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Frank Lampard embraces challenge of being a leader for New York City FC

England's Frank Lampard applauds England fans after the

England's Frank Lampard applauds England fans after the group D World Cup soccer match between Costa Rica and England at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. Credit: AP / Jon Super

When New York City FC coach Jason Kreis and his staff evaluate potential players, they have a check list -- soccer ability, leadership and character.

English international midfielder Frank Lampard was off the charts.

"We believe Frank Lampard is A-plus, plus, plus in all three of those departments," Kreis said about the club's latest signing Thursday.

Then again, Lampard gave the expansion team, which will begin play at Yankee Stadium in March, similar high marks.

"I have seen their long-term plan and I want to be involved in that," said Lampard, who signed a two-year contract. "I want to challenge myself. I want to be that leader. I want to be that person, not just somebody on the pitch, but someone . . . to make things happen."

The 36-year-old Lampard has had a career of making things happen. He forged a reputation as an astute attacker for Chelsea (record 147 goals) and as a fierce defender for Chelsea when it won the 2012 UEFA Champions League. He has made 106 international appearances for England, including the recent World Cup.

He doesn't know where he will play between now and January, when NYFC begins training. He could take a similar route as the club's first signing, former Spanish international David Villa, who will play at Melbourne City (Australia) until then.

Lampard sounds like he is made for the city.

"I come from London. It's not quite New York," he said. "I'm very much a city person, so I love being embraced and immersed in a city. That's a great challenge, the city of hopes and dreams. That's where you want to go and play. That's the whole point."

Still, Lampard admitted that he was "overwhelmed" by the stadium.

"The minute you say Yankee Stadium, everyone kind of falls over and they can't believe it," he said. "What an opportunity is there to play football at an iconic place. Hopefully we can do it proud by playing football there."

Lampard addressed an incident when English media reported that he and several teammates went on a drinking binge at a Heathrow Airport hotel a day after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and did not act properly in front of grieving American tourists.

"I was naive and a young boy at the time," he said. "I have some regrets that I was out and about. I want to say that I categorically didn't insult anyone, [wasn't] out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or anyone. I was very sensitive [of] the issue and the tragedy. I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to be a good man, not just be a footballer off the pitch. I would like to think that I've done that and I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that. It's up to me to show them here and prove the footballer and person I am. Unfortunately, it was very much misreported at the time in England."

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