Pure speculation: Sifting through possible Clint Dempsey destinations

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Whenever Clint Dempsey scores in the Premier League (which has been happening a lot, lately), you’re likely to hear about his need to move to a bigger club. In more excitable circles, you might hear incredulity that one of Europe’s giants hasn’t already pounced. You’re also likely to hear about his midnight ride to Lexington and Concord.

Though it’s easy to see why Americans are proud of Dempsey’s accomplishments, it’s just as easy to see why he’s still at Fulham. It’s a good club in a big city where the Dempsey family has put down roots. Clint and his wife Bethany have two young children. Packing up and relocating his family (or being apart from them for much of the year) would have to come with significant professional rewards.

It’s no secret those rewards are Champions League soccer, which is problematic. Only 32 clubs qualify for the tournament, and until the playoff rounds run their course in late summer, only 21 teams will have nailed down spots in group stage.

We can use yesterday’s 2012-13 primer as a guide to which clubs might be on Dempsey’s radar (and vice versa). Although 12 leagues get teams straight into Champions League, Dempsey is unlikely to move to a place like Copenhagen just because the Danish club has qualified. And even though a league like Portugal’s has had recent success, it’s difficult to see Dempsey leaving London for a league outside the former Big Five – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

That leaves only 13 target, unless Dempsey’s willing to take the chance of moving to a club that has to play their way in. Given Spain and Italy’s play-in candidates didn’t make it to group phase this year, that might be too risky.

We can also cross-off clubs whose squads are so packed they either won’t have interest or, if Dempsey moves, he might not play. Although it’s difficult to see Dempsey shying away from a challenge, it’s also difficult to see him moving to a place like Bayern Munich, where he could spend the year stranded if Jupp Heynckes doesn’t take a shine to him.

So who does that leave? As it currently stands, there are seven clubs that could be a fit, listed here from “Wow, that would work” to “That might be wishful thinking”:

Club Why

Juventus
Italy’s leaders have no consistent goalscoring threat. Dempsey possesses the guile to succeed in Italy and has the versatility to play a number of different roles for Antonio Conte. And although things like this shouldn’t matter, Michael Bradley’s success at Chievo helped crack a re-erected glass ceiling (and perhaps made people forget Oguchi Onyewu’s struggles at Milan).

Schalke
Though there isn’t a clear need for Dempsey in Gelsenkirchen, his acquisition would give the Royal Blues cover at all four of their attacking positions. You could also see Dempsey wrestle a spot away from Jefferson Farfán or José Manuel Jurado. With questions surrounding Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s future at the club and Raúl set to turn 35 in June, Dempsey makes a lot of sense for Huub Stevens’ attack.

Málaga
Sheikh Abdullah al Thani’s project is ahead of schedule. The club wanted to take a deliberate route to becoming a European power, but sitting third in Spain, there might be the urge to accelerate plans should Champions League soccer accompany the 2012-13 season. One of Málaga’s biggest needs: Goals. Though their attack is fourth most-prolific in Spain, the Andalusians lack a double-digit goalscorer.

Milan
The Rossoneri aren’t lacking for goals, having scored 61 times in league, but 23 of those tallies have come through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with an opportunistic Antonio Nocerino snatching an uncharacteristic (and probably, unrepeatable) nine goals. The non-Ibra attackers in Max Allegri’s rotation (Robinho, Kevin Prince-Boateng, Stephan El Shaarawy, Alexadre Pato and Antonio Cassano) have combined for only 14 league goals in 78 appearances.

Manchester City
City’s roster is stacked, but as we were reminded by their January acquisition of David Pizarro, the Citizens aren’t shy about adding new blood at already deep positions. But as we approach the end of the season, it’s unclear City are that deep in attack. With the problems surrounding Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tévez coupling the ineffectiveness of David Silva and Samir Nasri, City find themselves in desperate need of a player like Clint Dempsey.

Paris Saint-Germain
As is the case with Milan and City, there’s a crowd at PSG. This weekend they started Jeremy Menez, Nene, and Javier Pastore in their attacking positions, and while that doesn’t exactly scream need, you can’t help but wonder how Dempsey would bolster a side that chose to start Menez as their central forward. Carlo Ancelotti also has Kevin Gameiro and Guillaume Hoarau in attack, but about to embark on a four-competition season, PSG could use the depth and versatility Dempsey provides.

Arsenal
While Arsenal may be the fans’ choice (and probably Dempsey’s, as it would allow him to stay in London), there are a number of reasons to think this won’t happen. The biggest: Arsenal could have bought Dempsey at any point. Perhaps Dempsey’s huge goal haul has changed Arsene Wenger’s mind, and as we saw with the Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker buys, the Arsenal boss isn’t above taking up options previously passed over. But even if there’s been a change of heart, Arsenal’s stocked with other options at Dempsey’s positions: Gervinho, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Yossi Benayoun (if Arsenal keep him), Tomas Rosicky and (when Jack Wilshere returns) perhaps Mikel Arteta.