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The summer rumors are starting to fly again, and mixed in with the big news from around the world, as always, are rumors of big name players coming to America. Goal.com’s Allen Ramsey takes a look at some players MLS should try to land at some point in the future.

By Allen Ramsey

 

I love the summer. While most soccer fans detest the lack of quality matches to watch, I find spending the warmer months watching international matches, watching Major League Soccer, and waiting on the latest transfer news a relaxing break from the weekly hustle and bustle of the European season.

 

One major part of that is watching the transfer wire. It’s always fun to see which 15-year-old star is going to be playing Carling Cup matches for Arsenal next season, which overpriced Dutch player will be on the bench at Real Madrid, who Chelsea will throw big money at to try and win the league, and what players will join teams where they will never see the field. (Aliaksandr Hleb anyone?)

 

But maybe the most exciting part of all the rumors, for me anyway, is seeing who will be linked with a move to Major League Soccer and knowing that for every ten names listed, maybe one will sign.

 

So I started thinking about who would fit in MLS among the big stars who could be falling out of favor, or just running out of time, at top level clubs.

 

While the use of designated players in MLS is a hotly debated topic, the signing of superstars like David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg has proven to be a huge boost for attendance numbers at the home grounds of those players and when they are on the road. Given that Ljungberg, a signing that many pundits questioned prior to the season, has worked out well for the Sounders it seems likely that more MLS teams will go chasing big names in the near future.

 

So here’s a list of some stars that MLS owners should take a close look at in the next few years. We’ll start with the players who have a reported interest in MLS as a possible home and work our way down to players who MLS should try and nab from the grasps of European giants.

 

Mikael Silvestre: Silvestre has been quoted as saying he wants to come MLS and play after his contract with Arsenal is up, and Arsenal fans might not be against him leaving a bit early. The former Manchester United defender did not have a great season for the Gunners, but would immediately become one of the top defenders in America’s top league.

 

Drawbacks: Silvestre is a big name to soccer fans, but not big enough for mainstream America to care. He wouldn’t bring in the crowds the way Ljungberg and Beckham do and would probably cost a nice chunk of change. Plus, Americans like offense and paying big money for a defender is not something many owners would be willing to do.

 

Probability: This one could happen pretty easily. Silvestre will be 33 when his Arsenal contract runs out and he is already showing signs of decline. I wouldn’t look for it to go down this summer, but next year is a real possibility. I’d say 70/30 we see Silvestre in MLS at some point.

 

Luis Figo: Figo fits the profile of an MLS DP. He’s a great player who still has a little bit in the tank, is a big enough name to draw crowds in U.S. cities, and could still be one of the top players in MLS for a few years.

 

The Inter star is out of favor and considering retirement, but has stated that he would be interested in continuing his career outside of Europe and even mentioned America as a possible destination. He may not have a long career in the U.S., but it’s hard to imagine that a player of Figo’s quality couldn’t have the same results as Guillermo Barros Schelotto. His deft passing and sublime skill on the ball could be enough to push a mid-level MLS club with a solid midfield partner, like Colorado, over the top.

 

Drawbacks: Figo may not take MLS seriously and could be viewing it as a retirement party. If that’s the case, he won’t be worth the massive amount of money that an MLS team will have to pay him.

 

Probability: I don’t see any reason to think that Figo wouldn’t come if MLS could offer enough money to compete with other smaller league that will be hoping to sign him, but for some reason I don’t see it happening. Give 70/30 he never sets foot on an MLS pitch.

 

Clarence Seedorf: According to examiner.com Seedorf told Philadelphia Union Nick Sakiewicz that he was interested in joining MLS. The rumor mill started churning immediately and suddenly all signs were pointing to the Union signing Seedorf, but Sakiewicz says there have been no talks with the Milan star.

 

Yet, this strikes me as one of those rumors that needs to be taken somewhat seriously. Seedorf is on the outs at Milan and is getting up there in age. But who would doubt his ability to step in and make an immediate impact on any MLS team?

