On the third day of the post Moyesian era at Manchester United comes word from club chief executive Ed Woodward that at least two transfer deals have “provisionally been put in place.”
The report comes to us from The Guardian and notes that Woodward is confident of the deals going through but would not reveal the players involved.
The consensus, however, is that one of those players is Southampton sensation Luke Shaw.
The 18-year-old specimen of a left-back has been bringing St. Mary’s Stadium to its feet with his impressive performances over the last two years. He’s a player who Southampton are desperate to keep and even he himself has even noted the strong affinity for his youth club but many feel this is quickly becoming a situation where the player has outgrown the club.
Young players moving on from modestly sized clubs to world super powers is a bittersweet reality of top-tier football. Yet, inevitably, the lure of tripling your wages to over $160,000 per week is a difficult one to overlook. Which is the sum United appears willing to pony up for the man (kid?) who most believe is primed to redefine the left-back spot for England. Along with the wage uptick comes a hefty $50 million transfer fee to Southampton, to thank them for raising yet another incredibly gifted player (see, e.g. Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain).
Who that elusive second player “in place” for United is more difficult to determine. The want-list is long and includes the likes of Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, Barcelona playmaker Cesc Fabregas, Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus and holding midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, Bayern Munich center midfielder Toni Kroos and Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho.
From a need-based perspective, it’s all about center midfielders (and center-backs) for United. Carvalho and Kroos look the most likely given their respective situations but don’t discount Fabregas making his way back to the Premier League after close friend Robin van Persie revealed that he wanted last year’s deal with United to go through.
Whether that opinion remains in tact following the Red Devils failure to qualify for next year’s Champions League remains to be seen. That question, of course, will surround any player rumored to be joining United to which the easy responses are: a) United will always be a ‘big club’, b) they’re likely to be back in Europe within the next year, and c) they have big, big money.
Just how much money are we talking about?
Most believe the number to be well north of $200 million and possibly exceeding the $300 million mark. Which is why need-based perspectives don’t necessarily take the cake for transfer targets. Landing a big name striker will always be the big draw. Cue Cavani.
The speculation today is that, assuming PSG are willing to part with the Uruguayan striker, United are happy to toss big bucks their way. As in over $100 million. If that feels like an absurd number for a 27-year-old striker who has endured a season of highs and lows in Paris, that’s because it is. But if United are to convince PSG to deal Cavani they’ll need to hand them a bit of profit, which means outdoing the $88.5 million they coughed up to purchase the striker from Napoli last summer.
The situation then becomes, what to do with van Persie and Rooney?
Given the latter’s re-signing with United this spring, he won’t be going anywhere. The former’s future, however, is wide open. The wrong side of 30-years-old and proving himself injury prone yet again this season, don’t be surprised if van Persie moves elsewhere this summer, especially considering the striking needs of a big club in La Liga that was recently granted a reprieve on a transfer ban.
This is all the calm before the storm that will be Manchester United’s summer of 2014. Expect big money, big changes and new faces.
As our attention switches from international football back to the club game, a new article coming out of Michigan recalls where American soccer was when the American soccer world hit pause for the World Cup in June.
That’s when the United States Soccer Federation rejected billionaire businessman Rocco Commisso’s plea for a 10-year runway to bring the North American Soccer League to Division 1 league status by virtue of a $500 million investment proposal.
As if on cue, a John Niyo article in The Detroit News drags the so-called “closed system” back to the forefront, and his article on National Premier Soccer League side Detroit City FC makes an interesting case.
DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further, it’s important to note I operate a club in the same league as Detroit City, and very much admire how they’ve built what they’ve built there. That said, my opinions may be buttressed by that fact but are not birthed by bias.
The would-be Cliffs Notes go something like this: Detroit City FC wants to move from the short-season, semi-pro National Premier Soccer League to a fully professional league with a longer season. The rub is that DCFC currently only has one path and it’s one neither they nor the lion’s share of their supporters would support at the given time.
That’s largely because the U.S. Soccer Federation has only sanctioned two options above the NPSL: The United Soccer League and Major League Soccer. If DCFC doesn’t want to play a part in either of those organizations, it has no other current option. And while Detroit City has continued to bring huge crowds to its restored Keyworth Stadium whether NPSL matches or friendlies against the likes of FC St. Pauli, Necaxa, or Venezia, its next step is currently stuck in a holding pattern despite the club’s achievements.
And — and this is where Commisso’s offer comes back into play — the USSF has no reason to sanction any league that doesn’t go by its current divisional guidelines, which demand a very wealthy owner and specific stadium requirements amongst other things. Infrastructure and fan support can be built, but asking these clubs to hand themselves over to someone with deeper pockets simply to meet a standard is real 2×4 to the gut.
“What you’re doing is awesome, but imagine if instead of you owning all of your success, you found a wealthier person to help you meet our standards?”
