The end of the MLS season and the pending start of the January transfer window always brings speculative rumors of the next “stars” of the sport who will make the leap to Major League Soccer. Last year players such as Michael Bradley, Jermaine Defoe, Charlie Davies and Marco Pappa were some of the big names who made their move from European leagues. The MLS is no longer just attracting players in the twilight of their careers but becoming a transitional league, a massive improvement in this writer’s opinion, in which young players can develop (i.e. Deandre Yedlin), a destination for established U.S. national players (i.e. Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley) and internationals looking for a new challenge can find it (i.e. Frank Lampard, David Villa and Obafemi Martins). Here are five players currently in Europe who should look at their next move to be across the pond to MLS.
Fernando Torres – The fall from grace for Torres has come swiftly. After scoring 23 goals in the 2012-2013 campaign with Chelsea, Torres regressed and scored only 13 last season and was sold to AC Milan during the summer transfer window. So far this campaign Torres has found himself on the bench or coming on as a substitute late in games for a team not even contending in Serie A. His old team Atletico Madrid has already said they have no interest in him and now that he has worn out his welcome with some top clubs in England, there aren’t very many places for Torres to go except to try his hand at resurrecting his career in MLS, similar to what Kaka will attempt to do next year with expansion club Orlando City. Torres would be welcomed with open arms in MLS, and would join fellow former Spanish national team member, David Villa, in making the leap over the Atlantic. Torres will be 31 in the spring, meaning he could spend a few seasons recapturing his goal scoring prowess while winning over some new fans and helping to continue to build the league’s new reputation as a destination league.
Jozy Altidore – Jurgen Klinsmann wants U.S. national team players to test themselves abroad in the best leagues in the world. Unfortunately, Altidore has struggled to catch on with clubs in England and Spain that will provide him with the significant minutes to develop and stay sharp on the field. He had a successful campaign in the Dutch league playing for AZ Alkmaar for two seasons, leading the team in goals both campaigns, proving he can play in Europe. Altidore’s trouble has been the ability to prove in the big European leagues that he belongs and deserves a regular starting spot. Currently on a streak of having only scored one goal in one and a half seasons with Sunderland, after scoring 38 in the Eredivisie the previous two seasons, has started discussions on whether he should follow fellow national team players, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley’s moves to MLS. If he plays anywhere near his USMNT form, he will blossom and become a face of the league here for years to come, after all he is still only 25.
David Ngog – Not the A list name that a lot of soccer fans in the US would get excited about seeing come over, however, the French national player would be an intriguing addition to MLS. The French striker played at every youth national level in France, however, has not made a national team appearance yet, and at 25, many believe his time will not come. He came up through the Paris Saint-Germaine youth system and spotted by Liverpool who snatched him up, expecting big things from the youngster. Unfortunately, Ngog never quite panned out at Anfield who eventually sold him to Bolton Wanderers in 2011 who were led by none other than new Houston Dynamo Coach, Owen Coyle, at the time. Ngog has since moved on and made his return to France this year playing for Stade de Reims, where he has started eight of the team’s 18 games this season, including the last two games. He is trying to find his form, however, if his return to France does not pan out, a reunion with Coyle in Houston may not be out of the realm of possibility. Moving to MLS would give this once promising French striker the opportunity to resurrect his career the way Bradley Wright Phillips has done with the New York Red Bull or Obafemi Martins with Seattle Sounders.
Pablo Osvaldo – Italian national striker, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo is an interesting candidate.When called up to the Italian national team he does nothing but score goals when given the opportunity, however, normally finds himself buried behind Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Giuseppe Rossi and recently players such as Ciro Immoble and Simone Zaza. Osvaldo is owned by England’s Southampton, however has spent the past two seasons on loan playing for Juventus and Inter Milan, respectively. Much like his place on the national team, he hasn’t been able to find a consistent role on either of his two loan spells. He has scored six goals in 16 games for Inter this season and there is probably a better chance of an Italian team buying Osvaldo in the summer. That said, teams such as Montreal or Vancouver, who struggled to find the back of the net in 2014, may want to elect to give a chance to, what will be a 29 year old when the MLS season begins, a player looking to find consistent minutes on the field and prove that he can carry the scoring load for any team.
Carlos Vela – The least likely to make the move to MLS, but perhaps the most intriguing. Vela has the type of wild card attitude that makes his inclusion on this list almost predictable. Vela was tabbed as a future star of the Mexican national team, even making the 2010 World Cup squad. However, he was suspended for six months for his role in a team party the summer of 2010 leading to a deteriorating relationship with the team, fans, press and federation that led to refusing call ups to the national team after an appearance in a Friendly in February 2011. While Vela has missed time with the Mexican team, his career in Europe seemed to bottom out as Arsenal gave up on him. He was loaned out to Real Sociedad and immediately took a liking of his new club, which was evident by his play on the field. Vela is now currently on quite a pace, winning La Liga Player of the Month honors for November after scoring four goals and leading his team through a four game unbeaten streak and scoring two goals in a friendly against the Netherlands in his return to the Mexican national team. Vela is only 25 and if he is thinking of a move away from Sociedad, this may be the year to do so as the team has a new manager, the team sits closer to relegation than to a spot in Europe next season, and now that he is on the Mexican team radar, a move to MLS may provide him with the opportunity to play close to home.
Feel free to discuss this and other footy related articles with thousands of fans at /r/football.
Have you tuned into Last Word On Sports Radio? LWOS is pleased to bring you 24/7 sports radio to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. What are you waiting for?