Do Top European Players View MLS as a Retirement League?

File photo of England's Frank Lampard celebrating after scoring penalty kick against Croatia in London

England and Chelsea star Frank Lampard recently stated he’d consider pulling an Eddie Murphy in the 1988 John Landis vehicle Coming to America, and, well, head stateside and over to the prestigious MLS in the future. The only problem with super Frank’s comments were that they were followed by the numbers 35 and 36. Like so many others before him, the implication here is that MLS may not be a bad 1 or 2 quiet years in the luxurious states resulting in one last decent paycheck before footballers hang up the old boots. Why has MLS gained such a potentially negative stigma among European talent? Will MLS ever see a top European player transfer over in their late 20’s?

Lampard, now 31 and in the prime of his illustrious career has arguably been the best player for Chelsea this season and just came off an enjoyable campaign which saw the west London club win a league and cup double. Lampard still has three years left on his current Chelsea contract but admits he may one day follow fellow international team-mate David Beckham and former Premier League star Freddie Ljunberg to America.

I’d like to go and play in America when I’m 36 or 35 but you can’t take away someone’s right to go and play where they want.”

Lampard’s comments again raise the question of whether or not top European players view MLS as a sort of retirement league, an easy run out they can migrate to in the twilight of their 30’s. The aforementioned David Beckham’s recent MLS stint has been anything but fruitful for the league and the Galaxy, at least in the opinion of serious soccer fans in the states. They’ve reached an MLS Cup Final, but have yet to win the trophy and have endured some pretty woeful seasons since Beckham’s arrival. All the while Beckham travles the globe in some sort of coaching/mascot role for the England national team as the Galaxy pay his massive wages.

Still, as young a league as MLS still is, is receiving the upper echelon of European footballers in their last few years such a bad thing? Imagine a 2011 with Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, Beckham, Andriy Shevchenko and maybe even Raul. Surely this kind of talent couldn’t hurt the league. As top young American talent such as Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Michael Bradley and others head to England and Germany to begin and further their careers, is there really anything so bad about the opposite heading this way towards their end?

I think not. MLS has done a pretty decent job of recruiting talent from North, Central and South America while not failing to bring in marquee players to sell tickets. Time will of course tell whether or not all these rumored transfers of top talent will come to fruition or fade from memory. Until more young US soccer talent takes over MLS to help shape the future of the American domestic league and bring it credibility the world over, MLS fans will have to endure the arrival of more former European greats cashing one last check whether they like it or not.

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