A few weeks are all that separate Hull City from a move southward to the Championship circuit. Mired in an awful slump that claimed points they should have had–an unbearable beatdown at home by relegation cohort Burnley perhaps the most foul–the Tigers are a mess as are their finances.
The quandary over where Jozy Altidore plays next season while less messy is not simple either.
From learning to earn a spot, playing at the highest level league in the world and improving his “hold-up ability,” it’s hardly a debate that Altidore gained valuable experience at Hull City and is a better player for it.
Remember, he could have been relegated to Villarreal B team appearances this year.
Here’s what’s known:
• Altidore went to Hull City this year on the lease-with-an-option-to-buy plan. The buy component approximately $6.5M GBP. As the pound has weakened during the dollar this year, at the time that was approximately $10M+ USD and is now closer to $9.75M USD.
• Before Saturday’s Sunderland game, Hull City’s chairman Adam Pearson issued a statement saying two things in reference to his team’s finances:
1) The club is $35M in debt with $25M owed to banks. The other $10M is owed players and agents which makes it difficult to deal with the premium of those lots. Hull also has been the beneficiary of so-called “parachute” payments–in they’ve received further payments from the football association in advance.
2) The club’s “wages” bill is $40M and Pearson is aiming to get that close to $15M in the Championship with relegation a near certainty.
• Villarreal and Jozy’s situation…here’s what I know about the loaner and I welcome further insights from experts:
1) Villarreal purchased the US striker from Red Bull for $10M US.
2) Villarreal look somewhat set up top with the starting duo of American-born Guisseppi Rossi (8 goals on the campaign) and Brazilian national and up-and-comer Nilmar (10 goals) backed by 30-year-old Joseba Llorente, who has produced 7 goals in 25 appearances and is also signed to Villarreal thru 2012. Llorente is the holding striker among the three.
Young Argentine Marco Ruben rounds out the front four.
If you remember from Jozy’s brief time at Villarreal his appearances were usually in relief of Llorente who is still a contributor as a back-up.
3) Because of JZA’s Haitian ancestry and due to the Kolpak ruling, Altidore does not count as a non-EU player–La Liga allows three per team. (Altidore has a work permit in the UK through 2010.)
Okay, so we’ve got the boring facts out of the way. What is TSG’s take?
First, let’s not expect Altidore to head back to Hull City. (Odds? 1000 to 1)
Hull is going to need and want a striker that can produce for a quick return to the Premiership–Jozy’s not that guy–he still needs work.
Even if they did want Altidore, Hull City can’t afford him on their target budget given the transfer fee.
Finally here, say Hull wanted to buy Altidore and then loan him out for year with the hope they’d return to top level soccer and bring back the American, it’s a risky gambit….for Hull. The club would need to foot that bill and then do the hard work of loaning out Jozy and negotiating on the fee from a position of weakness–all teams would know they couldn’t possibly afford Big Jeezy for the full year.
Second, Villarreal holds the cards, but….(50 to 1 to stay at Villarreal)
You’ve got two things in Jozy’s favor in a return to the yellow submarine: his friendship with Giuseppi Rossi and the age of striker Joseph Llorente, but that’s probably it.
Villarreal–should the reports be true–put virtually no premium on a Hull City purchase of Jozy in August of last year. They purchased Jozy for $10M and–again should reports be correct–were looking just to make even money back. That doesn’t sound like a club that wants a player; it sounds like a club that wants to rid itself of a player.
Further Altidore’s style of play and his need to improve his technical ability is something that would be exposed on the pitch at El Madrigal.
The better question may be….what can Villarreal fetch for Jozy if they don’t want him? Will Villarreal merely hold on to the 20-year-old if they can’t get a transfer fee that is acceptable? I think they’ll move him; either on a year-loan or permanently at this point.
Third, so what is Altidore worth and who can and wants to afford him?
Loaded question here and we’ll try to deconstruct in a coherent manner
First, perhaps more than any other American in 2010, Altidore’s World Cup may be the biggest determinant in where he plays club ball thereafter. Jozy’s exposure positive or negative will determine the number and willingness of suitors to make him their own.
Remember Altidore’s last full transfer in 2008 from Red Bull to was sought out by the Wasserman group that controlled his rights at the time not vice versa.
The positive for Jozy? Youth, top level league soccer experience, and his U.S. affiliation.
The negatives? Maturity (is he ready to step in and start for my club immediately?), his U.S. passport, and perhaps the financials.
Let’s look at some parallel transfers from the past few years just for a little perspective:
January 2010: Michel (MF) (Age: 24): Sporting Lisbon to Birmingham ($3M)
September 2009: Tuncay Sanli (ST) (Age:28): Middlesborough to Stoke City ($5M)
September 2009: Darren Bent (ST) (Age: 26): Tottenham to Sunderland ($10M)
July 2009: Peter Crouch (ST) (Age: 29): Portsmouth to Tottenham ($9M)
December 2004: Didier Drogba (ST) (Age: 26): Marseille to Chelsea ($24M)
The aforementioned list tells us merely that unless you’re going to a top Champion’s League club after you’ve already produced your transfer fee as a striker is probably $10M or less.
