Migration of Stars to MLS to Continue in Next Five Years

Stamford Bridge Chelsea v Spartak Champions League Group F 03/10/2010 Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) celebrates first goal Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!  While the United States paused work to celebrate the holidays, MLS was busy receiving come hither glances from foreign soccer stars who, seeing Thierry Henry and Beckham’s success in the U.S., have decided that coming to American to finish their career would be most beneficial.

The most recent, and possibly biggest name, is AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who told Voetbal International this weekend that he would like to finish his career in a nice place in the U.S. before retiring.  Previously, the striker had said AC Milan would be his last club, but indicates he would love the chance to make a little extra money playing in America in the future.  The Swede would be a great get for MLS, as he is one of the world’s best goal-scorers and a bona fide star.  His play early in the 2010-2011 Serie A season almost single-handedly kept Milan in the scudetto race as well as the Champions League.  The one problem is his current contract runs through 2014, so if he does honor his contract it will be a long time before we see him in an MLS uniform.

The second big name is Chelsea forward and former French international Nicolas Anelka, who is under contract in England for the next two years.  Anelka has made the rounds in international football, playing for (in addition to Chelsea) Arsenal, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid.  Another incredibly gifted striker who even at an older age (he would be 33 in 2012) would be a major contributer to an MLS team.  And he has an American soccer connection – his brother is former AC St. Louis coach Claude Anelka, who told a French soccer site “More and more players want to go playing over there. United States represents something. It makes you dream.”

A third potential international looking to make an American move is someone very familiar to national team members.  Most recently of West Ham, Mexican-international Guillermo Franco is looking at all international options, including MLS as reported by Jeremiah Oshan.  His status as unsigned makes him a promising prospect to play in the U.S., and there are clubs that could use his services.  But he is also looking at the Middle East and wants to retire at Monterrey, where he was a star in the Mexican league.

Finally, the MLS site mentions that Fiorentina’s Adrian Mutu has possible interest in an MLS move.  While Mutu is an immensely talented player, the Romanian is coming off a drug suspension and Fiorentina has indicated they do not want to resign him when his contract is up.  His baggage may be too much to take on for an MLS club.

These are some big names rumored to be considering MLS and it shows the appeal of the U.S. soccer league.  But who do think would be the best addition to the MLS?

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37 Responses to Migration of Stars to MLS to Continue in Next Five Years

  1. short passes says:

    You needed to have a fifth option — None of the Above !!! I don’t mind the occasional pickup of an older star but this is becoming habit-forming. Instead of being the last stop on the road to retirement, MLS needs to begin to establish links to pickup youth players from other countries. I realize that Europe is the most comfortable place to do their searching but isn’t it time we started looking in places like Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, or Uruguay. It appears that even Rongen is finally giving up on the efficacy of US Soccer’s player development and looking for players with foreign roots or influence. Maybe it’s time that MLS step up and better organize their foreign searches and not just go for the low hanging, over-ripe fruit.

    • El Profe says:

      So buy foreign youth players from other countries rather than produce your own? Sure, if you can attract them. And we can, but you can’t expect to be competing for the same type of player that places like Ajax and Atlas are going for. At this point, it is what it is: MLS is a better option for over-ripe fruit than foreign youth players.

      I think what Rongen is doing is two-fold. One, he’s trying to get the best players or best team together. The fact that these players are playing outside of the US says that we as a football-nation are still behind in terms of producing talent. And two, I think he’s also trying to get players that are eligible for more than one national team early and get them thinking that they are still on the US’ radar. It’s a little football-politics, if you will. At least that’s what I think they should be doing. To a certain extent, of course.

      • Lysander says:

        I agree that we should get the best money can buy and that is often if not nearly always foreign right now, but that does not mean we can not get players that European clubs are looking for too. Especially Ajax or Atlas which we certainly can compete with.

    • Lysander says:

      Agreed! I am much more excited about Alvaro Fernandez and Fredy Montero than the aging european stars.

