PREMIER League legend Frank Lampard has closed the door on a move to the A-League but has told the FFA and A-League clubs they need to “sell themselves very well” to prospective marquees to achieve their goal in a competitive and changing football landscape.
Lampard, who came within a whisker of joining Melbourne City at the start of the last A-League campaign, said Australia is a “very attractive proposition” for players in Europe at the right time of their careers – but the stakes have been raised by America and now, China – so the pitch to come down under needs to trump the riches of other destinations.
When told about the FFA’s renewed push to invest in high profile marquees again next season, Lampard warned not to look for a quick fix, but if the right player comes up, the right proposal needs to be made.
“It’s up to the league (whether Australia can compete). Australia is a very attractive proposition for a player at a certain stage of their career,” Lampard toldfoxsports.com.au in New York, where he conducted the draw for the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
“It’s not easy to compete with the top European leagues but at a certain stage of your career, Australia is a very attractive proposition.
“Clubs will have to sell themselves very well.
“If you can start, the more names you can start to get, the more names you can encourage to come.”
He added: “It’s difficult; the playing field is hard, particularly with China. That’s changed the landscape. Money talks at times.
While many fans, sponsors and media hailed the return to the strategy of adding more billboard names to help market the league, others have been critical of that idea, saying it is merely papering over the cracks and not selling the current product properly.
Lampard points to the MLS, where he is now playing alongside Andrea Pirlo and David Villa at a franchise in just its second season, as having a good balance between the two.
“I think if they (FFA) look at the model of the MLS, you build smart. You don’t just try bring one or two players on big money and expect it to change in a short period of time. You have to build.
“I know certain players have gone to Australia and improved the game there. I think you have to entice big name players to come, but you can’t just throw money at it and expect it to change.
“I know the support is huge; I know there a lot of fans watching the game, the game is growing and in time it will do (further).
“(But) they’re going to have to compete with China, the MLS – it’s not easy.”
It was reported last year that Lampard had toyed with the idea of joining the new-look Melbourne City. FFA rules at the time prevented both he and David Villa being at the club, but the man himself says he would have enjoyed the chance to play in the A-League had the stars aligned – except Manchester City came into the equation.
“It was close; when I signed for New York there was a six month period where I couldn’t play and I obviously ended up being a Manchester player. But it was mentioned to come and play in Melbourne. “I was very up for it.
“I’ve never been to Australia; I love to travel and take in new cultures and for me, six months would have been a long time out of football. It was certainly an option. Probably only when Manchester City came in late, did that change. If that hadn’t happened, I’d probably have been out there playing (in the A-League).”
Now 37, Lampard admits that the A-League is no longer on his radar.
“Me, now I don’t know, it’s late now.
“It’s something I definitely would have looked at very closely; I was close there for a short period.
“It’s a great experience for a player. (Alessandro) Del Piero had a great time out there. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but I think my ship has passed now.”