- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On August 25, 2010
- 3 Comments
- Charlie Davies, Landon Donovan, Marcus Tracy, Taylor Twellman
By Geoff Reid
The Whole saga regarding certain MLS players seeing out their contracts to go sign with Scandinavian clubs is a very interesting one. It’s something that has happened for a good number of years, so it’s not a new idea that has taken off. It has though rubbed some people the wrong way. Two outspoken critics of players making the move are Landon Donovan and Taylor Twellman. Another interesting fact is that it’s not just MLS players that have been making the move, but also former collegiate players that refuse to declare themselves available for eligibility in the Superdraft, and instead sign with clubs in Denmark, Norway or Sweden. Players such as Charlie Davis, Alejandro Bedoya, and Marcus Tracy are examples of those.
The issues that both Donovan and Twellman have with this is that they consider Scandinavian leagues no better then MLS in terms of quality and the players are essentially going there just for the chance to earn better money then stay in MLS. They agree and can accept that you can’t keep players that have a desire to play in the top leagues home when offers come in from clubs in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, or the Bundesliga. It’s where the best players in the world all play and everyone who’s played the game at any level dreams of getting to that stage.
As stated, the issues comes down to money according to Twellman. Now while that clearly has something to do with all of it, and you can’t blame anybody in no matter what profession of getting offered to do the same job at the same level with a higher pay check to take the opportunity, I believe there is more to it then just money.
I have always considered the Scandinavian leagues as a bridge to the top leagues in Europe and essentially the world. MLS has come on leaps and bounds and continues to grow while the standard of play is ever improving, however scouts of the big clubs are well aware of talent that often comes out of the Scandinavian leagues. Often clubs from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden concede that it’s impossible to keep their best players who came through their youth systems at those clubs. So in other words, for players such as Chris Rolfe who couldn’t showcase his talent on the world’s biggest stage at the world cup, he felt his best option of getting a crack at the top leagues and to show what he could do was to try the Danish Superliga.
On top of all that, there is also the chance for some clubs to compete in the UEFA Champions League and that means against the best players in the world. Unfortunately, MLS cannot compete against that. It’s just an unfortunate reality. One day we all hope to see MLS clubs compete in the Copa Libertadores and that would go a long way in player development, and keeping a good amount of players on our shores instead of heading for Scandinavia, especially because European scouts keep a close eye on South America’s version of the Champions League. But going back to getting the chance of competing in the UEFA Champions League group stages, would any other player pass up that opportunity?
Now, going back to the issue of collegiate players skipping MLS to sign for Scandinavian clubs is a problem for sure. One thing that can be argued is that would Charlie Davis have developed as quickly if he declared himself eligible for the Superdraft? Same can be asked of Bedoya as well. Even Benny Feilhaber to a certain extent although he went straight to Hamburg after college. Can we even ask the same question to Mike Grella by choosing Leeds United in England’s third tier instead of MLS? These are questions that don’t have a straight forward answer.
One thing for sure is that for all the criticism these leagues get from players such as Donovan and Twellman is a bit too much. For example, after Feilhaber’s disaster at Derby County where it just wasn’t the right club for anybody, not just him, he resurrected his career in Denmark and managed to get himself back into Bob Bradley’s thoughts and eventually made the trip to South Africa. Personally, I feel Freddy Adu making a move to Denmark wouldn’t be the worst decision he could make, and would be a far better fit then Greece for sure. It worked for Feilhaber.
There are more clubs from the top European leagues looking at MLS players then ever before such as Everton and Fulham and that will continue to grow, so the outcome looks like less players will be making the move to Scandinavia. It’s just nice for players to always have that option as well as going the route of our domestic league. From personal experience, and granted I was never ever going to come close to playing professional at any level, I was recommended if I wanted to continue playing and improving after college NCAA division three level to go to Norway or Sweden and try to see if I could play in their amateur leagues. The idea sounded very appealing at the time, and still does to a point, but that would have included a whole lot of paperwork amongst other things that make you question if it was really worth it. The level is clearly high in those countries from grassroots level up to professional so any player that chooses to head over in that direction wouldn’t be the worst thing they do.