CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: Nicolas Anelka of France gestures in frustration during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between Uruguay and France at Green Point Stadium on June 11, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
The loss of Justin Mapp in the expansion draft to me wasn't a huge loss, Mapp is replaceable by younger talent, however, the Union regardless have positions that they need to fill over the off-season. The Union (and MLS in general) have been linked to several high profile names in other soccer leagues around the world. I figured I might as well break down a few of the names that have more specifically linked to the Union.
Now, recent reports have linked both Michael Thurk and Alessandro Del Piero with moves to the MLS, even more specifically, Thurk specifically has been linked to the Philadelphia Union. While Del Piero has been considered for a move to MLS and hasn't been specifically linked to the Union (yet). I however decided to step in and be the voice of sanity for a moment here.
First of all, I need to clear up something, I have nothing against the Union signing players with good pedigrees and some experience under their belt. However, Thurk and Del Piero?
Imagine if we were talking face to face and me going, "Ehhhhhh" as I waggle one of my hands up and down.
Thats how I feel about both players. But let's break them down individually and determine if they should be signed. We'll also look at other potential players that the Union have been linked with and examine them too.
Alessandro Del Piero
Let's get something straight, Del Piero is a Juventus legend. The guy has been with the club since 1993 an incredible amount of longevity for modern day soccer clubs. In that time period he has made 686 appearances and scored 285 goals. He was on the World Cup winning Italian Squad from 2006 as well as having been with Juventus when they've won Serie A and Serie B. The guy is simply put a winner, he has won virtually every major sporting competition that he's been a part of. In terms of history, you can't ask for a better guy.
But that is just what it is, history.
Del Piero turned 37 this month, but let's be realistic, the Union need a player that can give them some of the best years of his career. Del Piero more than likely won't be hanging in there for much longer. Bringing in Del Piero would help further the image of the MLS (to some) as a "retirement" league, a label that it's been slowly emerging from over the past few years.
Furthermore, I don't think that Del Piero has much in the tank, he has appeared only 9 times for Juventus in the current season and scored 0 goals. In the 2009-10 season, Del Piero appeared 29 times and scored 11 goals. Pretty good numbers, however, in the 2010-11 season, he appeared 45 times and scored 11 goals again. A bit of a drop since his appearances rose.
Look, I'm not bagging on Del Piero, but I truly think that the guy should just retire after this season, you have a legacy at a club, a World Cup championship, a UEFA Championship, multiple awards and records. There is nothing else that Del Piero should be trying to prove. The only reason he might try to keep playing is to show that Juventus was wrong when they said that they basically wouldn't resign him after the current season. I'm sorry but the amount of money that Del Piero would command (most likely DP salary range) is just not worth the risk involved.
If Del Piero were three years younger, I'd say the Union should give him a try for a year, but I just don't think theres anything there.
Thurk is an interesting case, he'll turn 36 this coming May and you could argue much like Del Piero that he doesn't have much left in the tank and you'd have a decent argument. In the season before FC Augsburg's promotion to the Bundesliga, Thurk scored 9 goals in 26 appearances, not too bad admittedly. However, he had a monster season in the 2009-10 season when he scored 23 goals in 30 appearances. The season before that he scored he had 14 goals in 32 appearances.
Thurk could be a decent pickup if we could get him for the right price. He hasn't had the wear and tear of a Bundesliga season since FC Augsburg has pretty much indefinately suspended him (the official reason being that they went from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1 which means Thurk was left out). Thurk has stated he wants to move to the MLS and he could have a fire to prove his old club wrong.
I personally think that Thurk could have one or maybe two good years in him, but I wouldn't break the bank for him. He could be a good veteran option but nothing to build our franchise around.
Verdict: Only if the price is right and even then not for more than a year or two.
Though Anelka has denied leaving Chlesea recently I decided I'd cover him as well. First of all, Anelka is 32, so he still has some good play left in him. He's played for Chelsea, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City. Played in big matches for big clubs? Check.
However, what must not be overlooked is that Anelka's international career is over, and not because he got bumped out by younger players, but because he got into an argument with the French National team coach during the 2010 World Cup. France's forgettable "run" during the last World Cup was highlighted by Anelka being dismissed from the team during the World Cup.
Now people want to bring him to Philadelphia.
Look, I'm not bagging on Anelka as a player, the guy is talented and has had a solid career. However, he has a very clear history of having problems with coaches and authority.
