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Beckham Rule

Ljungberg to Seattle an Embarrasing Move

I’ll admit that I saw this coming but that does not make it in any way more justifiable. Major League Soccer has its newest Designated Player, and like some of the post Beckham/Blanco signings it is a player no major club in the world would even entertain a thought of signing. Freddie Ljungberg is a player that couldn’t find playing time at West Ham United, and was little more than a role player and cult hero on some very very good Arsenal teams earlier this decade and at the end of the nineties. But Ljungberg is not the type of player MLS needs to be signing with the DP rule. This player represents little if any natural fan base in the United States and is not of the type of quality to elevate the entire league or even arguably the Seattle Sounders team he signed for.  Ljungberg like Denilson last season and Marcello Gallardo and Claudio Lopez this year are players who do not bring a fan base with them and are at best a slight improvement over the players available within the MLS player pool already. The initial “Beckham Effect” with the DP rule of signing David Beckham, Cuauhetemoc Blanco, and Juan Pablo Angel as well as the non DP signing of Boca Juniors legend Guille Barros Schelotto has worn off. Now once again MLS appears to be a retirement home for players looking for one last paycheck: not unlike leagues in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Major League Soccer needs to either repeal the DP rule at the same time as raising the salary cap or somehow encourage its franchises all of which are controlled by the league to a great extent to not pull the trigger on DP signings based on reputation of a player because he played for either a top flight national team (the case of Gallardo, Lopez and Denilson)or a top international club. (Ljungberg) MLS must find players who fit an ethnic fanbase as both Blanco and Angel did, or a player whose natural talent and quality will elevate the whole league as Schelotto did. (for what it is worth Schelotto has a massive following among Boca Juniors supporters in the USA: only second perhaps to Martin Palermo.) Unless a DP meets these criteria the league should reject a club signing the player. It’s not only best for the club and MLS’ sake but for the reputation football in America maintains abroad.


  • With Houston’s 1-1 draw against Firpo in El Salvador last night, the Dynamo simply need to beat the Salvadorian side at Robertson Stadium November 26th to advance to the knock out stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.
  • The Puerto Rico Islanders became the second USL side to advance to the quarters of the CCL with a 2-2 draw in Panama against Tauro FC.
  • All four CCL groups were won by Mexican sides. Clearly no question can exist as to what the best league in the region is. What’s more signifcgant is that Chivas, America and Pachuca, traditionally the three best Mexican sides in CONCACAF competitions did not even qualify for this event.
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  1. Pingback: MLS 2009: Good Buy, Bad Buy | Football Parade!

  2. Terry

    November 2, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Freddy L. said that he had multiple offers from top teams in Europe. I wonder if anyone wants to do there homework a little before posting articles and comments. I know for sure that Roma was interested and Fiorentina fans thought he would be possibly coming to them. He was a free transfer. Someone would have picked him up in the top flight. He left Arsenal on his own (prompted by Henry leaving) and was bought out by West Ham along with others that were shipped out to save money. The owner's bank is collapsing and couldn't afford them. Your buying experience and will to win. This is a brand new franchise. They need people like that. The last point is, who does everyone think is going to come to the MLS? Kaka? I don't care if the perception is that some players come to end their career. These guys add experience and a little name recognation, which eventually will fill the stadiums so they can pay more money to the players and the quality will go up and the future Kaka WILL want to come.

  3. sfcfan

    November 2, 2008 at 12:36 am

    A few points:

    * It's absurd to put criteria on what a DP can or cannot be. The MLS has tremendous sponsorship and is doing well with projections that the attendance will surpass the NHL and NBA in average attendance once the Sounders FC join the league. If the Sounders FC owners want to take a chance on a player that is their right.

    * Freddy was a clutch player on Arsenal, and his most recent injury basically happened when someone jumped on his ribs. He's healed now.

    * The Mexican teams such as Pachuca did not fare so well in the Super Liga tournament this year. It's premature to call them the best teams in the region…

  4. huricano

    October 30, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    After reading the comments. We can't expect mid-20s superstars to come. The realistic expectations for MLS should be slow growth, and eventually the domestic soccer culture will provide the talent. Anything else will lead us down the path of the vapid Mexican League.

  5. huricano

    October 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    He might not have been my choice, but Freddie was more than a bit player on some great Arsenal squads. In his day he was decisive and a star. That said, he's past his peak, and not the idol Blanco is. However, your criticism of the Barros Schelotto is vexing. A very solid player, signed for a reasonable price, he has brought a very sub-par team to the top of the league. Barros Schelotto is the league's MVP. Some senior players are fine, as long as they come fit and ready to perform and mentor. Most of the signings you mention have not been busts, and while I agree with betting on youth, some investment in foreign veterans to bring experience to the league is a good thing. Hopefully, some of these guys, like Guillermo, will stick around and coach.

  6. Ian

    October 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I think a point that needs to be brought up is the fact that it is a two year deal (if i'm not mistaken) We are by no means expecting to be champs in two years because of Ljungberg, but rather building by bringing experience in to aid the new talent (Le Toux, Nyassi and others to be named.) Keller and Ljungberg have a wealth of knowledge to provide this team before they retire.

  7. larry

    October 30, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    The real crime is that people are defending this signing.

    If you've seen Freddie the last few years you know his signing will simply reinforce the perception that MLS signs over the hill has beens while paying American stars less than market value.

    Take all the hyperbole out of this and seeming need for Kartik to defend his opinion with stupid rationilaztions about ethnicity, etc, blah blah blah.

