Lampard's marriage of convenience
The mere idea that Frank Lampard will rest his weary head on the luscious and well appointed Etihad pillows must make Chelsea supporters blanche ever so slightly. It is akin to Steven Gerrard wandering out to play for Arsenal or Paul Scholes announcing he is to manage Liverpool.
It might be seen as a deceit, a painful raspberry delivered too close to the face to avoid, a multi-fingered slight to the warm and cherished history of player and club, bound as they are by so many wondrous strikes, lunging tackles and memorable performances. But it might also be seen as a narrow escape. What if Lampard had elected to join West Ham or Uncle Harry at Queens Park Rangers? Most Chelsea supporters will be relieved that this, at least, has not come to pass.
Should we simply look at it as a marriage of convenience? City, after all, are close cousins of the new operation set up in New York, where Lampard will strut his stuff from Easter next year. City already have youth players striding out in Melbourne to gain experience. Why not, in this instance, help out Frank Lampard and New York City FC? Manchester will offer a home from home, where the Londoner can keep his muscles warm and his hamstrings flexed in preparation for the big kick-off on the other side of the pond. City would appear to be the right club at the right time.
Tempting as it is to read some dreadfully serpentine and Machiavellian trick into City's move for the midfielder -- a smouldering slight on a major rival -- this looks a clever piece of squad-padding for the first part of the season and an exercise in fitness maintenance for the player.
City are not exactly short on striding midfielders, nor are they lacking in passers, chippers, grafters or scorers in this vital department of the team. Lampard brings a little of all of those qualities and also brings something the others do not have in large amounts: experience. He knows what it takes to conquer Europe, and City require such nous ahead of another season in the Champions League.
Alongside the tackling and shuttling, the driving runs and scorching shooting of Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure -- not to mention the delights offered by Samir Nasri and David Silva -- you could claim City's midfield already has the requisite quality.
Do they need to provide shelter to a man heading across the Atlantic precisely because he is slowing down, toning down and -- shortly -- closing down altogether?
Lampard has grown used to being called upon for cameo appearances in recent times and aiding and abetting as Chelsea struggled to find first gear.
He was there when the Londoners lifted first the Champions League, then the Europa League. He was there in Brazil to clock up yet another World Cup. Football history is full of half-discarded, soon-to-be has-beens that decided to prove their detractors wrong.
There is no reason, therefore, Lampard cannot provide us all with one or two memories to store with the rest before he makes his last big career move. That it comes in a sky-blue shirt rather than the badge of West Ham or QPR will be of some relief to his eternally grateful followers down Stamford Bridge way.