Philly Sports Live

From the PSL Soccer Desk: The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish


 “That’s no problem, so be it. It is an illusion to think top players will remain with us for a long period.”    -Frank De Boer

The best player you’ve never heard of is named Christian Eriksen.  He wears number 8 for Ajax, and he’s the most dynamic attacking midfielder in Europe.  He has an eye for angles and an accuracy possessed only by graduates of De Toemsk and Navy Seals.  He was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup, he’s the youngest player ever to score in Euro qualification, and earlier this year, he almost singlehandedly knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League.  You’ve never heard of him because he’s Danish and he plays in the Eredivise, and while he’s more talented than almost any midfielder in the EPL, that stubborn English Channel keeps him off the collective consciousness of soccer fans as effectively as it kept Phillip II off the English throne.

All that’s going to change though.  Christian is moving up in the world.  Everyone has seen it coming, has known in the back of their minds ever since his first silky cut to open a hitherto invisible passing lane that he wasn’t long for the banks of the Meer.  This transfer window or next, he’ll be on his way to London.  Maybe to White Hart Lane, maybe to Stamford Bridge, maybe to The Emirates.  He’ll move because he wants to compete in the best league in the world, alongside the best players.  He’ll move because he wants the press and TV exposure.  Mostly, he’ll move because the Holland is a small country, and the Eredivise doesn’t make much on it’s TV deals, and he’s priced himself out of the range of what was once one of the great clubs of Europe.  Noone will fault him for it.  Even the biggest Ajax fan realizes the reality of the situation.  They lost one De Jong, the evil one, to City, and Suarez to Liverpool and Zlatan to Milan and Huntelaar to Shalke and Vertonghen to Tottenham…you get the point.  They lost Cryuff to Barcelona and Van der Saar to United and their soul to Spain.  One hundred and thirteen years gives a certain perspective, a realization that there are great clubs and there are rich clubs, and often the two groups don’t overlap.  Besides, there’s this kid named Fischer…

The best defender you’ve heard of is named Carlos Valdes.  You haven’t just heard of him, you’ve seen him play, and you’ve joined thousands chanting his name on national TV, and you’ve waited in line for his autograph and taken photos with him and clung to his captaincy as a rock of stability when Califf and Le Toux and Mondragon left under less than ideal circumstances.  He stayed when the rug was pulled out from under the team, he provided an identity when it seemed like every distinguishing feature had been removed, and there wasn’t a person in the River End who didn’t love him for it.

He’s leaving of course.  Whether its announced today or tomorrow, whether its announced at all, or if he just shows up training on another pitch in another country, in another hemisphere, wearing another team’s colors, he’s leaving.  He’s leaving because he wants to play in the World Cup, and a Colombian can’t do that if he earns his living in an MLS shirt.  If he wasn’t leaving for that, he’d be leaving for money, because MLS is a young league, and doesn’t get the ratings that command massive TV rights deals, and he can make more playing in Columbia or Mexico or Brazil or any number of other places.  Some will fault him for it.  Some will fault the coach, or the team, or the league.    Even the biggest Union fan may not feel the reality of the situation, even if they know in their minds the way things are.  We haven’t yet lost Pfeffer to Hoffenheim and McInerney to Leeds and McMath to Everton and Amobi to Roma. Three years doesn’t give much perspective, but this is how it is learned.  Besides, there’s this guy Parke…