Clint Dempsey’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Seattle Sounders is a triumphant victory for Major League Soccer, the Sounders and US soccer fans. Deuce now has the opportunity to become the new face of MLS, generating significant income from sponsorship and licensing deals in addition to his lucrative £100,000/week wages.
But while the deal is a huge boost to Dempsey’s bank account, it’s a disappointing decision by him as an athlete. The level of competition he’ll go up against in MLS won’t be anywhere near the level in the Premier League. And the feeling is, even if he goes back to the Premier League for a loan deal in January, that Dempsey has sold out.
For a fighter like Dempsey, his decision to join Seattle is an uncharacteristic move. He decided to give up fighting for a first team place in England in exchange for a guaranteed starting spot. Perhaps he became frustrated with the lack of playing time at Tottenham, and grew tired of trying to prove himself. Regardless, he now has the comfort of knowing that he can bask in the limelight each week where he’ll be adored by tens of thousands of Seattle fans chanting his name. We may never know the real reason why Dempsey gave up his UEFA Champions League dream, but Seattle’s lucrative offer certainly was a factor.
The conveniently overlooked reality about Dempsey’s transfer from Tottenham to Seattle is that he failed at Spurs. He scored 7 goals in 29 league appearances, most notably the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and the last minute equalizer in the reverse fixture. But overall, and many England-based Tottenham Hotspur supporters will agree, Dempsey was a flop. Tottenham supporters were frustrated by his performances. They couldn’t see where he best fit in with the squad. Their chief complaint was that he wasn’t gifted or creative enough as a midfielder, but at the same time, he wasn’t a prototypical striker.
During the latter half of last season, his teammate teammate Gylfi Sigurdsson had a decent run of form (five goals in the remaining months) that undermined Dempsey’s position on the team. Plus, this summer, Dempsey fell further down the pecking order with the signings of midfielder Paulinho and winger Nacer Chadli.
The reality that was staring Dempsey in the face was that he needed to leave Tottenham Hotspur, and that if he stayed in Europe, he would have start all over again to try to fight for a first team place. While Dempsey flopped at Tottenham, the footballer showed enough promise at Spurs as well as continued impressive national team performances that seemingly would entice other Premier League clubs to make an offer for him. What the level of interest was, we don’t know, but he could have easily made a difference at an Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Cardiff or another promising Premier League side, or a side in La Liga or Serie A. The cold hard truth was that if he wanted to stay in England, he’d have to start all over again to try to elevate himself into a UEFA Champions League team. And at age 30, time was running out.
The frustrating thing about Dempsey is that many of us, myself included, believed he was capable of playing in the UEFA Champions League. Few managers or English football supporters in the Premier League would agree with that, but having seen him play so often, I believe he had the determination and eye for goal to play at the highest level in world football. That’s why Dempsey’s move to Seattle is disappointing. It’s not disappointing because he’s just moving from the Premier League to MLS. It’s because he’s underselling himself and has seemingly given up his fight and dream.
Don’t forget that this is a footballer who engineered a move away from Fulham last summer in search of UEFA Champions League soccer, where he tried to force a move to Liverpool, but ended at Tottenham after the White Hart Lane club signed him on transfer deadline day for a transfer fee of £6.2million. So, to see him throw this all away is such a disappointment for the one American who has the best opportunity to become a true star on the European continent.
Before he signed with Tottenham, Dempsey said:
“It’s no secret that I would like to play Champions League one day in my career. If it’s meant to be, it will be.”
Unfortunately for Dempsey, he’s given up on his dream far too early.