 

Drawbacks: I don’t see one if he joins the Union and the Philly franchise could use a solid rock to build their team around and will have the money to spend.

 

Probability: I think the Union will make a play and Seedorf will hear them out, but that’s purely a guess. I’ll say 60/40 he stays in Europe but 80/20 that if he comes to MLS it’s to play for the Union.

 

Andrei Shevchenko: Out of favor at Milan after being bounced from Chelsea, the 32-year-old is not done with his career, but is clearly not the same player he once was.

 

So why would Shevchenko ever think of joining MLS? His wife.

 

Sheva is married to American model Kristen Pazik who was reportedly one of the reasons for his move to Chelsea. (She wanted to be in an English speaking country.) The couple was married in the U.S. and with Shevchenko probably on the move again sometime soon it would not be a huge surprise if they decided to come to America.

 

I’ll openly admit that Shevchenko is more likely to head to back to Ukranian football for a couple of year, but even at 35-years-old the Milan ace would be a solid player in MLS.

 

Drawbacks: Shevchenko isn’t ready to give up his hopes of top-flight footy, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t bode well for him moving to the U.S. anytime soon. The older he gets before joining the MLS, the less likely he will be to have a major impact.

 

Probability: I know it sounds crazy to many people, but I think Scevchenko will be on an MLS pitch in a couple of years. I’ll say 65/35 he’s in MLS by 2011.

 

Thierry Henry: There was a rumor of Henry being part of Barcelona’s MLS bid, but that has all fallen through. However, I still feel like the U.S. fans may get a chance to watch the former Gunner, and current Barca star gliding through MLS defenses in the future.

 

Henry has admitted his love for New York, a big factor, and he may be out of favor at Barcelona sooner than you would think. The Spanish champions are being linked with moves for a number of younger attacking players, and Henry could be the man on the outside looking in by the middle of next season.

 

Another factor for Henry is that he has very little left to prove. He’s won the World Cup, the English title, the Spanish title, and a most recently a Champions League Final. After such a stellar career, what would be wrong with coming to a place that he likes to make some extra cash and try to win yet another league?

 

Drawbacks: I see more than a few problems here. Money, for one. Henry may not require Beckham cash, but it would be close. For another, the city that I mentioned he loves already has a DP starting up front. While I wouldn’t compare Juan Pablo Angel to Thierry Henry, it’s fair to say that JPA has earned his money for the Red Bulls.

 

But if Henry expresses a desire to play in New York, MLS will find a way to get him signed, and someone will pony up the cash.

 

Probability: It’s unlikely at best. Henry is still too good to leave Europe and will probably be a productive member of a top league until he retires. I give 80/20 he moves back to England or to another top European league rather than coming to MLS.

 

Patrick Vieira: Vieira fits in the same category as Henry in that he has never said much about coming to the U.S., but he has long been a great ambassador for the game and it would not be a big shock to see him move to a smaller league to end his career.

 

Another contributing factor--  you guessed it--  his wife. Cheryl Vieira is from Trinidad, and while moving to the U.S. would not exactly be a move home, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.  

 

Drawbacks: I don’t see one with Vieira other than the normal MLS money issue. Vieira fits everything MLS management should be looking for in a DP. He’s a dependable player that has always had a high level of professionalism. He wants to be an ambassador for the game, and he would immediately be one of the best midfielders in the league.

 

Probability: I would say this is the least likely to happen. But everything fits so nicely. I’ll say 60/40 he doesn’t ever play in MLS.

 

This is all speculation of course, but it does seem clear that Major League Soccer is going to keep trying to sign big name players. While it could work out that no player from this list ever plays a minute in MLS, I personally think that at least one of them will be signed in the next couple of years. The influx of new teams with money to spend will certainly play a role, and wishful thinking never hurt anybody.

 

Allen Ramsey is an associate editor of Goal.com. The Short List runs every Wednesday afternoon on Goal.com.

 

For more on Major League Soccer visit Goal.com’s MLS page.

 

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