    • Logan says:

      I think they *have* been looking for younger talent in places like Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, or Uruguay. It’s just that an unknown 19 or 20-year old from one of those places doesn’t gather the headlines like the veteran stars from other countries. I mean, not all of them are going to wind up being Freddy Montero or even Marco Pappa (Guatemala). My point is, they are doing it. Many rosters reflect young talent from all over the place.

      GO FIRE

      • short passes says:

        Logan — I’m a Fire fan also, from St. Louis!! I actually had Klopas and De Los Cobos’ recent trip to Eastern Europe in mind when I wrote that comment. I wouldn’t be looking for a DP in South America, more like another young Pappa. It seems that we have made some contacts in Mexico and Central America but I would like to extend that relationship and the search to all of South America, not just Brazil and Argentina.

  2. Bored Bobby says:

    MLS should look for inexpensive talent before the European Clubs get a sniff. Sell those players to Europe for huge amounts of profit and re-invest those gains back into the league.

    Arsenal should be the model for MLS. Buy low sell high! Simple International finance. However, Garber is too concerned on individual players and how many shirts they can sell[See: Becks]. No more aging stars!

  3. njndirish says:

    Everyone complains about the aging stars, well guess what, they put butts in seats and eyes to TV’s not an 18 year old Colombian (Sorry Freddy)

    Also these guys can teach the youth players by example and experience. Many of the young Red Bulls have been very pleased by the presence of three internationals who have amassed experience all over the world.

    Keep balance which is what MLS has been doing. Montero, the baby Bulls, the kid on United, the Brazilians on the Galaxy, all of these players represent the growth in the game here. Also lest we forget, MLS’s main goal is to developing American soccer before any other country’s players.

    • El Profe says:

      Now here’s a guy who gets it.

      MLS is about 17 years old. Think of it as a teenager. We are so far behind everyone in terms of experience and knowledge. You can’t possibly expect to grow up in a day. Some of the people here are thinking like a 17 year-old: they want everything now and don’t realize it takes time to be successful.

    • Lysander says:

      Ljunberg may have sold some seats but I do not buy that he filled the stadium. Most people knew little of him before 2009 season started and most were tired of him by the 2010.

      • Charles says:

        I predicted this would happen. The leagues in Europe ( sorry Dave C, I am going there) are set up to be very condusive for it. Not like Henry wanted to play for the third place team in LaLiga, even though they would welcome him with open arms, so go somewhere where you can fight for a title and still collect millions.

        Here is my next prediction, there are too many for MLS to hold.
        These players have been very ineffective as a group in achieving anything, they have not put butts in the seats winning championships.
        So it comes down to how many jerseys and tickets do they sell. Maybe Beckham sold a lot, but a Nicolas Anelka SKC’s jersey ?!?! The $800 revenue you make from that isn’t going to cover what he wants to earn.

        • Dave C says:

          If the leagues really were “conducive” to it, it would happen more often (this switch from a top club like Barca to MLS). Instead, many players take a much longer route down the ladder before settling on the MLS (like Ljungberg, Geovanni etc).

  4. WSW says:

    That’s why MLS is considered a retirement league.

    • bob cherman says:

      Totally agree buddy. Its time we focus on bringing in young DP’s who will really raise the level of the league. What continually puzzles me is the emphasis that the league puts on rules, caps, dp’s etc. What they really need to focus on is the quality of play, I think that we can all agree the level is low (as awful as that sounds) and the only way to really improve it is by increasing the salary cap and getting in some solid young talent like alvaro fernandez. Then people will start filling up the seats when the product is really worth watching. That is not to say while the process is going on we should not try to bring in a couple names. The big names bring exposure onto the league, but its about time we get this retirement league notion out of everybody’s mind. The more old players that are linked with mls, the more people is europe associate mls with a retirment league (even if it is no the case).

