Yesterday, the British newspaper The Guardian ran the latest story in the interminable Frank Lampard saga. In it, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini made his usual case for keeping Lampard:
"I hope Frank’s situation will be resolved in the next days. I said in the beginning it will be during December we are going to have the last decision. I repeat: Frank is very important for our team so I hope he will stay here." (punctuation added for clarity)
That’s the same thing he’s been saying for the last couple of weeks. There’s nothing definite in that quote; it’s the same kind of hand-wavy bafflegab that all coaches in all sports use when talking to the press.
[SIDEBAR: This site has pretty much every cliche you’ll ever hear from any coach. You should bookmark it. It makes for hilarious reading if you’re bored.]
I mention that because the same day, the Daily Express’ Richard Tanner ran with a story that claimed Lampard would be extending his loan. The thing is: there’s nothing new in that story. Literally. The quotes from Pellegrini used by the Express are all the same quotes from the Guardian. See:
"I don’t think so. That is why we have had long conversations with all of them.
"That is just one club so I think that what is better for the club is better for all the clubs.
"I hope Frank’s situation will be resolved in the next days. I said in the beginning it will be during December we would make the final decision.
"I repeat Frank is very important for our team so I hope he will stay here."
The only difference between the two articles is that the Guardian paraphrased Pellegrini's denial that New York City wouldn't be angry with Manchester City, were they to extend Lampard's loan.
That minor inconvenience of fact and truth didn’t stop the Express from claiming in their headline that he was staying until June. That headline — just the headline, mind — set off a Twitter explosion this morning.
Meanwhile, New York City fans are rapidly going through the five stages of grief.
Fans expressed their emotions on Reddit, as well. Those motions? Anger. Disgust. Frustration. Annoyance. Indignation. You get the picture: New York City fans are fed up with the Frank Lampard loan saga, and it’s not hard at all to see why they feel that way.
From the moment that Lampard staying at Manchester went from impossible to improbable, and accordingly from possible to probable, New York City has been at best opaque, and at worst straight up silent as the night. Weirdly, Manuel Pellegrini has been the most transparent person, speaking for two clubs and one player. But even his utterances are banal in their haziness.
Last week, Claudio Reyna went to Manchester to hash out Lampard’s future. He’s been back now for a few days, and there’s still no official announcement one way or the other. Who knows why? Maybe City Football Group are simply waiting until the January transfer window opens up next Thursday to make things official, but like everything else with Frank Lampard, that’s just an unsatisfying guess.
Since it’s Christmas Eve, I’ll give CFG free PR advice: just get it over with. Waiting till New Year’s Day to announce this would be a hell of a way to ring in the year — and not in a good way.
One thing is clear: no one is a winner here. Not Frank Lampard, not City Football Group, not Manchester City, not New York City, and not the fans. Hell, I’m a writer, and I don’t feel like a winner writing this story.
Whatever goodwill Frank Lampard had when he signed with New York City this past July is gone. I’m not sure it’ll be back, either; New York fans tend to have long memories about the smallest of things. If Lampard didn’t realize this when he got grilled about his 9/11 remarks over and over again, he ought to ask Alex Rodriguez about how Gotham sports fans let you know when you’re on their bad side.
For a player who’s known nothing but adulation, Lampard’s about to become very familiar with its absence, should he ever deign to come to New York as a player.
To the degree that New York City supporters have any feelings about City Football Group, those feelings range from disdain to contempt to outright loathing. The same goes for Manchester City. Many Manchester City fans have been trying to justify extending Lampard’s loan to New York City fans, with no success. For them, Sheikh Mansour is a figure of wonder, having taken their no-account club, languishing in the abyss of English football, to two Premier League titles. Not so with New York City. All these fans know is that CFG is letting Manchester City poach their star. All they see is a one-way relationship. It doesn’t help that Manchester City fans openly muse about snatching David Villa as well.
If that happens, well — let’s just say Manchester would be as ill-regarded as Boston in the hearts of New York City supporters.
For New York City, this is a daydream turned nightmare. July feels so, so long ago. While I refuse to draw any conclusions, it says something that Frank Lampard is completely absent from the team’s marketing and promotion. He didn’t appear on the YES New York City commercial, and he isn’t on the team’s holiday video. Lampard was supposed to be New York City’s signature player; it really says something that he’s been utterly replaced by the non-English speaking David Villa, who’s gone above and beyond in doing that.
What of the fans? What of them, indeed. They are left raging, seething, ranting and raving online and off about the enormity of this betrayal. Would signing a third designated player allay this? Perhaps, but it doesn’t change the fact that their loyalty has been, thus far, unrewarded. They pledged their devotion to New York City FC. The constancy of that fidelity is paid with an all-too-common cocktail of cynicism and dubiety on the part of their sister club and owner, and opacity and subservience on the part of their club.
Is it too much to ask that someone, somewhere be their advocate — if only for the holidays?
No, there are no winners here. That’s how it goes in these rainy, dank days of winter. Would that it were otherwise.