Frank Lampard may not know where his club future lies but accepts this summer’s World Cup is likely to bring the curtain down on his England career.
After 13 years, 11 major trophies and 211 goals, the 35-year-old midfielder confirmed his exit from Chelsea in a statement on Monday evening.
Lampard leaves as one of the Blues’ all-time greats and was clearly emotional when speaking about his time in west London at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, where he will captain Roy Hodgson’s England side against Ecuador tonight.
“It was strange to hear the statement down the phone, talking to people back home yesterday,” he said. “It is quite strange when it is said out loud, I have to say, because it has been such a huge part of my life. That is kind of tough to an extent, but I am a big boy and I understand things move on.
“Yes, I’m proud. I’m proud to have been at a fantastic club, a club I went to quite wet behind the ears from West Ham and the club completely took me in. I am proud of nights like Munich. They will stay with me forever and, like I said in the statement, I will always have a lot of Chelsea in me. I’ll be back at games. I had a bundle of texts last night from people I’ve met along the way – Chelsea fans, friends, my family – and that made me feel very proud, I have to say.”
While keen to reflect on his Chelsea career, Lampard – much like in his statement – gave little indication as to what the future might hold. A move away from top-level European football has been mooted, with New York City FC, fresh from signing David Villa, the apparent frontrunners.
Given Ecuadorian journalists called him Frankie throughout the pre-match press conference, one reporter suggested perhaps it was not a case of “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” but New York instead.
“You’re very quick,” Lampard said with a laugh. “I’ve seen the headline before. They were very familiar with me in there. Frankie sounds nice but I can’t comment on the other end of that.”
However, Lampard was less coy when it came to his international future ahead of captaining England for the seventh occasion. Just two weeks away from his 36th birthday and with 103 caps under his belt, it was put to him that this summer could be his international swansong. “It looks that way,” he said. “It’s hard. I find it hard to get the words out to say that it is because I’m very proud to play for my country and I’ve loved every minute. So who knows what will happen and I’d rather comment on that after, to be honest. We’ll see. Let’s hope we have a big, successful World Cup and then I’ll comment on that afterwards.”
That focus on the World Cup has taken England to Miami, where the squad is this week acclimatising to the hot and humid conditions expected in Brazil and, in particular, their Group D opener against Italy in Manaus on 14 June.
“It is a step up again,” Lampard said. “Portugal we tried to recreate it even though the weather wasn’t quite what we thought it would be. We wore a lot of clothes, trained under a bit of pressure and the same back in England. It’s a step up today. This was the first time we really opened up our lungs with the humidity. You feel it, there’s no mistaking it. You do feel the difference but we have to get used to that as quick we can. Maybe tomorrow will be tough for us and hopefully the days after that you get a bit better with it.”
Hodgson – who confirmed Wayne Rooney will start tonight’s match – acknowledged the threat posed by Ecuador, but stressed that his main focus ahead of the friendly is on what his own side are doing instead of worrying too much about the opposition. “We think that Ecuador can make life difficult for us because they have qualified for a World Cup so we have enormous respect for them, but where it comes to individuals our main priority is making sure our own game is satisfactory.”
Hodgson swerved questions about what he thought would represent a successful World Cup for his side, suggesting all they are thinking about is doing as well as they possibly can. Despite the emergence of exciting players such as Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Daniel Sturridge raising expectation levels, Hodgson is refusing to get carried away.
“We’re trying to focus hard on what it is possible for us to do, what we can do well and not get too hung up on the outcome,” he said. “We’re taking a simple approach. If we play well then we think our players, if they play to the best of their abilities, and we get some luck, which everyone needs, then we can have a very good World Cup.”