Manchester City have not ruled out the possibility of keeping Frank Lampard at the club until the end of the season.
A clause in the contract the 36-year-old midfielder signed with New York City FC after becoming a free agent in the summer allows him to extend his period on loan at the Etihad beyond the start of the MLS season in March.
The attraction of asking Lampard to prolong his stay and pilot a possible advance in the knockout stages of the Champions League were underlined by his outstanding performance in the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich on Tuesday which kept City's hopes of making progress alive.
Lampard's contribution - which included the defence-splitting pass behind Mehdi Benatia which led to the Frenchman's dismissal for bringing down Sergio Aguero - creates a quandary which strikes at the heart of the City owners' football strategy.
Lampard possesses more game experience than any other City player, which could help the side overcome the mental and technical block which Europe continues to represent. But the New York project is of huge significance to the Abu Dhabi owners' attempts to create a global group of clubs.
Lampard is the project's marquee name - arguably even more significant than David Villa, the Spain striker signed to line up alongside him next spring.
Removing Lampard from the equation would substantially diminish the razzmatazz of the new team's launch in New York and provoke a controversy.
Despite the contractual possibility, and the fact that City manager Manuel Pellegrini would have first call on the player, it is still unlikely that he will stay in Manchester beyond February.
Lampard, who would have some say in the matter, is understood to be enjoying his new lease of life at City more than he anticipated.
In his discussion of Tuesday's breathtaking late win, he provided more evidence of how his Chelsea experiences can be invaluable. Of City's stuttering form in this competition, Lampard observed that both Chelsea and Liverpool had won the Champions League without being the outstanding team - which should offer succour to the side who need either a win or score draw at Roma in two weeks' time to progress.
"Chelsea did it. Liverpool did it. It can happen," Lampard said. "But there is a long way to go to start talking about that."
It was a measure of the perspective Lampard brings that he could reflect on Sergio Aguero's hat-trick against Bayern represented and still not consider the Argentine to be the best striker he has played with.
"He's one of them," Lampard responded.
"I am fortunate enough to have played with Didier Drogba who for me was the greatest but it's hard to compare." (© Independent News Service)