Clint Dempsey Staying at Fulham May Be the Best Career Move He Can Make

Drew Farmer@calciofarmerContributor IMarch 22, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Clint Dempsey of Fulham celebrates a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on January 21, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With one year left on his current Fulham contract, Clint Dempsey is about to make the biggest decision of his career. The 29-year-old American has been at Craven Cottage for nearly five-and-half seasons, and in that time he has become an indispensable part of the squad. 

Dempsey has stated he wants to play Champions League football, and his chances may be running low as he gets closer to 30. However, at the same time he may not get the same playing opportunities he has been afforded with Fulham.

This leaves the Texan with a problem most American soccer players never face. Does he leave to pursue a dream or does he stay and become a club icon. 

If Dempsey chooses to leave there are no guarantees he will become first choice for his new club. It seems too many American soccer fans believe Dempsey could walk into most teams. Even teams that are at the top of their respective leagues. 

Let's not forget Landon Donovan, considered by many to be the best American outfield player, couldn't get a game for two of the biggest teams in Germany—Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich—over the course of three stints. 

Donovan's time at Bayern was so poor, Hermann Gerland—Bayern reserve team manager—said Donovan wasn't even good enough to play for the reserves. 

Dempsey is currently negotiating a new three-year contract with Fulham. However, there are teams interested in his services. 

Dempsey is having the best year of his career leading the club with 12 goals, but his options may be limited to horizontal moves, rather than vertical.

As stated before, there are numerous US soccer fans that expect Dempsey to sign for a club of Arsenal or Chelsea's stature. Perhaps this is based on the belief that Dempsey is the best US outfield player, therefore, he should be playing for one of the best teams in Europe.

Dempsey has recently turned 29, and it must be taken into consideration that despite his excellent form, many clubs will not sign the American if he has little or no resale value—especially in the current economic climate. 

He has been valued at around $15 million by Transfermarkt, which seems outrageous and well off the mark. The price will go down considerably if Dempsey fails to sign a new deal going into the last year on his current contract. 

Though he has been linked to Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger has a rule against signing players near or over 30—he has relaxed this rule in recent times, however—and clubs like Manchester United seem to have their fair share of midfielders capable of doing everything Dempsey can.

This makes the American’s options at the top of the Premier League limited. Chelsea has their own problems, and his talents would be wasted at Stamford Bridge. 

Tottenham, who is rapidly falling out of Champions League contention, is another possible destination. But they seem to have their sites set on Eden Hazard amongst others. 

If Dempsey wants Champions League football, it may likely come from a move outside of England. Germany’s Schalke or France’s Lille are clubs that Dempsey’s style would combine well with. 

Lille may lose Hazard this summer, and Dempsey’s ability to play as a midfielder or striker would compensate for their loss. Meanwhile, Schalke is one of the most exciting teams in Germany and is already home to another US international, Jermaine Jones.

Since last summer’s takeover of AS Roma by American businessman Thomas R. DiBenedetto, many have speculated Dempsey would move to the Italian club. Those same speculators also reported Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan would sign for the Romans as well—which they didn't. 

Dempsey moving to Roma, however, seems far-fetched as Dempsey's style does not fit into the Roma project, and manager Luis Enrique’s attempts to install a Barcelona-lite 4-3-3.

At the moment it doesn’t appear the possible Champions League qualifiers in Spain or Italy are interested in the American, nor have the money to sign him. However, clubs in both countries were made aware of Dempsey's abilities in February when he scored the USA's lone goal in their win over Italy. 

The American’s options seem more limited than most fans want to believe. Perhaps the best thing to do is to stay at Fulham, and continue his quest to be the best American soccer player of all time.

With a little luck, one day Clint Dempsey may have his statue next to Michael Jackson’s, outside Craven Cottage. 


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