Who will be MLS' next Beckham?
I ran into an acquaintance on a flight from Columbus to New York this weekend, and he said, "I hear
"You've got to YouTube it," I replied. "It's pretty astounding."
Now, this guy is not a soccer guy. He's an ad-sales exec. Yet here he was talking soccer in a way he never would've just 12 months ago.
Hallelujah for the Designated Player!
We're about a year into MLS' grand experiment with marquee names, and it's hard to argue with the results. David Beckham,
Sure, there are still plenty of naysayers who scoff that Beckham is "over-the-hill crap" and MLS is just chasing the merchandise money. But the highlight of
Beckham's goal will be shown all over the world, which, as a colleague pointed out, "is why he's getting all that money." You think
And if you think it's only MLS that desires that kind of news, just ask Real Madrid about the effect of Beckham's global appeal.
Blanco is like Beckham's Mexican doppelganger. On Sunday, as if challenged by Beckham's performance, the Mexican superstar put on a show of his own, scoring a penalty and assisting on three goals as his Chicago Fire whipped the New York Red Bulls, 5-1 -- at Giants Stadium.
The former Club América god has transformed the Fire from a bunch of lollygaggers at the start of the 2007 season into MLS' top team right now. His trickery and flair have excited the Section 8ers -- who were already as crazy as a bunch of unattached electrons -- into a cyclotronic mass of flag-waving, drum-thumping, flare-lighting energy.
So who's next? That's what my European soccer friends always ask. Do you think Colorado would sign
Europeans. They're so cute sometimes. It's hard for them to understand that MLS cannot afford the Fàbregases and Xavis of the world. They also rarely consider the fact that a DP has to bring more to the party than talent. He has to have name recognition, an attacking flair (read: no goalkeepers), something left in the tank (read: no 36-year-olds), and the ability to withstand the occasional Canadian clubbing from
After this past disastrous season at Barcelona, Ronaldinho's days at Camp Nou seem numbered, and several Euro-heavies look set to pay the roughly $70 million transfer fee. That sticker price would make MLS' owners snort their Dom Perignon back out their nose, but in a few years -- remember, Ronnie's only 28 -- it should come down to a more palatable number, and hopefully someone will pick up the player who is as close to the perfect DP candidate as it gets.
Henry's only 30, his contract at Barcelona is up next summer, and he's stated he will probably retire from international football after Euro 2008. I could easily see him embracing Chevrolet and cherry pit. After all, he has enough friends (
The 31-year-old Ukrainian is the kind of foreign striker that succeeds in MLS, mainly because he doesn't rely on speed, but on tactical awareness, opportunism and ingenuity. Plus, his wife,
"Bofo" -- his nickname since he was 3 -- has previously been linked with Chivas USA and you can understand why. He's big (6-foot-1), young (29) and talented, both as a
Now the real question is: Would any of these guys come?