Arsene Wenger Questions Legality of Frank Lampard's Manchester City Move

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

Frank Lampard, of England, poses with the Manhattan skyline behind him after his introduction as a member of the MLS expansion club New York City FC,  Thursday, July 24, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

Update from Monday, Aug. 4

UEFA has responded to Arsene Wenger's recent comments regarding the legalities of Manchester City signing Frank Lampard on loan from sister club New York City FC.

The Arsenal boss questioned whether this deal would allow City to bypass the governing body's Financial Fair Play rules, but that is deemed not to be the case, reported by Amy Lewis of Sky Sports:


Original Text

Arsene Wenger has raised concerns over whether Manchester City's decision to sign Frank Lampard on loan is a direct attempt to bypass UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules by the Premier League champions.

City, who must deal with a spending cap of £49 million and reduced Champions League squad of 21 players next season, have taken Lampard on loan from New York City FC. The potential problem is, NYCFC are co-owned by the Etihad club, meaning City could legitimately take the financial sting out of Lampard's move by having the American side pay his wages.

Wenger questioned the deal after watching his Arsenal side lose to Monaco in the Emirates Cup, reported by Mike Walters of the Mirror:

It’s a surprise—after all the statements we heard, it looks like all these City clubs (Manchester City also own Aussie side Melbourne City) will feed the main club.

[...] They will register for the clubs where they will put them and they can go out on loan. Is it a way to get around the fair play? I don’t know.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould and manager Arsene Wenger look on during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Benfica at the Emirates Stadium on August 2, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Ima
Michael Regan/Getty Images

While the details of the Lampard loan are yet to be disclosed, Wenger raises an interesting point. Although NYCFC signed the English midfielder on a free and paying him "significantly less than £150,000-a-week," the 36-year-old still comes at a cost, per Darren Lewis of the Mirror. A cost that might stay in New York, rather than follow him to Manchester.

Traditionally, clubs taking players on loan will pay all or some of the individual's wages. Per Transfermarkt, City have spent in the region of £20 million on Fernando, Willy Caballero and Bruno Zuculini this summer, with Bacary Sagna also coming in on £150,000-per-week wages.

Despite getting Joleon Lescott, Costel Pantilimon and Gareth Barry off the wage bill, the club are approaching the halfway mark of what they can spend.

Lampard's contract, should it be paid by City, would further tighten their disposable income. Although the loan makes sense for the midfielder and both clubs—NYCFC don't start playing until March 2015 and City must fill a quota of five homegrown individuals in the Champions League—it hints that a deeper motivation may be in effect.

Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

Hypothetically, NYCFC could spend £30 million on a player at any point. If he then joins City on loan, the English team have gotten themselves a temporary superstar without needing to shell out a hefty fee. Even if City pay the individual's full wage packet, they are massively reducing expenditure at a time when the spotlight remains intense.

Lampard's arrival allows City to satisfy their homegrown European numbers and save cash for when UEFA's restrictions are no longer in place. By doing so, Manuel Pellegrini's men are significantly lowering their chances of receiving another punishment.

As previously noted, while this may be passable with Lampard, the loan would become entirely questionable if NYCFC's squad had entered the MLS and a transfer fee was involved. Should this happen in the future, Wenger's concerns may be shared by more of his contemporaries.

It's also extremely interesting to see Paris Saint-Germain—the other Champions League force to be hit with sanctions after failing UEFA's initial FFP check—could also be hatching ways to battle against the forced limitations.

HONG KONG - JULY 29:  Serge Aurier of Paris Saint-Germain in action during the friendly match between Kitchee and Paris Saint-Germain at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

The French club recently completed the loan signing of Serge Aurier from Toulouse on a deal that allows them to buy him permanently next year, reported by FIFA. Such a move is also being touted for Angel Di Maria—a player whose worth stands at around £63 million, per John Drayton of the Daily Mail—allowing the Ligue 1 champions an extra year to get the cash together and sort out their ability to break even.

Both clubs are potentially exploiting a system that was forced upon European football due to clubs constantly investing beyond their means, but until UEFA addresses the issue, managers such as Wenger will continue to question whether it is all above board.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who saw Lampard exit this summer, said he has "no problem at all" with his former ace joining NYCFC, per Sami Mokbel and Oliver Todd of the Daily Mail. This might change if Lampard's goals stop the Blues from returning to the summit of the Premier League, perhaps at no cost to City at all.