Much to the delight of AZ Alkmaar fans, Jozy Altidore will be dominating Eredivise defenses for a bit longer, as AZ Sporting Director Earnie Stewart has ruled out a potential January move for the United States international.
"No, I doubt it, no," Stewart said to Goal.com when asked if Altidore would be headed elsewhere this month.
Altidore has impressed in his second season with AZ, scoring 15 goals in 19 league appearances and 19 goals in 26 games across all competitions. He is currently second in the Eredivisie Golden Boot race, and his scoring displays this season have captivated the attention of not only American fans but scouts from top European sides as well. It was rumored that Altidore could be on his way to a team in England or Germany before the January transfer window closes but based on Stewart's comments, that looks very unlikely.
Stewart also clarified his comments about Altidore being linked with a Russian club last summer. In December, Stewart publicly acknowledged on AZ's official website that a Russian top-flight club had made a last-minute, 8 million euro bid for Altidore but that the move was rejected because there wouldn't be enough time to bring in a suitable replacement.
Stewart explained that he had no formal knowledge of the team but that the offer was brought to him by Altidore's U.S.-based agent, Lyle Yorks.
"I have no idea which team it was, I heard through his agent that it was something that was on Jozy's mind," Stewart stated. "So we spoke about that briefly and quickly, but that's not something that was on his [Jozy's] mind and a promise that I made to him as a player is that first he'd have a home, that he'd understand his role and that things could progress from there.
"It was too soon [into his time at AZ], it wasn't important what kind of team it was."
James Grant, the agency that employs Yorks, stated that he was unavailable for comment due to travel.
While Altidore might remain with AZ for the rest of the Eredivisie season, Stewart did not rule out the club being open to selling the 23-year-old striker in the summer window.
"Looking forward to the summer, I guess anything is possible, but it's not something that we're focused on," Stewart explained. "The only thing we're focused on is developing players until they get better and once they get better, obviously there's going to be interest at some point. If things are right for the club and for the player, we'll jump on that. Right now, looking that far ahead is a bit premature."
Stewart assesses that Altidore has the potential to play in any of Europe's major leagues based on his progress at AZ. After Altidore had an unstable time with Villarreal, being loaned to three clubs, Stewart believes that he has finally been able to develop at AZ due to the club's stable environment.
"He's really progressed as a player and has looked fantastic," Stewart said. "He's become an all-around player. He was a very good talent and player [before he came to AZ], but now he's an even better player because of all of his experiences. When you understand your role, it makes it a lot easier.
"The most important thing is understanding your role within your team. That's where he's had the most progression and that's not only with our team but whatever team he plays with in the future."
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A former top U.S. international himself, Stewart briefly touched on Jurgen Klinsmann's critical remarks about Altidore, who was pulled out of the United States' October World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala due to the U.S. boss questioning his work ethic.
"The only thing I know about is Jozy, that he wasn't called into a few games, but I think that had to do more with the club than the national team," Stewart said. "We didn't let him go and he [Klinsmann] wasn't too pleased about it at that time. I think it had something to do with it."
Stewart wouldn't comment about Klinsmann recently questioning the career paths of star midfielders Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
"The other stuff isn't my concern but obviously those three players are fantastic assets for American football and soccer," he said. "They are potentially the best three that they have running out there."