Misusing MLS as a bargaining chip
Last week, when I heard the news that
The whole episode smacked of agent-team gamesmanship. The main source, it seems, for the story that originally broke in the Spanish paper
I don't blame them. In the transaction, the Blaugrana would get rid of the world's most expensive reserve. Even better, he would go to America, where he could never come back to haunt the club in La Liga or in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Ronaldinho supposedly would get roughly the same deal
And that's where the whole story unraveled my mind. The deal was simply too symmetrical, both in line with Becks' deal and yet way outside the box, too, which said to me that the parties involved don't really understand how MLS operates. The entire episode was perfectly manicured for maximum effect in the European press. (I even got a call from a colleague in Milan who said he heard the news on the radio.)
Furthermore, you'll notice there was never any article or reporting about L.A.'s initial offer. The story only broke when Ronaldinho was going to
Who? Well, in this case, I think both the player and the club, who obviously want to part ways. They figured they would spin this ludicrous yarn, attach it to a club about which most Europeans (read: other European clubs and their officials) don't know many details and hope someone takes the bait. It hasn't happened yet, but it probably will, because some team will panic and jump at Ronnie before he sails off to the New World.
It all got me thinking about one of the unintended consequences of MLS' infamous Beckham Rule. With the announcement in early '07 that Mr. Posh had signed what could eventually be a $250 million contract, the ears of every high-priced star in Europe -- and their agents -- perked up. They saw they had another destination, a little outside the box, but obviously worth every penny. They also saw another legitimate bargaining chip, because the agents knew that most European clubs misunderstood the MLS rules about DPs, salary caps, single-entity, etc.
"Signing David gave us a new level of credibility and agents have looked to use this to their benefit," Galaxy president
Before the recent Ronnie rumors, there was the
The marquee names can toss Beckham numbers out there and be taken seriously, but must European club officials know enough to know that MLS isn't going to pay millions for a player like
The DP rule has been very good for MLS. It's brought some international prestige and plenty of talent. (Did you see
But the Galaxy's Lalas has some advice for any European club that is nervous about losing out on a player like Ronaldinho. "If clubs would simply call me," he said, "I could probably save them a lot of time and money."