Read this article which pretty much breaks down Anelka's problems he's had at virtually every stop in his career. Now imagine how he'd fare the moment the crowd in Philly might have questioned his play a la Carlos Ruiz, you honestly think that Anelka would respond well to that? Do you think that Nowak who has what I've heard as an abrasive, controlling style of coaching would mesh well with Anelka?
Anelka would also command a high salary, and he might indeed be worth it. However, I think that he wouldn't last long in front of Philly fans. We're not exactly the most forgiving lot for players (in any sport) that we consider "Prima Donnas" look at how Eagles fans are now turning on DeSean "Wide Receivers are supposed to catch the ball?" Jackson, despite the fact that he's considered one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL.
Sorry Nicolas, it isn't that your not a good enough player, its just that you can't handle us.
Kepa Blanco Gonzalez
As Scott Kessler wrote the Union have reportedly put in a bid for Blanco along with a few other clubs.
I decided to look up Blanco and see what was "under the hood" so to speak. The stats are...ehhh.
First of all, Blanco will turn 28 this January. Since 2010 the club he has been with, Spanish team Real Club Recreativo de Huelva, S.A.D. and during that time has made 19 appearances and scored 2 goals. Before that he played for another Spanish team called Getafe Club de Fútbol from 2007-2010, during that time he made 24 appearances and scored 2 goals as well.
See what I'm getting at? The guy has gotten chances to make an impact but hasn't delivered. Now, I'll be the first to admit that stats aren't everything. That intangible things like leadership, ball service, shot placement, etc aren't really reflected in stats. But since I've never seen Blanco play, I can't go off any of that. He could blow up the league and score 30 goals in his first season with the Union, or maybe he could just fizzle out and not do anything like so many other players have.
However, I'm willing to give Blanco a chance if the Union do pick him up, much like Thurk I believe he should be grabbed for only the right price. His age means that he'll be less of an issue for sudden drop in play due to wear and tear after years of playing (see Del Piero and Thurk).
Verdict: Only for the right price
Josué Martinez Areas
The Union originally had a bid rejected by Saprissa for Martinez during the last season. Apparently the Union offered a cool $1 Million for him and were rejected because Saprissa wanted more and that seemed the end of that. However, the Union have apparently bid again for the young striker.
Martinez's price has dropped, ironically enough the Union apparently won a bidding war against Fredrikstad who apparently said the equivalent of "Too rich for our blood."
The bidding of course was around $500,000.
Yes, you read that right, apparently the bid for Martinez was half of what the Union initially offered.
But is Martinez all that and a bag of chips? Lets have a look.
In his current season with Saprissa and using this site, Martinez has made 65 appearances for his club Deportivo Saprissa and scored 18 goals.
Not bad, but not exactly world class.
Looking at Martinez on the international stage, in 24 appearances for the Costa Rica National Team (including U-20 & U-23 teams), he has 7 goals. Once again decent, but not world class. For comparison, Martinez's goals per game on the international scene is 1 goal every 3.42 games while David Villa probably one of the best strikers in the world right now has an incredible 1 goal every 1.60 games. So Martinez is by no means "bad" but hes certainly not in the upper echelon of the world class players.
However, Martinez has youth on his side, he'll only turn 22 in March of next year, potentially his best years are in front of him.
Now true, Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney are both younger than Martinez, however, Martinez has the bonus of having played on the senior roster for his country, he's been to the Gold Cup, he's been in the Copa América, he even played for Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League. The guy has been in some big games. Mwanga and McInerney haven't, not yet at least.
Its no secret that Mwanga wanted to go to Europe after college and Nowak talked him into going into the MLS Draft, promising that he would be taken first. His rookie season he seemed to be on the way to becoming the star that he dreamed he would be. But that came crashing down last season with poor form and "injuries" limiting Mwanga's time on the field. But, this upcoming season will help determine whether or not Mwanga had a sophomore slump or if its something more permanent. Singing Martinez could also be insurance in case Sebastien Le Toux ever gets hurt.
Look, I love our Frenchman. But the fact remains that the Union got incredibly lucky last year when it came to injuries. Le Toux has literally put the team on his shoulders, two seasons running. The guy has pretty much secured his status as a Union legend. But we can't rely on Le Toux always being healthy, Martinez could push Mwanga to either do better or be strictly used as a super sub. He could also serve as insurance in case Le Toux ever gets hurt.
If we can get him for less than we originally bid for him, then I say get him. If the Union valued him at upwards of a $1 Million, they should jump at the chance to grab him for a "mere" $500,000.
Verdict: Buy him