When David Beckham decided to hop across the pond for one last run at greatness with AC Milan, no one batted an eyelash stateside.
Sure, that could very well be because 95 percent of the population was unaware of it, as "soccer" in the United States is still about as popular as female weightlifting. But, stemming from Beckham's move, a very interesting issue arises for those of us who follow, cherish, and bleed the sport.
Is it unethical for a player to have ties to two or even more teams?
Loans have been around forever. Hailed as a way to develop young players, or allow prospective buyers into a seemingly low-risk transaction, they're seen as the best compromise for two teams in need of a short-term solution regarding a certain player.
Beckham is no stranger to loans.
In fact, he enjoyed a spell at Preston North End early in his career. The move paid dividends for both clubs, and upon his return to Manchester United, his place in Sir Alex Ferguson's lineup was set in stone.
More than a decade later, his most recent move reeks of desperation for one last shot at glory, using the prestige of a club like AC Milan in order to slither his way back into the English national football team.
With this, he seems to be ultimately agreeing with the view that the MLS, the league that employs him full time and pays his salary, is a low-level operation where a player cannot be expected to shine brightly enough to be considered for a national team.
After all, doesn't "David Beckham, AC Milan" look a lot better than "David Beckham, LA Galaxy" on the sheet of national team players selected?
Meanwhile, another MLS standout took a loan spell to gain consideration for his national team.
Cuauhtémoc Blanco recently signed for Mexican club Santos Laguna in order to help the Holy Warriors compete for a second consecutive title.
Normally, this type of loan spell wouldn't bat an eyelash, except for the fact that Santos Laguna is in the league's playoffs.
For American sports fans in general, this again becomes part of the reason why football is so alien to them. Imagine the Lakers loaning Kobe Bryant to the Spurs for a playoff run. It just seems wrong.
Mexican standout Nery Castillo was caught in two separate scandals this semester when first, a loan deal to Spanish club Real Betis fell through, and a few months later, his bid to join Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico was annulled.
The reason? Paperwork.
Castillo is currently on loan to Manchester City in England while his contract lies with Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine. He needed approval from three different teams, and three different federations (England, Ukraine, Spain/Mexico) to play. Sound fair?
Another hot topic in the world of football right now is who Real Madrid will get to replace Ruud van Nistelrooy for the first half of 2009 in order to bolster their domestic and European run.
Should Real lose any other players to injury or report them as such? They're allowed to replace them with whomever they wish.
Loaning players to a team specifically for a Cup run seems shady at best as they become hired mercenaries in place to do a job and then leave.
Allowing players to sign for other clubs when their original clubs are in their off-season, then returning in team for the season to start negates the whole idea of loaning players out in the first place.
Lastly, turning a blind eye to players being passed around like common currency from one club to another and then finding themselves disallowed to play due to the stacks of paperwork following them cheapens the idea that loans are designed to help players get playing time.
A reform needs to be put forth now
However, in a footballing world, where top teams are involved in match-fixing scandals, referees are bought off, entire federations are found violating rules, where one man or group owns multiple teams, and fans are constantly an afterthought, the question must be raised:
Does FIFA even care about it? Better yet, do they care about the game itself?
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