Clint Dempsey’s move to the Seattle Sounders from Tottenham Hotspur was one of the more surprising moves of the summer transfer window. At the eve of last season, the American forward was a major transfer target and was one of the deadline-day dramas as Spurs plucked him away from a seemingly dithering Liverpool. So a player of his caliber and at his perceived peak making a return back to the MLS so soon was largely seen as a backward step in his career.
The 30-year-old forward took over as captain of the USMNT in March this year and was the new team talisman in Landon Donovan’s spell of exile by team-coach Jurgen Klinsmann. For many American supporters, seeing Clint progress in a Europe’s top-flight environment boded well for the national team’s chances of excelling in international tournaments.
Along with Michael Bradley at AS Roma, Jozy Altidore at AZ Alkmaar and Sunderland, Tim Howard at Everton and Jermaine Jones at Schalke 04, Dempsey leads the new guard of experienced cosmopolitan players who can hold their own in the top leagues and extinguish the global presumption that the U.S. will never get anywhere in global game.
Tottenham’s huge turnover of players this summer seemed like it would mean more bench-time for Dempsey if he did stay for the coming season. So he – some would say misguidedly, some would say shrewdly – turned down offers from Everton or Sunderland and opted for Seattle instead.
In his previous season, Dempsey managed 43 appearances at his second Tottenham, scoring 12 goals and six assists. These figures would have seemed respectable if they weren’t put up against his prolific final season at Fulham where he managed 23 goals and six assists. As a result, it seemed as though he was struggling to adjust to his new club and his new role as U.S. captain.
Looking at his Premier League career as a whole shows a much more accurate picture of his talent. Dempsey scored 57 goals after seven seasons in England. This ranks him 60th all time, seventh as a non-European and first as an American.
When a player moves to a league where he then receives a huge reception and becomes the highest paid player in that league, it can hardly be seen as a failure. The capture of Dempsey has been a major statement that the MLS is no longer just a stepping stone for younger players or where stars in their twilight can make one last paycheck.