The protracted saga of midfielder Frank Lampard's status at Manchester City has finally reached a conclusion, and it's not the one the expansion MLS club NYCFC or its fledgling fanbase will have wanted.
NYCFC and its parent club Manchester City jointly announced that the English Premier League side will keep Lampard for several months more than planned, extending his contract to the end of the 2014-2015 season. After that point, the former England international will join NYCFC.
Both clubs make clear in their statements that Lampard will participate in domestic and international competitions, which leaves the date of his potential return dependent on City's success. In addition to the Premier League (which ends on May 24), City are also still alive in the FA Cup (ending May 30), and the UEFA Champions League (ending June 6).
By the end of May in the 2014 MLS season, most clubs had played between 10-15 games. The full 2015 MLS schedule will be released on January 7th.
"Frank is a star and it is no surprise that Manchester City is rewarded by his contributions on the field every single day," NYCFC Director of Football Claudio Reyna said in his club's statement. "He is eager to get to New York once his commitment ends in England and will be available to play on arrival as a permanent member of the squad given he will come to us having played at the highest level."
Reyna may be putting on a brave face, but it's hard to see this development as anything other than a big blow to NYCFC. The club trumpeted the arrival of Lampard -- along with fellow Designated Player David Villa -- as a sign of big-league investment from it and Manchester City (its co-owners along with the new York Yankees).
Then Lampard signed a short-term contract with Man City (which was originally reported to be a loan before that was debunked earlier this week in a report by the Telegraph). Once there, he played better than many expected him to. Lampard has scored six times in 17 appearances for the defending EPL champions, who initially only registered Lampard with the league through New Year's Day, so as to allow him to begin pre-season preparations with NYCFC.
But with fellow midfielder Yaya Touré expected to be missing games while representing the Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations and Lampard in good form, Manchester City have guaranteed that they will keep the midfielders' services -- and deprive NYCFC of half of its major offseason acquisitions.