In an interview with SI.com’s Grant Wahl, MLS commissioner Don Garber sounds off on Frank Lampard and Manchester City’s decision to extend his deal with the English champ until the end of the season, thus making the 36-year-old unavailable to New York City FC, the MLS club that assumes his contract once the City deal expires, until July. The fact that City is a part-owner of NYCFC has prompted many a critic to dismiss the new MLS club as a mere feeder team for the Premier League giant.
While Garber acknowledges that news of Lampard’s contract extension with City was not received well on American shores, he says the move didn’t upset or even surprise him: “I could understand why their fans are unhappy, and I do believe [NYCFC] will work hard to build back that trust,” he said. “They’ve started that process already. I sensed this was coming, and it didn’t surprise me when they ultimately made their decision.”
Why? “You’re dealing with a very unusual set of circumstances,” he continued. “Frank has become one of the most important players in Man City’s season, and he’s scored critical goals to have them tied for first place in the Premier League. They were faced with a difficult decision.” Garber also noted that in years’ past, other high profile designated players joined MLS in July, too: “If there was an error in judgment on this, it was not just announcing that he would come in July and figuring out how to manage the start of the season, no different than what happened with Robbie Keane or Thierry Henry or David Beckham.”
Asked if he’s uncomfortable with the idea that NYCFC is a feeder team for City as well as a way for the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit to dodge UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, Garber said: “I don’t think it is a farm team for Man City. With this decision, while I can understand people will try to think that, the level of investment that this ownership group is making with the club is massive, and it rivals some of the bigger clubs around the world. This kind of decision is not something in my view that in any way says this is a farm team for Man City. I don’t believe in all my dealings with them that they have led us to believe that’s true.”