Keith Hickey is dead on the money on

Mario Balotelli should join Major League Soccer. Specifically, the New York Red Bulls.

Only two teams in MLS – the LA Galaxy and the Red Bulls – have shown anything like the kind of ambition and financial muscle that would be needed to prise Balotelli from Manchester. New York, furthermore, has the need to take a risk; after nearly two decades and hundreds of millions of dollars, the northern New Jersey franchise has yet to win a single piece of major silverware.

The benefits to the American parties are obvious. In the 22-year-old Balotelli, who was one of the standout players in Italy’s run to the final of Euro 2012, Major League Soccer gets a young, international star that allows it to shed the “retirement league” tag that dogs the acquisition of any player over 30.

I’m not sure it matters whether it’s New York, LA, or Montreal, which would involve a minor stroke on my part should that materialize. But Major League Soccer needs this. The cachet of getting aging stars to show off their creaky wares is wearing off.

And, as Hickey writes, Balotelli will avoid (hopefully) the racism problem that Europe seems to be perpetually struggling to deal with, and perpetually failing to deal with.

But I also think MLS signing Balotelli would be a great way for MLS to shirk the “football as serious business” that dogs the European domestic grind. Major League Soccer should be young, reckless, cocaine-addled (I DO NOT ENDORSE DRUG USE), messy, controversial, loud, cool. Spare us your Paul Mariner talking about dressing room attitudes. Let’s have Ryan Nelsens galore.

Don Garber could stand there like the statue of liberty, soccer ball in hand (red card offence, natch), calling out your disrespectful, your unmanageable, your incredibly skilled but incredibly ill-disciplined. Pretty soon, we’ll hoover up all those 21 year olds who got suspended from the French national team, then some young Brazilian prospects, then some kids from Amsterdam, then…world class.

This is the league I want to watch.

Comments (8)

  1. The teams with money (NYRB, LA, Montreal, TFC((I know, but they do have money)), Seattle) should be trying to get guys like Balo, Sneijder and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Heck, LA should be going after Neymar in my opinion. Splashes like that are what is going to grow this league, not Beckhams and Henrys.

  2. Plus, if you put Balotelli on an mlb side he wouldn’t run into problems with getting into games. City has three other strikers that you’d rather see on the field right now – all of whom have far outproduced Balotelli on a per minute basis this year.

    Ideally for him would be to go to Italy. But Juve wouldn’t have him. The Milan sides are in all sorts of financial peril. Napoli wouldn’t pay him and the Neo-Fascist fanbase of Lazio would seem to be a bad fit. A.S. Roma, maybe?

    Anyway, good article. Hadn’t thought of this and it makes a tremendous amount of sense.

  3. No doubt! Who has the patience for stable growth? Bring on the Wild West of football! Who’s hiring Stig Tofting to coach?

  4. The reason none of these moves will ever materialise is the overall quality of the mls is much too poor. No one is going to want to be the first to make the jump and risk their whole career. Not to mention, no mls team is realistically going to pay £200,000 per week on top of the enormous tranfer fee that it would require.

    Countries like Russia have been successful in getting stars like Hulk, Witsel, and Eto’o to move because of the humongous paycheck and also the possibility of playing in the Champions league or Europa league. The United States can offer none of that and for that reason, they will keep getting the aging stars like Beckham and Henry who realise they have no future in Europe or with the national team.

  5. Even if MLS wanted to do this, no player in his right mind would leave a major European club for the MLS at this age!

  6. Preach it brotha man

  7. I would love to see him come to MLS, but I can’t imagine that actually being a realistic possibility. I think MLS should probably work on getting mid-level stars in their prime though, instead of super-stars past their prime. That has to be the next step in the evolution in terms of acquiring foreign talent.

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