Clint Dempsey, arguably the best American Soccer player in history, and only 30 years old, has moved to the Seattle Sounders for $9 Million.
I am flabbergasted. Surely there must have been a few decent teams in the EPL that would have snapped him up? Everton, Villa or even back to Fulham? Or did Clint think “I’d rather play in the MLS than take a step back and leave Spurs for some mid-table EPL team?” It must have been something, because he could’ve made this move to the MLS in 2-3 years time for very similar wages.
And making this move right now just doesn’t make sense.
I struggle to see how playing in the MLS will be better for Dempsey, especially with the World Cup on the horizon. Yes, given the fewer games and lower competition level, Dempsey will be less physically taxed over the next year, but, playing against those inferior teams, the U.S.’s best player will enter the World Cup less sharp than he would be competing against the world’s best in the EPL.
I want Dempsey to be the very best he can be come Brazil 2014, but a season spent in the MLS during its immediate run-up is not the way for him to get there.
It’s an unfortunate truth, but one that the MLS and the U.S. in general need to understand: The MLS is a launching pad for young, talented America players. The best should be sent to Europe, because that is where they’ll play under the best coaches and alongside the best talent in the world. And that’s what they need – to be playing at the highest possible level as early and for as long as possible.
That’s where they’ll improve. That’s where they’ll become the best player they possibly can be, and if that means sacrificing the chance to become “Big Fish” in the small pond – that means you Mr Donovan – so be it. A tough decision that many players won’t want to make, but one that is well worth it.
It’s already doing wonders for Jozy Altidore, who deserves plenty of credit for taking loan offers from Xerez (no idea who they are), Hull City, and Buraspor, before settling at Alkmaar in the Netherlands and really finding his feet. Still only 23, Jozy has just signed for EPL side Sunderland, and if he gets enough opportunities this season, it will be of huge benefit to the US National Team come the World Cup.
Tim Howard went through three very difficult seasons with Manchester United, and could easily have come back and signed for the MLS and become the best keeper in the league. Instead, he went to Everton, worked hard, and is now rightly regarded as one the finest keepers in the world.
The MLS threw tons of money at Landon Donovan and now Clint Dempsey to get them back to playing in the US, but for all the good it does Major League Soccer, it will continue to have a negative effect on the National Team and on the search for a true American soccer superstar. Because under Donovan and Dempsey’s influence, talented American players will continue to stay in the MLS rather than leave the comfortable surroundings of their idol’s league. They won’t venture out to ply their trade elsewhere in Europe. And as such, they won’t spend their youth improving beyond the MLS’s rather low ceiling.
And as such, U.S. soccer will never get the immortal player it needs to grow in the mainstream media.
Because the fact is that Soccer will never move beyond America’s fifth or sixth biggest sport until it is home to one of the best players on the planet. That player won’t come by way of the MLS.
That player won’t come by taking the easy way out, like Clint Dempsey just did.
Author: Mark Graydon
Originally born in England, Mark Graydon is the manager of Wolff’s Biergarten and the owner of the Olde English Pub, both located in Albany. Follow him on Twitter @TheEnglishMark. Email him at email@example.com.