      • short passes says:

        Bob — you nailed it !! It isn’t a case of either/or it’s a case of emphasis. When we start considering Ibrahimovic 4 years before he is even available or think that Mutu ( a major head case ) will put “butts in the seats” we have gone way overboard. As for Anelka, I wouldn’t trust a word that his brother, Claude Anelka, said — Google him for your self.
        A point that I was trying to make and didn’t do so very well is that our emphasis on European “NAMES” has caused us to concentrate TOO much on Europe for even our second tier foreign legionnaires. It seems that we are constantly bringing in Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans (nothing against them) but not pursuing the historically more creative players from South America. Our coaches are obviously more familiar with European clubs but it just seems that we are missing the boat by not looking to South America. BTW please don’t anyone distort these remarks to imply that MLS shouldn’t be developing our OWN. We definitely should be! However US Soccer development and college soccer haven’t exactly been a treasure trove of creative stars (please don’t throw out Rheam and Gonzalez as creative new stars; they’re defenders, they have yet to prove themselves and certainly haven’t established themselves as creative) and until the MLS teams can get their own development teams kicked into high gear we will have to rely on foreign players for that creative spark. With that understood , we need to pursue some fresh territory!!

        • Charles says:

          How about Zakuani and Bunbury ? There are plenty of others. I haven’t even given up on Bright Dike and there are plenty doing better than he is.

          Plus this year class is going to be even better than the last two.
          I know you have seen Akron play.

          I don’t think that MLS will EVER get their developement leagues in high gear. Way too much money for very little return.
          Why do it when the college system will do it for you ?

          I don’t think it matters, US is developing players with a combo academy/college. They might not be as refined as Short Passes needs/wants, but I think they will be soon.

          I agree with MesaATLien 100%. MLS has a style and I like it a lot and have a financial sound league is VERY, VERY important to me. I don’t want 1983 all over again.

          WAY too painful to follow a league that long and have it go bellyup.

          ps. The hated Whitecaps have sold 16,000 season tickets reservations and the reservation are being converted to season tickets at a great rate according to the Whitecaps.
          Portland won’t be as successful, but still is around 9k sold.

      • MesaATLien says:

        The only thing I disagree with in your statement was about the quality of MLS. I think the problem with it is viewing sports is subjective. For me, growing up watching the NFL and NBA, it took me a while to get used to watching La Liga games because…it was just just pretty to me. There was no grit or dirtyness in the play. It’s one of the reasons why I like watching MLS. I may be getting ahead of myself, but MLS displays a truly American style, which is very physical. People like the equate quality with how “pretty” it is. I think the product is worth drawing our eyes to, but some people are going to have to get used to how it looks here, I think. Of course, more skill with that physicality can improve the league.

        I agree that increasing the salary cap would be good, SLIGHTLY. But let’s not go overboard and end up under water like alot of Premier Leagues around the world. Debt is not good, especially for a young league like MLS, which has finally become, in a way, stable.

  5. Robert Hay says:

    Folks, I agree with you that MLS should become the ideal place for young-peak-of-career talent to come and play top-notch soccer. But MLS is not close to being there yet, and bringing in some of these older stars is a step in that direction. If nothing else, it attracts attention to the teams from EPL or international soccer fans.

    Chelsea fans in the US, would you come see Anelka play for an MLS squad? I know personally I can’t wait for Red Bull to play in DC this year so I can clap for Thierry Henry.

    • Clampdown says:

      Yeah, it’s going to be a while before we get star players in their prime coming to MLS. I don’t mind older players coming here, but I’d rather not get the guys at the very end looking for a paycheck. When Angel came here he clearly had several more years left in him.

      I would hate to see Anelka here. There is a reason he is called Le Sulk. I foresee nothing but trouble and lack of effort from him.

      Why wait for him to come to DC, Robert? It’s a quick trip on the Acela up to Newark.

