The USA captain played overseas for six and a half seasons and did not reach the Champions League stage, but he says he has no regrets ahead of his move back to MLS.Clint Dempsey never reached his stated goal of playing in the UEFA Champions League, and barring a loan to a top-tier team or another shocking transfer in his playing career, it's not going to happen.
No matter, as Dempsey says he is perfectly fine with the way things have played out for him.
The 30-year-old Dempsey, who started his career with the New England Revolution, has returned to MLS after six and a half seasons in Europe, where he helped Fulham and Tottenham to great seasons by team standards but short of the grand stage of the Champions League. The USA captain says he has "no regrets" over his stunning move from Tottenham to the Seattle Sounders, with whom he signed as a Designated Player over the weekend.
"I had a great time in Europe," Dempsey said at his introductory press conference in Seattle Monday afternoon. "I was at Fulham, we did some great things there, got to a Europa League final, had the highest finish ever in the league table finishing seventh. At Tottenham, got to the highest point total that they've ever had, 72 points in a season. So I look back with no regrets. I thought my time over there, if you want to crunch the numbers, I was successful. And I want to continue doing the same here.
"It was a goal of mine to play in the Champions League, and last season we finished [Tottenham's] highest point total ever. Normally 72 points, it would've got you Champions League and maybe that's something they can accomplish. I had two more years there, but I've been in Europe for six and a half years, and I just wanted to come home."
Dempsey's move from top-level Premier League club to MLS seemingly goes against what Jurgen Klinsmann has preached for his players, and Dempsey said that he has yet to discuss the transfer with the USA coach. He is not anticipating a problem, nor is he anticipating a drop in his form just because he is taking a perceived step down by leaving Europe to come play in the United States.
"I haven't had the opportunity to really sit down and talk to him about everything that's gone on," Dempsey said. "I've been busy with my family and really thinking about the decision and trying to make the best decision possible for us. It's something that we will talk about, but like I spoke with [Sounders manager Sigi Schmid], I'm coming here and I'm still going to have that pressure to succeed, pushing me every day to make sure that I can be the best player I can be and help the team be the best team they can be. I'm not going to let up or slow down or slack.
"We'll have those discussions, but from my standpoint I don't see there being a difference there, because there's players still in MLS that get called into camp, and they still perform at a high level. I expect to continue doing the same."
Dempsey added that after such a lengthy time overseas, his desire increasingly grew to return to the USA, and he wanted to do so while he was still playing at the peak of his powers.
"I had two more years on my contract," Dempsey said. "I was already starting to get the itch to be honest. I wanted to come back to the States. I just missed being in America. I wanted to help continue the growth of the game here, and you can't help the growth of the game if you come back and don't perform.
"When I decided to come back to this league, I wanted to make an impact. I want to do a good job. I don't want to come and be past it and not be able to make a difference in games. I want to win things, I'm still going to work as hard as ever to make sure my game is at the highest level possible."