, says (via Big Apple Soccer):
"Do we have a drop dead date? No we don't. The plan is for Frank to be in pre-season with New York City FC. He's playing with Manchester City, which is fantastic for him. He's doing great. The level he has been playing at, he's back fully fit. So the situation could not have worked out better. Frank has somewhere to play. It's just exciting to have him. He's really excited to be here for NYC FC. The plan is for him to be in preseason with NYC FC, like I said...He’ll be here preseason."
November 20, 2014
An actual development. Ivory Coast qualifies for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The hypothetical that lead to the speculation – Yaya Toure leaving the club short on midfielders – becomes an eventuality.
The reports from Manchester Evening News, The Guardian and The Mirror are that Man City is going to step up their efforts to extend Lampard. The subtext of that framing suggests that Man City knows NYC FC holds the keys to the deal.
November 21, 2014
Manchester Evening News purports to have knowledge the Manchester City will try to extend Lampard.
November 26, 2014
The Independent reports on a clause in the loan contract that allows him to extend his loan beyond the start of the MLS season; however, the paper report he’s unlikely to stay in Manchester beyond February."
November 29, 2014
The Dec. 10 scenario first emerges. The Guardian says that Pelligrini "dropped the strongest hint yet" that Man City would like to extend the loan. The paper goes on to peg the AS Roma game as the swing game. If City qualifies for the knockout stage of Champions League, "[Lampard] is thought to be receptive to staying on."
Meanwhile, The Daily Express echoes the sentiment saying that if Man City makes the knockout stages, Pelligrini will want Lampard to stay on through the round of 16. The Express also says that if City progresses beyond that, his debut in New York could be delayed even more.
November 30, 2014
Now we’re getting into the near daily reports from all sides. The Daily Mail reports that Lampard wants to say with Man City for the rest of the season, despite not citing any sources. The Independent follows on the Daily Mail’s report.
Meanwhile, following the emergence of the Dec. 10 scenario the day prior, the BBC goes a little more vague, citing a December decision.
December 1, 2014
Full-on silly season now. With a decision expected within within either 10 days or sometime during the month, reporters on both sides of the pond are chasing down the story.
The Telegraph reports that Lampard’s future will depend on the Champions League commitments, saying that the European schedule will dictate Pelligrini’s recommendation to the board. With the first reference to Pelligrini influencing the board’s decision, the report suggests that the decision is not, in fact, up to New York City.
December 4, 2014
NYC FC confirms its preseason tour will visit Manchester, lending credence to the scenario that the midfielder could stay on with Man City and join up with NYC FC in England on February 10.
December 5, 2014
The last development in the story before the Roma game. News emerges that NYC FC officials will travel to England to meet with Manchester City brass to discuss The Decision. By this point, even the New York Times is all over the story.
So what does all this tell us? If nothing else, it’s a fascinating detangling of the media ecosystem surrounding soccer transfer and loan rumors, which is another part of the soccer culture that new fans will become accustomed to.
Whether we get clarity in the next few days or not, at least we can marvel at the road that brought us to this first player personnel controversy for the young club.
Go AS Roma?