In 2015 New York City FC made its Major League Soccer debut. The team, jointly owned by baseball’s Yankees and English Premier club Manchester City, drew well for the league, averaging more home fans than all but two other MLS franchises. It also featured a famous face from the start: NYCFC’s captain, David Villa, is the all-time leading scorer for Spain’s national team; two other players familiar to all international soccer fans, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, joined him during the year.
One thing might seem a bit less familiar, despite its prominence as a pilgrimage place for sports fans: Yankee Stadium, doubling as soccer pitch. No matter, the players seem to have caught on; in NYCFC’s second year, the team has been at or near the top of the standings for a good chunk of the season. So they’ve adapted, just like two of its stars have adapted to their new home city.
“It didn’t take me long,” says Lampard. “When I first got here, I was kind of looking around and it was so big. But the hospitality is great. The people are friendly and welcoming.” It’s the same for Villa. “Obviously I came here to play soccer, but this is one of the best cities in the world. I enjoy it a lot, and not only me but my family too.”
They both live in the City, Lampard in Midtown East and Villa on the Upper West Side, and they take advantage of what’s close by—each extolling the virtues of Central Park (“My kids love it,” says Villa) as a place to walk with their families and hang out. But they don’t just stick to their neighborhoods. “I went to eat at Miss Lily’s recently with a friend—Jamaican food on the Lower East Side, which was great,” says Lampard. As for Villa, he says he’s partial to sushi. “If I need to choose one favorite, I would say Nobu."
Lampard has a local Irish pub, Bloom’s Tavern, that he goes to when he wants to watch soccer games taking place back in England, but home doesn’t seem to weigh too heavily on either player’s mind. “I’m a London boy, but New York is so incredible. It has what London has but almost more in terms of variety, culture and social life.”
As Villa sums up, “When I’m here, I enjoy here. When I go back to Spain, I enjoy Spain. But I enjoy the moment, and the moment is here in New York.”