Dempsey's absence leads American plots as European seasons start
People keep wondering where Clint Dempsey, after all of his success, gets the inspiration to maintain the permanent chip on his shoulder. Well, events like the ones that have transpired in the last week certainly play a part.
Even after a season in which he scored 23 goals in all competitions, with his 17 league goals tied for fourth-most in the Premier League and accounting for more than a third of Fulham's total, Dempsey did not command the interest or respect in the transfer market he might have expected as he entered the final year of his contract with the club, and, as a result, he has been frozen out at a place where just months ago he was considered a hero.
After proclaiming his wish to play at a Champions League-level club and following Fulham manager Martin Jol's claims that he refused to play for the club in its season opener and wants out, Dempsey is left with a hope and a prayer as the Premier League season enters its second week. Dempsey's ominous tweets from Friday -- "There are two sides to the story" and "The truth will come out soon" -- likely mean there is more than meets the eye. All the public knows is what Jol and Fulham have been saying, which is that a toxic situation has developed, one that resulted in Dempsey reportedly being fined ahead of the season opener, but one that won't end with him being let go at a discounted rate. Unfortunately for Dempsey, Fulham holds the leverage.
The timing of everything is what makes the situation so dire. With less than two weeks until the close of the summer transfer window, Dempsey is facing a race to the deadline or else risks being forced to save face at Craven Cottage, where he'll have to win back over his teammates, coaches and the Fulham faithful until at least the winter. So what exactly are Dempsey's options? Unless a surprise suitor makes a late charge, it does not look like he has many.
Arsenal has new funds after selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United and Alex Song to Barcelona and could use more attacking firepower, but it would not be very much like Arsene Wenger to invest a decent amount of money (about $15 million or so) in a 29-year-old whose value will not be increasing. Liverpool's interest in Dempsey exists, based on a summer inquiry into his services by the club, but Jol said that no concrete offer had ever come forth from Anfield despite Dempsey's alleged claims that he was headed there.
Few mention Tottenham as a possible destination, but wouldn't White Hart Lane be an ideal landing spot for the already London-based Dempsey? If not for Chelsea winning the UEFA Champions League title, the club would be in this year's Champions League and is expected to contend for one of England's berths yet again. In the meantime, Spurs will be a favorite in the UEFA Europa League. They happen to have a glaring need for depth up top, and with the money the club is bound to receive for Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, they could make Fulham a very fair offer for Dempsey's services as the transfer deadline approaches. No, Dempsey isn't an out-and-out striker, but his ability to play in a withdrawn role is well documented, and the crossing ability of Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker from either side would be perfect complements for his aerial ability.
While the timing is rough on the club end, it could also complicate his national-team standing for the time being. U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has adhered to a strong standard of not turning to out-of-form players for games that matter. When Jozy Altidore was late to join the U.S. national team camp in May after being off for a few weeks following the conclusion of AZ Alkmaar's season, he was an afterthought for the lineup and was ultimately nothing more than a second-half substitute in the pair of June World Cup qualifiers because of his fitness level.
Dempsey has not trained with Fulham's first team all preseason, and with important World Cup qualifiers looming Sept. 7 and 11 against Jamaica he risks giving Klinsmann the undesirable option to leave him behind while turning to others with more stable club standing. With all of the unknowns surrounding Dempsey's current conundrum, one thing can be for certain. When he does make his return to the field, whether it be for Fulham or a new employer, he'll do so with yet another point to prove.
Aside from the Dempsey saga, this past week was marked with a number of goals for Americans playing abroad, including two more from Altidore, who is on a tear to start the new season in the Netherlands. In addition to his double, the Scandinavia-based contingent of Alejandro Bedoya, Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst and Conor O'Brien all found the scoresheet. Here's how they and the rest of the Americans abroad fared this past week as seasons in Europe begin to get underway (season statistics encompass all competitions):