MLS commissioner Don Garber admits to making a bid for 34-year-old striker Didier Drogba. This relates directly to the discussion raised in one of my previous posts, MLS holding back top Americans…, and begs the question, is the MLS looking to the future and striving to be a quality league, or just an organization searching for the biggest name over-aged players, who are willing to give up top flight football in exchange for millions of dollars and a vacation in the United States?
It worked with Beckham, but he was 31 and a global star outside of football. Hard to say if it worked with Thierry Henry yet, he’s been injured almost more than he’s played, and Robbie Kean, sure, it’s worked to some extent. There are also a handful of other over paid former European footballers taking up space, but not worth mentioning.
Yes, it’s good for the publicity and headline power of the league, but it’s not raising the level of play. It’s slowing it down to the level of guys that couldn’t hack the pace of Europe.
It is worth mentioning that Drogba is still a world-class striker with a great physical presence and keen sense for the goal, and if you ask me he left Chelsea too soon. But is he worth the excess of $10 million per year the MLS wanted to gift him with? Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see him come to the MLS instead of the lesser Chinese league.
The argument is not would he be good for the league now, but for the future? With the salary they offered him they could have enticed a dozen young players that might just be on the fringes of a club in Europe, or not quite ready for the move, but will be soon, making it a business move that will actually pay off, not just advertising money. Get them in the league and up the pace, the quality, and the excitement.
Instead of being a retirement league, just be a league that strives for the best players that will play the highest quality football. What you’re actually getting is guys that nurse their aging bodies half the season and maybe create the occasional headline, when you could capture the next great player before Manchester United does.
Learn from European clubs. If he isn’t good enough for them, why pay him double what he should be getting just to phone it in. Now, I love that Beckham and Henry, and the much lesser known 35-year-old former German international, Torsten Frings, came to the MLS. So again, it’s not the issue that they come to the league, but that they take up the space and money better suited for others.
Hey MLS, the word is out that you’re a retirement league and they are going to suck you dry.
I love playing football, so I can imagine a professional has a difficult time hanging up the boots, but these old boys aren’t even getting challenged for their spots. The league goes as far as calling them “Designated Players”, almost stamping a “You don’t have to work hard and will always play” decal on their forehead.
I’m sure the counter argument is the market dictates the price of these players. In order for the MLS to get any real talent they must pay these exorbitant salaries. I’ve never been one to begrudge player salaries, I have no problem with them getting as much as they possibly can, but I do take issue with the league’s choices, and the individual clubs’ choices, in how they hand out these salaries.
According to, Sporting News Soccer, even Don Garber commented on leagues and clubs paying outlandish salaries and transfer fees just in an attempt to raise their status in world football.
Referring to the Drogba situation, “It obviously doesn’t make any economic sense,” Garber said. “There’s going to be a process where the world of global football is going to have to figure this out. There’s no economic rationality to it. There’s no revenues that go with it.”
Yet, the MLS continue to do the very same thing he admits makes no economic sense.
I once had an English friend of mine at an MLS game with me, a die-hard fan of the EPL, more specifically Chelsea. He came away saying, “It looked like a training match.” I always remember that because it bothered me, more than I thought it would. This was a game in which two of these “Designated Players” participated. He could tell I was frustrated because he tried to back track the entire way home, but I knew he was right. I went home and immediately watched an EPL game I had on DVR to do a real analysis of what’s different. That was just one game, but what’s different in the EPL and leagues like it, is they put the best players on the pitch, no questions asked, no ulterior motives of advancing the league, nothing. The league’s prestige comes from having the best and fittest players out there, and of course over 100 years of existence. I know, not a fair comparison, but just an example.
Point is you can’t just take a short cut to get there.
I want the MLS to improve, to grow, and I know it will take time, but instead of going for the stars go for the real footballers. The ones that bring pace and excitement and eagerness and passion and grit. Go for the young players who cost more but that you might just be able to snatch away from the scouts at Chelsea (Who would stick him on the reserves squad for two seasons), and then be rewarded in a couple of years when Real Madrid swoops in for that MLS grown prodigy and it all pays off.
Now that’s a long-term goal.
(This was originally going to be a one minute rant, oops)