From Wall Street Journal:
First it was Frank Lampard . Then England captain Steven Gerrard decided to cross the pond. Now, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas is making noises about joining the wave of European stars departing for Major League Soccer.
“I have no problem saying that I would like to play in the U.S.,” Casillas said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this month.
So is this going to become a common occurrence? Big name European players who are reaching the twilight of their career will start making overtures to MLS as their European career winds down? I sure hope not. It makes MLS look like a joke. These players know that as soon as they say something along the lines of “I’d love to one day play in America” that the American media will whip MLS fans into a frenzy by making it seem like an imminent possibility. When in reality, these players are just trying to lay the groundwork so they can get one last big payday before they retire from football.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t get excited by players like Steven Gerrard or Robbie Keane coming over here to play in MLS. They are two of my favorite players and even an older version of them is more fun to watch than most of the players playing in MLS. However, it is starting to seem like European players are just using MLS to fund their imminent retirement. I don’t like to call the MLS a retirement league but if more and more European players do this then it will be hard to argue against that critique.
That’s not to say I’m completely against MLS bringing in quality European players who are past their prime. Players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are still very capable of playing in the English Premier League. They might not be able to start every game like they used to but they still have the quality and fitness to make the difference at the highest level. Having their quality in MLS, even if they aren’t in their prime, still helps the quality on the field. What I’m afraid of is players like Casillas who are heading to MLS not because of their age (33 is still pretty young for a keeper) but because they want to get overpaid by MLS instead of sitting on the bench on a European club team. Iker Casillas is no longer the goalkeeper he used to be. There’s no reason for MLS to want him. One thing American soccer consistently produces is quality goalkeepers so why bring in an overpriced one on the downward slope of his career? At some point MLS has to put it’s foot down and not just bring in European players based on their name alone. Just because a player is a big name in soccer doesn’t mean overpaying him to get him to an MLS team will benefit the league. A name doesn’t mean much if the player brings down the reputation of the league. Iker Casillas joining MLS will only harm MLS.