MIAMI, June 3 (Reuters) - England’s Frank Lampard will proudly lead out his country against Ecuador in a World Cup warm-up match at the Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday determined to savour every moment in the twilight of his career.
The 35-year-old knows the sands of time are running out on his illustrious career at the very top of the game with a possible move to Major League Soccer on the horizon following his departure from Chelsea after 13 years at the club.
He has been linked with the ambitious New York City franchise, which is part-owned by Manchester City, and confirmed on Wednesday that a move to the United States is a possibility.
“The America thing is an option, I make no bones about that,” he told a news conference ahead of the Ecuador match.
“I am looking at different options. The main thing is that I want to carry on playing, I feel very fit and fresh and I am enjoying it. So I will keep going for as long as I feel that way. I’d love to play for a few more years.”
While he has several prospects at club level, his international career is winding down, although he cannot yet face the fact that he will soon be out of the picture like his former Chelsea team mates John Terry and Ashley Cole.
Asked about retiring from international football, he said: ”It is very difficult to get the words out to say that. I am very proud and very happy to play for England.
“If we go and win (the World Cup) then I probably will certainly hang my (England) boots up. I don’t like to say it because I love playing but it’s kind of obvious that it comes in the end but I am just appreciating and enjoying every minute at the moment.”
Lampard is the sort of evergreen midfielder who gives the impression he could play on forever such is the ease with which he strokes the ball around the pitch and he has enjoyed some of his best moments late in his career.
“I have had quite a few opportunities. Most players sort of finish with England in their low thirties at the most and I have had some of my most enjoyable England years at the back end, in the last two years,” he said.
“I have appreciated what I have got. When you are young you don’t always appreciate it. I’ve enjoyed the squad, the ambience around the squad and that is why I won’t write myself off yet.”
Lampard’s departure from Chelsea was expected but the announcement on Monday still hit many fans hard because the midfielder is so much a part of the fabric of the club.
“It was a mutual decision really. It was obviously thrown up a lot last year and it was a bit of a distraction through the season, for probably everyone, it got its own legs in the end,” said the club’s all-time record goalscorer.
”Chelsea have been fantastic with me throughout my career and it was mutual. That was the way I wanted to go.
”I didn’t want to go as maybe it would have gone last year, in a different way. I go away with a very happy feeling and a respect for the club that I think and hope is a two-way thing.
”If you had asked me 13 years ago when I walked into Stamford Bridge, whether I would be there 13 years later with all the things I have got with me, I wouldn’t have believed you.
”If I look back on it, in that sense, I can be very proud and pleased with what’s happened.
“I never really thought I would see the day, that’s probably from being young and not really thinking about it too much but I got so entrenched in the life at Chelsea, it overtook my life.”
Lampard joined the Premier League club from London rivals West Ham United in 2001 for 11 million pounds ($18.43 million) and scored 211 goals in all competitions for Chelsea. He played more than 648 games for the club - third on their all-time list.
But Lampard also thinks the fact that his future is definitely away from Stamford Bridge means he can focus on England’s World Cup campaign without the distraction of whether he might have another year-long contract at Chelsea.
”It certainly (means) a clear head for me. I‘m quite a big boy and I can handle it. I am quite pleased, it’s a weight off my shoulders to a certain extent and I‘m concentrating, as I’ve been for the past two weeks, on training well, playing well.
“I do see my role here in a broader sense, as I think all the experienced players should, of helping things go in the right direction. We’ve been here before, we’ve been here when it hasn’t been so great, we know the slight pitfalls at times and if we can bring that experience to help we can do that.” (Reporting by Ken Ferris; Editing by Ian Ransom)