    • Lysander says:

      Why is it not there? To attract stars you primarily need
      money. With enough of it you can get anybody. With the DP it allows
      teams to spend as much money as they want on up to three players.
      The only thing holding us back is how much money they want to spend
      and that is determined by how much money they can make. I am
      suggesting that they would make more money on upcoming stars than
      aging europeans. The old guys do not seem to be bringing in the
      people like hoped, I think the young ones would match if not exceed
      the old in drawing audeinces. Give the cities some time to get to
      know them and I am sure the young guys will be a bigger draw. And
      as they hit their prime the teams/league make even more money
      selling these guys to europe compared to nothing they make on the
      retiring aging giants.

    • Charles says:

      Let me guess Robert Hay ?

      You were excited for Ljungberg too ?

      He was a total flop ( great and easy pun intended ).

      Eventually the Sounders all but cut him and traded him for a second round SuperDraft pick. After he was done a Chicago, noone else would even touch him in MLS. Even in the second round of the latest draft, where guys that had signed with other teams already, were picked up….noone cared about Ljungberg.

      I don’t mind the other 17 teams doing it again, but not my Sounders.
      Get rid of NKufo and don’t go there again….please.

      • Clampdown says:

        It’s not the other clubs’ fault that Seattle has done a poor job in selecting DPs. In the case of NY, Columbus, and LA it has worked. As time goes on, most clubs will get better at selecting who is worth the tag and the money. But there will always be mistakes.

        I never thought Ljungberg would do well. Anyone who watched him at West Ham knew he wasn’t the player he was in 2000-2003 with Arsenal. I can’t even see him making much of an impact at Celtic.

        • Charles says:

          You are right of course, Seattle’s screw up doesn’t mean don’t do it, and if Clampdown can see it, why can’t a MLS team…

          but Ljungberg is not alone correct ?

          ps. Columbus ? I assume you are talking GBS, who I don’t believe even signed for DP money at the start.

          • Clampdown says:

            Correct. Lots of mistakes by a lot of teams along the way. I do think it is getting better, though. The homegrown talent is getting better, and the non-DP foreign pool that wants to play here is getting better, which should ease pressure on teams who feel they have to bring in a DP. Hopefully, it will cut down on mistakes. I also look forward to the day when a high-profile player nearing their end says they want to play in MLS and are turned down.

            I do think that despite some of the recent flops, like Ljungberg, many of the DPs have been good contributors and positive influences on their clubs.

  6. Robert says:

    This is equivalent of buying milk at the grocery store that is past its sell by date.

  7. Charles says:

    Omar Cummings is in talks to do the Landon Donovan Circus Side show.

    I think that is a perfect way for MLS players to make some decent coin, but still be able to play in MLS.
    Maybe I am not understanding how it all works, but I would think there would be substantial extra paychecks.

    I think that is going to happen way more than “not getting playing time for the top teams” guys moving here.

  8. CrazyMike says:

    I’ve thought since this whole Beckham-mania retirement league stuff started that MLS should adopt a DP slot for say, age 25 and under players. One kid, no matter where he came from. Find the next Messi. Train him. Win a title or two. Then sell him on or sign him as a full DP when he hits his ‘prime’ in the mid 20’s. Bring in foreign kids, or hold onto that top US prospect for a while. Hell, we might even convert some of those kids to the Stars and Stripes.

    • Charles says:

      The Sounders have three DPs right now.
      Two of them are under 25, one is ineffective..guess which one ?

      Seattle might be a in a unique position however. They have the fans already. The fans revolted against the big name friendly game, rather than worshipping it. Plus, since they have the fans, a majority of them are not soccer only fans…ie they couldn’t care less that Ljungberg was awesome back in 2004 in England, if he sucks for us, he sucks.

      My long winded point is, not every team has that luxury, so selling jerseys with a big name is worth a lot. A LOT.
      Look at Ichiro for the Mariners, he is not going to win anything, but he is payed $17 million/year. Forcing teams like that to sign under 25 year olds might actually hurt revenue even if in my ( and yours it seems ) opinion they would be WAY better off on the field.

