Almiron, Giovinco and the top 10 designated player signings in MLS history

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Brett Davis
Major League Soccer sold two of the biggest stars to ever pass through the league, and Goal looks back at how they rank with all-time DP signings

Miguel Almiron and Sebastian Giovinco, two of the most exciting and effective players in Major League Soccer history, both said goodbye to MLS on the same day, each completing transfers during what has been a busy offseason of transfers for the league.

Almiron and Giovinco leave having led their respective teams to MLS Cup titles, and with each living up to the high expectations that arrived with them. They were both high-profile designated player signings, and each dominated the league with their own unique attacking styles.

How do they measure up compared to some of the best DP signings in MLS history? You can definitely make the argument that they are two of the best DP signings ever, if not the very best. Giovinco's MVP season in 2015 was arguably the best individual season in league history, while Almiron's two-year stint with Atlanta United saw him emerge as the Five Stripes' most dangerous player.

Measuring the impact of designated player signings goes beyond wins and losses and trophies. There have been players who secured trophies, but also made a major impact in terms of marketing and boosting the visibility of teams in certain markets, as well as visibility internationally.

For the purposes of this list of top designated players, we will focus solely on players who arrived in MLS as DP signings, and excluding all players who began their MLS careers on non-DP contracts. That leaves out the likes of Landon Donovan and Bradley Wright-Phillips, among others. We are also focusing on players with multiple MLS seasons under their belts, so Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney will have to wait to work their way onto this list.

Here are the top 10 best DP signings in MLS history:

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    #10 Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

    When Henry arrived at Red Bull Arena, the New York Red Bulls had just recently moved into their new stadium, and they badly needed a star to help them rebuild their fan base. He wasn't able to help the Red Bulls end their MLS Cup drought, but he did help them win their first piece of silverware (the 2013 Supporters' Shield) and finished his five-year stint with the Red Bulls as the leading assist man in team history.
  2. Jennifer Buchanan

    #9 Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders)

    When the Uruguayan playmaker arrived in 2016, the Seattle Sounders were a mess, having recently fired then-coach Sigi Schmid and trying desperately to turn things around. Lodeiro helped the Sounders regroup and eventually win the 2016 MLS Cup final. Lodeiro's three-year stint in Seattle saw the Sounders return to the MLS Cup final in 2017 and reach the playoffs yet again in 2018. He has delivered 19 goals and 36 assists in regular season action for the Sounders.
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    #8 Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls)

    The Colombian striker was one of the league's first designated player signings, arriving in 2007, the same year David Beckham landed in Los Angeles. Though his arrival didn't bring the same level of international fanfare, Angel became a fan favorite with the New York Red Bulls by delivering goals for four straight years and helping the Red Bulls reach the MLS Cup final in 2008. He left the Red Bulls after scoring 62 goals in four seasons, a team record that stood until Bradley Wright-Phillips broke it.
  4. Kevin C. Cox

    #7 Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)

    No player in MLS history has had a better two-year run than Martinez, who shattered the single-season goal-scoring record, notching 31 strikes to help Atlanta United win the MLS Cup title. Martinez's 50 goals in two seasons is an unmatched run, and his status as the face of the franchise helps put him high on this list after just two seasons. If he can add a few more titles to his total, Martinez could be topping this list in a few years.
  5. Troy Wayrynen

    #6 Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

    Far from a household name when he arrived in MLS in 2013, Valeri has become a fan favorite in Portland and around the league because of his consistent excellence over the past six seasons. The 2017 MLS MVP, Valeri helped the Timbers win the 2015 MLS Cup title, and helped the Timbers return to the final in 2018. A three-time MLS Best XI selection, Valeri has consistently been in the Top 15 in jersey sales in MLS. He has compiled 68 goals and 65 assists in six seasons in MLS.
  6. Brad Penner

    #5 David Villa (New York City FC)

    The World Cup-winning Spanish striker was everything New York City FC could have hoped for when it made Villa its first player signing. He fully embraced being in New York City, giving the team a much-needed marketing figurehead. More importantly, Villa produced on the field, delivering 77 goals in four seasons, including the 23 scored during his MVP season in 2016. Though he wasn't able to lead NYCFC to postseason success, he helped the team find its footing in a tough New York market, and establish a good reputation outside the United States.
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    #4 David Beckham (LA Galaxy)

    If we were talking simply on-field performance, Beckham wouldn't have cracked the top 10 on this list, but when you consider the significance of Beckham's arrival in MLS, what it meant for the league's global identity, and the fact it paved the way for future generations of designated players, it's tough not to consider Beckham as the most impactful DP signing in league history. To be fair, Beckham did produce on the field as well, helping the Galaxy to MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012, a dramatic turnaround from the rough early years of Beckham's time with the Galaxy. 
  8. Vincent Carchietta/USA Today

    #3 Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)

    A surprise arrival from Juventus in 2015, Giovinco made a big impression from the start, posting an MVP season in his first campaign before going on to help TFC reach consecutive MLS Cup finals. You can argue that Giovinco's best MLS form was some of the best soccer ever played by any player in MLS history, displaying dazzling skill that helped win back fans in Toronto, and laid the groundwork for an MLS Cup-winning season in 2017. The final season didn't go as planned, but his efforts in helping TFC reach the Concacaf Champions League final shouldn't be forgotten.
  9. #2 Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United)

    In terms of investment there has never been a better return than the one Atlanta United enjoyed on the $8 million (£6m) transfer fee it paid to buy Almiron from Lanus. That $8m turned into an MLS Cup title and $26 million transfer to Newcastle United, along with some of the biggest jersey sales in MLS over the past two seasons. Almiron was dazzling playmaker with the speed and skill to terrorize opposing defenses, and the megawatt smile to win fans over. There's little doubt that he would have challenged for the top spot on this list if he had stuck around MLS longer, but the record-breaking fee Newcastle paid for him puts him close to the top.
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    #1 Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

    In terms of on-field production, no player ever boasted a better career in MLS than Keane, who was a dominating force for most of his six seasons with the LA Galaxy. He helped the Galaxy win three MLS Cup titles, delivering 83 goals and 45 assists, capturing the league MVP award in 2014. He was the leading figure on the biggest dynasty in MLS history.