Lost in all the rumors of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Cesc Fabregas to Manchester United and Luis Saurez to Arsenal, was a transfer of historical proportions.
Clint Dempsey is heading back the MLS, as the captain of the U.S. men’s national team will be joining the Seattle Sounders from Tottenham in a deal that nobody saw coming.
Many are wondering how does this move make sense for Dempsey. Why would he forego playing for one of the top clubs (Tottenham Hotspurs) in one of the top leagues in the world (English Premier League) while still in the prime of his career? It’s almost like a basketball player choosing to leave the NBA for the developmental league. Sounds ludicrous, right?
But for him – and for the U.S. men’s national team – Dempsey was better off rejoining Major League Soccer this year!
With the World Cup looming next summer, the important thing for both Dempsey and U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is consistent playing time and match fitness – things that he was not going to be afforded at North London.
Having already been sliding down the depth charts in his first season at Tottenham (in which he scored 12 goals in all competitions in 43 appearances), things were not looking any better with the arrivals of Nacer Chadli, Paulinho (for a reported $26 million from Corinthians of Brazil) and in particular Roberto Soldado (the Spanish international striker was acquired from La Liga side Valencia for a club-record fee of $40 million).
It also did not help Dempsey that he didn’t mesh well with the club’s biggest star Gareth Bale (who may or may not be heading to Real Madrid). Under Spurs manager Andres Villas-Boas, Bale was employed as a free-lancing central attacking midfielder (which so happens to be Dempsey’s position on the U.S. team) and enjoyed tremendous success. If the Welsh international were to remain with Tottenham, that would make playing time for Dempsey even less available. Sure, Bale could indeed move to Spain and then perhaps Dempsey would be the one to employ that role. But with the American seemingly at odds with the club, it was a risk that Dempsey obviously was not willing to take.
With no other English club interested in paying big money for a 30-year old player, moving back home was the logical move.
He will be playing on his home soil in a city (Seattle) where the fan support is as close to what one would get in England – as evidenced by the 38, 000 that turned out at CenturyLink Field at his unveiling. Plus the money (a reported 4-year contract for $32 million) isn’t bad either. And when the MLS season concludes sometime in November, Dempsey should not have a problem being loaned to a club in England where he’ll be guaranteed plenty of playing time.
On the surface the move to Major League Soccer seems like a step back. But with the World Cup in mind, it was ultimately to right move for Clint Dempsey.