Moving On Up: Jozy Altidore's Ascent To Spanish Stardom

Ian MaillouxContributor IJune 4, 2008

From time to time, you'll hear of that phenomenal athlete, the kind of player that draws big crowds and makes big shots.

Red Bulls striker Jozy Altidore is definitely one of those guys, and today his stage grows even bigger.

For being only 18 years old, Altidore has made quite a name for himself. After being picked 17th overall in 2006's MLS SuperDraft by who were then known as the Metrostars, he didn't play much in his first pro season, as he was still graduating high school.

When he did hit the pitch, however, he made the ground shake. He was 16 years old when he scored his first professional goal, a 28-yard shot that ended up being the game winner against the Columbus Crew.

He is the youngest player to score in an MLS playoff game, too, beating the record by nearly three years (he was nearing 17 years old). Altidore has some international caps as well, competing for the US in the FIFA U-17 World Championship and U-20 World Cup.

The train kept rolling for Altidore, landing a spot in an Adidas ad campaign and a spot on the cover of EA Sports' FIFA 08 video game alongside superstar Ronaldinho and Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

In late 2007, speculation was flying that the potent striker would be part of a transfer to a popular European club such as Newcastle United, Reading, or Spain's Real Madrid.

After nothing came to fruition, Altidore was also rumoured to be the subject of a bidding war between English powerhouse clubs Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea.

However, none of that will be happening. Earlier today, the New York Red Bulls agreed on a transfer of Altidore to Spanish La Liga club Villarreal CF, which would take effect once the European transfer window opens on July 1st.

This will give New York a large hole to fill, in addition to an allocation and some cash from the $10 million transfer fee, now the largest for any MLS player.

The one benefiting the most from this deal, as many of you probably already know, is none other than Jozy Altidore himself. Not only is he one of the most talented phenoms to come out of the States in recent time, but he is also set to debut on one of the world's premier club stages, Spain's La Liga.

There he will star for Villarreal alongside Robert Pires and Jon Dahl Tomasson, as well as compete against some of the world's best in Thierry Henry, Raul, Ronaldinho, and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

For a kid from New Jersey, that's pretty good. And the scary part is: the best is yet to come.