    This signing must make people laugh at MLS. No Championship side would even want this guy. League One? Perhaps. MLS is paying a League One quality player $2.56 million/year. What a joke. Actually it's worse than a joke. It makes a supporter of this game and this league like myself want to drink myself to death.
    Jump to »

  8. kkfla737

    October 30, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Yup that's what happens if you post in a hurry when your mind is on other things (like the election). I apologize.

  9. kkfla737

    October 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Actually considering I have spent the better part of the last ten years working for mostly Democratic clients as political/PR consultants, I doubt I am taking a shot at Obama. At McCain, perhaps but more at the race baiting using cleverly poll tested code words, I see often in local elections throughout the country.

  10. Gene

    October 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

    And it is embarrasing (sic) to misspell “embarrassing” in your headline.

  11. Matt

    October 30, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Ljundberg is a terrible signing agreed.

    But I am most offended by Kartik's backhanded racial shot at Obama here. No wonder we have so many problems getting over race in this country.

  12. JoeThePlumber

    October 30, 2008 at 9:21 am

    “my friend” – have you turned into John McCain?

  13. kkfla737

    October 30, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Yes my ideal DP signing would have been Nakumura and he will likely be available in January. Anyone who saw Ljundberg this summer in the Euros or towards the end of last year with the Hammers knows he's spent.

  14. kkfla737

    October 30, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Don't be naive my friend. Why do you think MLS has signed so many Columbian and Mexican players of note in the past. It could not simply be coincidence. Sure it may be racial and perhaps we as Americans should not strive for a race based society as some in politics try and project but the reality is Blanco and Angel have ready made real followings for a league who has been merely trying to survive for the past 13 seasons. It's simple economics.

  15. kkfla737

    October 30, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Thanks, Jose. I stand corrected.

    Well at least when I wrote the piece Mexican teams were atop every group, but in reality that is a fluid as we know, and with a punching bag like DC in the group everyone was getting points off of them so Marathon was 3 pts in the hole at the time and Saprissa obviously got the result they needed as well.

  16. Prost Amerika

    October 30, 2008 at 8:50 am

    “MLS must find players who fit an ethnic fanbase as both Blanco and Angel did.”

    Signing players on basis of race? Sit down before you turn on the news my friend. You are in for a bit of a shock.

    And the whole idea is disgusting anyway.

  17. Jose

    October 30, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Group A of the Concacaf Champions League was not won by a Mexican team.

    It will either be won by Marathon from Honduras, or Saprissa from Costa Rica.

    Actually Cruz Azul from Mexico may get eliminated from the tournament if Saprissa beats or even draws Marathon in the last game of the group on November 5th.

    Check your facts:

  18. LN

    October 30, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Any time a has-been player comes to the MLS, it waters down the product on the field even further. I agree with you that Freddie is a wasted DP acquisition. How about some local boys instead an old man getting a run out?

    I have enjoyed watching the MLS (on the whole) a bit more this year. It wasnt until recently that I discovered why. It's because I hate LA and David Beckham. While it is a smart move to train ( or play in somewhat competitive settings) year-round to stay fit, he's going to become a Brett Favre. That is, he's going to play well beyond his shelf-life and prevent a young potential super-star from taking his place. Much like Freddie, he's taking up a roster spot and a shed load of cash that could be spent on building long-term, like the league has tried to do.

    If Seattle wants a DP, they should fork out some mega-bucks and get one of those Russian kids from Euro 2008. Geographically it makes more sense.

  19. CK

    October 30, 2008 at 1:36 am

    First off, your an idiot for assuming that the Sounders needed a DP to sell tickets. You should have done your homework before making that comment.

    Not every team needs a Beckham or Blanco to sell tickets.

  20. ecs

    October 30, 2008 at 12:54 am

    I am going to post a profane rant because your logic is weak

    Seattle has a strong Scandinavian background so a Swede is perfect ethnic contribution. Plus all of those Arsenal and EPL fans who want a DP they know and have watched for the past decade. He wasn't on a team so no transfer fee-bonus.

    We don't need the DP for ticket sales, we already have 17k season tickets, more than any other team. He played well at the Euros and if you read into his injuries, he had blood poisoning from a bad tattoo, and he broke a rib when somebody landed on him. He split with West Ham due to family issues. Also add the fact that he is retired from international play so he isn't saving himself for another meaningless cap, (see golden balls.)

    You are stupid, hating, and envious because we have a decent DP. He will move to the center and control the ball. He is not in his prime but he has a few years left in the tank. Asked during the Fan Conference, he will play Arsenal Style, that is all he knows. He will teach the team their attacking style, and yes it will be Americanized, but it will be entertaining.


    October 29, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    In other words, Freddie, his agent, and all of the Sounders doctors, trainers, owners and talent scouts are liars.

    The embarrassment is that you even posted this. Try actually talking with the people involved before falling for internet hysteria. You've lost points in my book.

  22. BishopvilleRed

    October 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I think your assessment of the talismanic Freddie's value to Arsenal is a little harsh. about 5 yeas ago, he was a very good cog in their wheel,

    That said I think you might have actually understated the wastefulness of this signing. Players recover from many injuries, but degenerative hips aren't one of them. He's done. Beyond done, and the highly athletic nature of MLS is going to sit poorly with his worn out bones. The suggestion mentioned in The Third Half 7, Nakamura, is an excellent choice if you could get him to come. If not, hold on to your money – Freddie's sure as hell not worth it!


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