It’s supposed to be the other way round. The prominent, American-based players are supposed to head to Europe for the better wages and new challenges, not the European players – and certainly not the European players who are still in their prime. Toronto FC’s acquisition of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley obviously contradicts that notion but it also should be a warning to the majority of Europe’s top flight teams – MLS can, and will outspend them for their transfer targets.
MLS is not going to be a league entirely constructed of the Jermain Defoes and the Michael Bradleys simply because of the salary cap which prevents a team to spend more than a fixed number ($2.95 million total and $368,750 per player last season) and the designated player rule which allows teams to pay up to three players more than the $368,750 per year limit. Defoe and Bradley are going to be designated players and it is through that rule that European teams have to be aware of MLS outspending them for available players.
As mentioned on NBC’s ProSoccerTalk, Defoe, 31, is expected to make $7 million a year while at Toronto, ~£90,000 a week. It’s safe to say Defoe probably wouldn’t make that in England given his age and status at Spurs. That being said, it is not out of the question for Defoe to make the England squad for the World Cup. He has been called into the last four England camps under Roy Hodgson and played in the 2010 World Cup.
Defoe’s wages and his resume are the two elements that make his signing so intriguing. Defoe is going to make more than most players in the Premier League but he is still Jermain Defoe for better and worse. Defoe is a legitimate option for England but not a world beater in any aspect. Toronto had to overpay to get him but the statement made by doing that should still resonate especially amongst the mid to bottom half teams in the top flight.
There is definitely potential for a Pandora’s Box both in America and in Europe to be opened if more MLS teams make bold moves like Toronto did with signing Defoe and Bradley. The middling teams in Europe’s top flight are going to have to explore other options when looking for first team players because as MLS continues to grow and get financially stronger, the bolder its teams will get when looking for designated players. With finances being a consistent issue with a lot of teams in Europe’s top flight leagues, there is going to be a need for teams to look further into internally developing first team players and look into expanding scouting networks so they can stay in the top flight.
For MLS, Toronto FC’s moves are another step in achieving an ambitious goal to be one of the best leagues in the world by 2022. For the European leagues, it’s a shot across the bow from a league eager to compete with them on a consistent basis.
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