As MLS continues to gain legitimacy as a quality landing spot for world soccer talent, more European stars will seriously consider North America clubs. While David Beckham's time in Los Angeles didn't quite stick to the script, legitimate world superstar Thierry Henry made his way to the New York Red Bulls last year. A report today from MLSSoccer.com indicates that fellow countryman Patrick Vieira, 34, would like to do the same once his Manchester City contract is up.
More after the jump...
"For me, these will be the last six months in a high-level European club, and after the experience I'd like the United States," Vieira said. "I also spoke with my friend (Youri) Djorkaeff, he has played in MLS and he convinced me."
The former French international Djorkaeff played an instrumental part in Henry’s arrival in MLS last year. Vieira, meanwhile, has started just two games this season for Manchester City and has one goal to show for his efforts. Last month he expressed discontent about his current predicament, where he struggles for playing time against the likes of starters Yaya Touré and Carlos Tevez.
"Yes, of course, I'm frustrated, but I'm not the only one," Vieira told ESPN Soccernet last month. "When you see the squad and how big it is, of course many players will be disappointed and frustrated not to play that often."
Those of you not abreast of the recent history of Man City, once they were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group in August 2008, they became one of the richest sides in the world and it seemed that they were involved in almost every transfer rumor. Robinho was signed from Real Madrid for a U.K. record fee of £32.5 million, and well over £100 million was devoted to the likes of Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and others. This may have bolstered the club's talent, but buying players willy-nilly does not a champion make. This past summer saw a similar buying spree.
Vieira's right - Man City has too many toys and he feels that he still has some life left in him. Making a move to a MLS side like New York would have many benefits, for the player, the club and the league.
If he were to join New York, the midfielder would likely get that much-craved playing time. Fellow Frenchman and former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry would welcome him with open arms, perhaps reliving some of the magic of the early to mid '00s Gunners teams. It was in North London where Vieira had his most success, playing for Arsenal from 1996 to 2005. Over 279 appearances, he netted 29 goals. He was also the captain on the historic '03-'04 unbeaten team, effectively putting his early disciplinary problems behind him.
But was then and this is now.
There must be a reason why Man City isn't giving Vieira the minutes, and it's no doubt because his career is on the decline. Would he make a great addition to the Red Bulls? Probably, but his top-flight soccer days are over. MLS may be gaining traction and upping the ante on the world stage, but it is not the English Premier League, and the New York Red Bulls are not a UEFA Champions League-level club.
Should the Union take a chance on Vieira? It's a tough question indeed, but it's one that has a clear answer. No.
For a side that is relatively young and is headed in the right direction, growing from within is the right way to go. Allocating a large chunk of the team's salary (ie- Designated Player money) for an over-the-hill and possibly broken star past his glory days does not make financial sense. It can be argued that having high caliber veteran in the lineup is worth it for the intangibles that he may add, but at the end of the day intangibles are largely overrated.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out because at this point it's all talk and speculation. If Vieira does end up in the MLS, whether with New York or any other club, there will be one very immediate benefit - that Major League Soccer is a viable landing spot for top stars from Europe. That's a very good thing for growth and exposure.