Mexico has been revelation to me about the perceptions that exist in certain parts of the globe about soccer in the USA. First the Alexi Lalas conversations and now this: According to three different people I spoke to about MLS, the most credible signing for the league this year from a pure technical standpoint was not David Beckham or even Mexico’s own Cuauhtemoc Blanco. It is according to football experts in this part of the world, Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
I must admit I have been awed by Schelotto since he arrived in MLS two months ago. As BC John and I discuss in the soon to be released post Gold Cup edition of the Major League Soccer Talk podcast, Schelotto seems to be single handily responsible for turning Columbus from one of the worst teams in MLS to perhaps one of the best. However, I never thought a player that has only been capped 11 times for his nation would be mentioned in a favorable light when compared to England’s former Captain and one Mexico’s all time leading goal scorers.
But what Schelotto brings MLS according to the people I spoke to here in Mexico is more continental club football titles than just about any current player on the planet. It wasn’t until recently I learned that Schelotto is the most decorated player in the history of Argentinian Clausura, between his domestic and international trophies with Boca Juniors, as well as individual awards while playing for Boca. In addition, Schelotto’s near legendary status among Boca fans opens up a whole new potential fan base for MLS, and builds the league’s credibility in South America.
While Schelotto falls well short of Beckham and Blanco in marketing appeal (which is why he is playing for Columbus rather than L.A. or Chicago) he may actually do more to build the league’s credibility among the Futbol “Intelligentsia” in Latin America. Who would have figured?