Put plainly, there are 172 clubs in the NPSL and Premier Development League alone, few of whom are in markets with MLS teams. Even eliminating the PDL teams with close relationships to MLS and the USL (The USL owns the PDL), and there are still well over 100 teams in play. Sure, some of those may not have the ambition to grow higher, but they are also currently also shackled by having to compete against the former NASL teams who had no alternative outside of the USL once their Division 2 league shut down last winter.
So Niyo’s article asks a question many have posited in the realms of social media: Why not go outside the structure of FIFA?
Building a league outside the constraints of U.S. Soccer’s “Professional League Standards” could be one option for remaining NASL owners — New York, Miami and Jacksonville — and NPSL teams that are looking to grow pro. Detroit City FC was one of at least a half-dozen NPSL teams — clubs from Boston, Phoenix, Virginia Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. among them — poised to join the NASL with letters of intent last fall. But whatever path a new league pursues, it’ll require strength in numbers — at least 10 or 12 teams — and a geography that makes sense.
It’s a major risk, one that certainly is lined with the hopes that the influencers and money people behind the USSF might blink at significant competition.
But it still requires significant salesmanship: Getting top-notch players to commit to a league which several hampers their international aspirations is a hard sell (The NASL had capped players from 27 caps heading into the 2016 season).
Are there enough of the renegade rich to self-sustain a league outside of the MLS-USL set-up, and even get to sanctioning? Probably, as evidenced by Commisso’s belief that he’d be able to go from multi-club ownership of a D-1 NASL to 10 owners within a decade.
So would that same group of risk takers be willing to do it outside of USSF sanctioning, without name players?
That’s where DCFC’s status as an outlier might really come into play. For everyone tooting the proverbial horn of MLS’ rapid and impressive evolution in quality — academies and foreign recruitment alike have made the league very entertaining — there’s no doubt that players with the name quality of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Carlos Vela still put butts in seats.
Consider this: For all its growth, MLS’ top performing players remain almost overwhelmingly foreign-developed. Using an advanced rating site like WhoScored, the Top 20 finds only two players with any sort of U.S. or Canadian development in their lockers (and that’s being gracious with Kei Kamara, who came to U.S. for college at the age of 20).
You get to No. 23 before another U.S. developed player, Sean Davis, hits the list. It only gets to seven by No. 40 if you allow foreign-born players who largely grew their games in college soccer (including Mark-Anthony Kaye from TFC’s Academy and York University in Ontario).
Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of quality American and foreign talent which would benefit from more jobs.
As DCFC CEO Sean Mann says in The Detroit News piece: “It was frustrating: Why are there so many obstacles? We’re not zealots. We’re not crusaders to reform American soccer. We just want to play at a higher level. We want to naturally grow. And U.S. soccer doesn’t allow that.”
This nation is gigantic, and there are few fans out there who genuinely believe MLS will stop expanding any time soon. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the long play is to one day announce a knockoff of promotion and relegation within the confines of the Major League Soccer umbrella.
The question isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong. Let’s face it: the answers seem likely to fall along the lines of one’s political alliances. Those who fear the risks of the new and unusual will worry about short-circuiting the current path, while the other side will beg to give ideals and theories a chance at practice in the name of something better.
But something does have to change. Soon, more and more major success stories are going to be held short of their goals because of the current structure. Whether that’s Detroit City or Chattanooga seeking a next level and not finding it, or the Sacramento Republic not getting its shot at MLS, or a fan base and market like Columbus getting waylaid by a slimy contract and inaction from on high, they will keep coming into your news feed.
And if we keep making the mistake of letting these conversations regress to simple “pro-rel” banter, then we’re all going to lose. And it’s going to take a bunch of risk takers who put aside their egos to find common ground.
Here’s a quick way to put the American soccer landscape in perspective: Look at a map. As this sport continues to grow, and the country’s young players are coached and encouraged by generations of fans who were coached and encouraged by fans themselves, the markets for summer sporting entertainment will continue to explode in the United States (with only baseball to compete with them thanks to the given calendar implemented by the USSF).
Are there more than 26 markets fit to host a top-tier side? Yep. Are there more than the 60-plus when tossing in USL (but subtracting MLS reserve sides)? Yep.
And if Commisso’s offer tells us anything, anything at all, it’s that there are figures out there who love the game and have an appetite for something not currently satisfied by the current structure. So either MLS or the USSF is going to announce its plan for a much bigger league with more than a couple dozen markets, or someone is going to challenge from the outside (Of course, both could happen and that would be very intriguing).
Either way, let’s hope it happens before the next guys who want to take up Detroit City’s example decide they’d rather not rattle their skulls against an unnecessary ceiling.
What’s the solution given the current power and success of the USSF? Your takes are welcome.
Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.
Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).
And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.
Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.
The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:
“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.
“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.
“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”
Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.