After reading Kartik’s post about the exploitation of David Beckham, I would totally agree with many of his assessments. The critics out there have really had their way with the whole ‘Becks to MLS‘ matter. It has been a media day and, so far, all sides have been right.
For those Americans sports writers who hate soccer with a passion, they have shown their readership (who usually hate soccer as well) that Beckham was a waste of money. On the other side of the Atlantic, the British media have said that the LA Galaxy would have no respect whatsoever for Beckham’s heath. They are also right (though they don’t seem to blame Steve McClaren for Beck’s poor health by shipping him around the world, playing 90 minutes on consecutive days in two continents).
But when it come to the remarks of Paul Gardner, I highly disagree with the “US Soccer must turn its eyes south instead of across the Atlantic to truly capture the hearts and minds of fans across the nation” statement. Up until now, all the MLS has done is turned it eyes to the south, and rarely over the Atlantic.
Yes, the player pool for the MLS has been rich with Latin success, and, in some cases, European failure.
But to completely ignore Europeans and their role in the MLS would be a big mistake.
One of the reasons is pure and simple…Europeans are good soccer players. While there have been some busts in the MLS (and I think it is way to early to determine if Beckham is a bust or success), there have been some European success stories as well. Youri Djorkaeff 12 goals in 45 appearances with the New York Red Bulls was great for an aging player. Roberto Donadoni proved a solid player for the MetroStars. Peter Nowak lead the Fire to the MLS Cup (and put butts in seats).
But, of course, there have been the Lothar Matthaus‘ as well.
Still, while we talk about looking more to the south than to the east, the MLS really hasn’t invested in European players at all. Yes, the MLS has had a few decent European signings but, in reality, they have been few and far between. And out of those, only a handful of players have had any type of name that people actually know. The truth is that the MLS already looks southward for their players but rarely looks eastward.
With the amount of Latin players in the MLS, I feel that the MLS has become a regional league. And unless they start dipping into the European player pool, they will remain a regional (if not national) league.
This is where the English, Italian and Spanish leagues have prevailed. And on the other hand, this is where the German and French leagues have failed.
The EPL, La Liga and Serie A has done a great job of ‘internationalizing’ their leagues. Teams in the EPL that traditionally had a large number of English players on their teams no more than 10 years ago now show a completely international face. The same can be said to La Liga and to some extent (thought it is starting to look more and more Italian) Serie A.