What do Real Madrid star Raul Gonzalez and Drew Carey have in common?
They're both aging (one more gracefully than the other) and have an interest in MLS. Carey is a minority owner of the league's latest expansion franchise, Seattle Sounders FC.
The Real Madrid legend has recently hinted that he might not end his playing career with Los Merengues. He has been contemplating a season or two in the States after his days with Real Madrid come to a close.
"It would be a nice experience, not only for me but for my family...I could play a season in the U.S. If I do not, then clearly I will finish my career playing for Real," said Raul.
For now, Raul has tentatively given 2011 as the date of his last appearance for Real Madrid. It remains to be seen whether he'll retire permanently or make a brief move to the U.S.
For a league desperately trying to shed it's reputation as a retirement village for aging European and South American talent, this might not be the glamorous transfer that they're looking for. Raul would be 33 by 2011, with his best days behind him.
Let's face it, do we want the man who has scored more goals for Madrid than Di Stefano becoming the next Youri Djorkaeff?
I was excited when MLS was announced that David Beckham was joining Los Angeles a few years ago. The news about Raul is somewhat less exciting.
If the move happens, Raul would be the most decorated player to ever suit up in MLS. Three Champions League titles, six La Liga titles, four Spanish SuperCups, two Pichichi trophies, and the list goes on and on.
Yeah, David Beckham is talented, but he can't match Raul's long list of team and individual accomplishments.
With all of these accomplishments, why can't I bring myself to get excited by the prospect of Raul in America?
I mentioned it briefly earlier. MLS has developed a reputation as a retirement home for players who are getting too old for the rigors of top flight competition in Europe. Youri Djorkaeff, Hristo Stoichkov, Paolo Wanchope, Lothar Matthäus, Roberto Donadoni, Hugo Sanchez, and Freddie Ljungberg are just a small portion of the list of foreign talent who have spent time late in their career in MLS.
I don't want to add Raul to that list. I'm even starting to think that perhaps MLS shouldn't have added Beckham to it but it's too late to worry about that.
I've said it several times before and I'll say it again here. MLS needs to focus more on developing young talent instead of mooching the elderly away from other leagues.
Why is a team like Arsenal so interesting? Because of all the talented youth. Most football fans would rather watch a player like Jack Wilshere blossom into a star than watch an established great fade into oblivion in MLS. That's why the league shouldn't even bother with this one.
If MLS really wants to shake things up, try and convince Real Madrid to send some of their youth players over on loan. They'd get plenty of competitive first team action and return to Spain better for the experience. Ditto for any other European team.
MLS is a league whose players have a high level of fitness, it's very physical, and you can successfully develop your talent in the States.
As for MLS, establishing these connections with foreign teams can only be helpful. They'll bring in foreign money and foreign fans. The foreign fans will be checking in to see how their youth players are faring in the States. This will in turn raise the profile of MLS and bring in advertising and TV money.
MLS, forget about Raul. Go for his future replacement instead.
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