  9. Kinect-Live says:

    I wouldn’t think and say Ibrahimovic will be done by the time he comes to the MLS. He’s like a version of sort like Mexican Jared Borgetti, even though he ages, he never loses his touch. Zlatan shows that seem ability, so it would be great to seem him here.

    For my team, the San Jose Earthquakes, if we can’t produce a home-grown playmaking player, I wouldn’t mind seeing them go to Europe and buying a star. But this time a sure chance better than the Geovanni experiment.

  10. Charles says:

    Ljungberg just signed with Celtic.

    So to recap, big name comes to MLS, was pathetic at times, bad other times, missing at times, and great at times.

    Now he goes back to Europe and still gets a contract with a big name team.

    Do you think some of these older guys might be overrated/overpayed ? Payed on what they did rather than what they will do ?

    I don’t know the terms of the Ljungberg deal, but if he got the same as he got in MLS, $1.3 million, he is definitely in that catagory.

    • Dave C says:

      It proves what people have always said about the Scottish league – it’s absolutely garbage. A guy who isn’t good enough for West Ham, isn’t good enough for MLS teams…yet he ends up at Scotland’s best team. Now THAT’S a country that needs to seriously overhaul it’s entire soccer infrastructure!

  11. SSReporters says:

    I really don’t like it.

    All of these guys will be past their prime and they are only here for the benefit of selling tickets not to “improve the quality of the play”.

  12. David D. says:

    I think you all have a little case of delusions of grandure. How can you expect a lague which in many cases cant fill stadiums to half capacity, to compete with Mexican, Barzilian, Argentine, and European teams to attract oung prospects? Some first-team players earn less than 60k! I think you all should be HAPPY that these Euro relics even consider the league as a place to retire. With the exception of Donovan, who is apparently afraid of the competition overseas, dont expect ripe talent to beinterested in the rigid, uninspired, and mostly boring “style” of play… If you want to call a lack of techical abiliry a “style”.

    • MesaATLien says:

      You’re damn right that we as fans expect a hell of alot out of these DP’s who come over here to suck the league dry, especially when they don’t do anything on the field. The fact that these Euro-donnas can’t even provide results in what you call a terrible league no matter how talented they used to be says alot about how some Eurosnobs like yourself overrates them and underrates the league, DONTCHA THINK?!

  13. ExtraMedium says:

    1. Make DP slots transferable/loanable ( big franchises pay small franchise…ie more revenue sharing).
    2. DPs don’t count against the salary-cap. Set-cap at $3M for non-DPs (salaries, bonuses, transfer fess, severance, etc), and give any team that fails to make the play-offs for 3 straight years $500K (the league holds the extra money and sends it directly to players for compensation, and non-MLS clubs for transfer fees).
    3. No roster limits.
    4. No draft. You have to sign your own players, and real free-agency (why have good players leave MLS out of spite, no one wins).
    5. Signing more young players means tran$fer fee$. Tran$fer fee$ = higher probability of profitable clubs.
    6. Unused salary-cap money rolls-over to the next season. I’ve never understood why this isn’t standard in all salary-cap leagues. Why punish teams for being prudent?
    6a. Cap-space is transferable.

  14. Charles says:

    I love the idea of rolling unused cap space. Really helps the smaller less money teams. Can only afford to be good every four years ? Can’t now, if you are smart about it, you can by saving cap space.

    Getting rid of the draft on the other hand is suicide.
    Read Moneyball someone at MLS did.

    They have done a great job of letting college tell them who the talent is and signing them. It has improved the league a LOT.

    Now you want to revert to Columbus ( and other MLS teams ) competing against Chelsea, etc head to head in figuring out who to sign. Chelsea can afford to be wrong. MLS teams ? Chelsea can afford to scout the world. MLS teams ?

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