The Philadelphia Union signing Tranquillo Barnetta is a reason to get excited. For fans of the Philadelphia Union, the 30 year old Swiss winger is arguably one of the best players signed by the club. His pedigree is impeccable - he's played most of his career in the German Bundesliga and represented Switzerland in three
World Cups little tournaments. The Union may still be woefully thin on defense, but the offense looks like it will be able to compete with anyone for a long time to come.
This is also a magnificent signing for Major League Soccer as a whole. This year has seen the league live up to it's derisive billing as a retirement league for the aging European stars who want a last payday before retiring for real. The signings of Frank Lampard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, and Didier Drogba have all reinforced that negative stereotype. Tranquillo Barnetta is a much better signing. He is still in the prime of his career, and his services were being sought after by Leicester City in the English Premier League and Real Betis in Spain's La Liga. Sure, he didn't choose MLS over Manchester United or Barcelona, but the fact that he chose MLS shows that the league can attract these types of players when it chooses to do so.
Clubs don't have to throw cash at these players either. Barnetta is making just over the Designated Player threshold, with his salary being paid down below the threshold by Targeted Allocation Money. This pales in comparison to the over $6 million average being paid to Lampard, Kaka, and Gerrard, and you're more likely to get a longer-term return on investment with a 30 year old Barnetta than a 37 year old Lampard, a 36 year old Pirlo, a 35 year old Gerrard, or a 37 year old Drogba.
The Philadelphia Union often have made mistakes in their signings. This one, however seems to be one that's a step in the right direction.