While deep in the midst of a fierce relegation battle and with just two months until the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, 20-year-old striker Jozy Altidore has plenty on his mind. One thing, however, that has to be sitting somewhere in the middle of his thoughts is where the potential star will be plying his trade next season.
Altidore’s on-loan season with the English Premier League's Hull City has overall been a successful one to date. While struggling to find playing time last season, both with his Spanish parent club, Villareal, and on his half season loan to second division side Xerez (currently making a one-year cameo in La Liga), Altidore has made steady progress to his game this past season.
Although Jozy’s numbers are incredibly underwhelming, he has been one of the few dangerous players up front for a Hull City team that struggles mightily to score goals. His strong hold up play, consistent passing as well as his ability to draw fouls, have contributed greatly to Hull’s cause of remaining in the Premier League for another season.
However, even if Hull City does survive to fight for their lives in the 2010-2011 top-flight campaign, it will almost certainly be without the promising American. While his recent progress has not gone unnoticed by the British media and despite the fact that he has received a good deal of praise from his new manager, Ian Dowie, Jozy is simply too expensive for the small club to retain on potential alone.
Altidore was given a six-year contract by Villareal in July of 2008, a signing that cost the La Liga side a $10 transfer fee to the New York Red Bulls. However, despite Villareal’s clear confidence in Altidore’s talent and potential as a world class goal scorer, he is not believed to be in their plans, as they already have two talented young forwards who are far more established in fellow New Jersey native, Giuseppe Rossi and 25-year-old Brazilian, Honorato da Silva Nilmar.
So where will Altidore end up next season? At this point, with so many variables in play, it is impossible to know for sure. Another loan move seems to be the most likely scenario as Villareal was said to have set the price for a purchase of Altidore’s contact at around $11 million.
Now, that was the understanding at the beginning of the loan agreement with Hull, so that figure is really more of a ballpark estimate at this point. It is almost certain, however, that going back to the "Yellow Submarines" has been out of consideration for some time, and Jozy has made it clear that he would like to stay in England where his style of play is better suited.
One interesting potential loan move could be to join fellow American, Clint Dempsey at Fulham. Once jokingly referred to as “Ful-America” due to a steady stream of American signees, the Cottager’s have showed substantial interest in Altidore in the past.
Add to the equation the fact that Bobby Zamora broke out this season into a goal scoring machine, the mid-level club might find it wise to capitalize on his sudden rise in value and bolster their club with the profits. If they do decide to sell Zamora this offseason, bringing in Altidore on loan could be a nice fit for both parties.
Jozy would be given the opportunity to fight for playing time on a solid Premier League side where he would actually be given the kind of service that he needs and Fulham in return would have a low-risk, high-reward addition to their attack force.
Another option in England could be newly promoted Newcastle United, where the team has also showed interest in Altidore in the past. The problem with this move is that the current Championship side also has a score of young strikers at their disposal.
In fact, the chances of this move gaining any steam may have ended when Andy Carroll, despite mounting off the field problems, was recently offered a new deal by the club. If nothing else, it should be an interesting summer at St. James as they prepare their squad for a return to the Premier League.
One of the more intriguing loan options could possibly be to join the striker- (and cash-) starved Everton, where manager David Moyes clearly has no problem bringing in American talent. Everton was another team that has at some point or another showed an interest Altidore’s services and would benefit from a short-term attack option should they complete the push into next season’s Europa League.
There are also plenty of larger clubs that would likely be willing to take Altidore on-loan and employ him in a back-up, however, if Jozy does go on loan and is not purchased, he would surely seek a situation where he is going to at least get the chance to prove his way onto the field every week.
Obviously, a permanent move for Altidore would be ideal, but only if it is the right one. He admitted that the switch from Spain to England took some adjusting on his part and he is keen to find a secure situation where he can continue to grow at a similar pace.
However, despite the clear progress he has made this season, it is likely not going to be enough to prompt anyone to fork over the kind of cash Villareal is seeking.
All of this could change, however, come June 12. If Jozy is able score a few goals (how about slotting one home against England?) and string together a nice tournament, all bets are off. A strong showing in the World Cup, with everyone in international soccer watching, could blow the lid off of the 20-year-old’s options for next season and beyond.
There is little question that he has done enough this season to prove his pure talent against top competition, and more importantly, he has displayed the kind of steady progress that would justify a potential suitor to line up a long term bid for him. However, for $11 million, that may not yet be enough.
But World Cups have a long history of expediting young careers and creating future stars and with a year of solid experience under his belt and all the potential in the world ahead of him, Jozy could very well find himself a hot commodity come this summer’s transfer window if he takes care of business in South Africa.