Our best guess? Given Jozy’s need to improve his technical game, the familiarity of opposing managers now with his game and his stated desire to remain in England, I only see Altidore transferring to a Premiership side, at least at this point.
And a quick note before we get started on teams, each team that we’ve listed below except one that we will denote has a relationship through at least one player with James Grant Sports Management, the agency that manages Jozy Altidore
Where We’d Like To See Him Go:
Aston Villa (20 to 1)
Here’s what we wrote in a hypothetical column in March on ideal destination for Jozy:
In Emile Heskey and John Carew, Villa have a 32-year-old and a 31-year-old in the target or big striker role. Both, along with third stringer Maron Harewood (on-loan and 31) have battled countless injuries over the past year.
Altidore is the direct opposite, younger and less injury prone.
Additionally, Altidore would slip in quite nicely next to the zippy Gaby Agbonlahor up top and true wide man and crosser extraordinaire Ashley Young on the left.
Next, with two Americans (Friedel and Guzan) on their senior and a third (Eric Lichaj) likely coming, Aston Villa (with American owner Randy Lerner) would vie for mass public support from the Americans.
Where May He Go:
Everton: (5 to 1)
C’mon, this is too storybook, right? Possibly, but let’s look at some of the factors that point to Goodison as a great landing pad.
1) Everton has become new America FC East with the likes of Landon’s loan, Howard, Peterlin and Cody Arnoux.
2) It doesn’t stop there. Incredibly, Altidore would be the third US striker to take the pitch for the Toffees (Joe Max Moore, Brian McBride)
3) Everton seem to always take a shot at a tier 2 strikers that can be had cheaper because they’ve got a stain or the team their on is compromised. (See: Jo now at Galatasary)
4) The concern of Yakubu Aiyengbeni’s health. After becoming Everton’s highest dollar signing ever for Everton back in 2007 ($11.5M), Yakubu ruptured his achilles tendon in the 08-09 campaign, Yakubu has subbed in nearly twice as many games as he’s started for the Toffees this year and hasn’t really regained his form prior to the injury. At 27, is the Yak still the answer in the middle for David Moyes?
Sparing the glory pairing with Donovan and given David Moyes dedication to a hub striker–where Louis Saha has played for most of this year–Altidore’s game, pedigree, and price tag would seem a great fit at Goodison.
Birmingham: (10 to 1)
At first blush, Jozy Altidore at Birmingham sounds strange. The recently promoted team that has excelled in the Premiership this season is a relatively quick passing team that relies on getting behind the defense for goals or manufacturing goals from linking up the middle primarily through Scottish stalwart James McFadden.
However, Altidore would be a nice addition to Birmingham’s striker quiver. Equadorian Cristian Benitez’s skillset–and size–harkens comparisons to a Jermain Defoe, Jason Roberts, or Charlie Davies. Cameron Jerome is big and plays somewhat big at 6’1” but he’s not a holding striker by any means, more in the realm of a very poor man’s Emanuel Adebayor.
What makes me think Birmingham is a contender is they were in play for Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko up until the close of the January window and Alex McLeish and team love a deal.
I could see them making a swoop here.
Fulham: (15 to 1)
This is going to be a popular choice for many as “the other American club.”
You’ve got Clint and you’ve got the relationship to US players from the past in Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride. What a way to follow a legacy for Altidore than to go to the club where McBride is practically a saint.
I’m not sure I see it though for a few reasons.
First, Bobby Zamora has found his scoring stroke this year….and he’s also extremely temperamental. Do you really want to bring in a player who is going to want to push Zamora for his playing time?
Second, Fulham loves to trap up the field. Granted, this isn’t a Zamora strong suit either, but the offensive zone trap is not Altidore’s strong suit either.
Finally, thrifty Fulham brought in Stefana Okaka through the end of this campaign and maybe longer. They have perennial back-up Diomansy Kamara out on loan to Celtic and promising, and 6’1”, Dutch 19-year-old Danny Hoesen out on loan.
So it’s possible, I just like some of the other candidates better.
Racing Santander (30 to 1): Just about the only La Liga side I can see Altidore going to. Santander’s got goal scoring problems. They sport some nice young midfielders like Sergio Canales Madrazo–you’ll hear about him in 2014–but no striker to hold up the ball and lay off to them.
Streaky Meme Tchite is their leading striker this year with 8 buckets, but the rest of the forwards are a collection of munchkins and converted midfielders.
Santander also frequently deals with Villarreal in the transfer market.
Blackburn (40 to 1): They could use just about anything to somehow transform the most boring attack in the Premiership.
PSV Eindhoven: A top squad in the Dutch Eridivisie which is just about the only other league I could see Altidore going to. I only pick PSV because of the past US players that graced their pitch (DaMarcus Beasley, Lee Nguyen).
Manchester City: (75 to 1)
What do you think is more likely–that Manchester City playing Champion’s League ball in ’10-’11 or that Altidore is on the squad for it?
Sounds crazy I know, but I wouldn’t put anything past the Citizen’s ownership, especially their fondness for stockpiling strikers.
A few reasons that this highly unlikely deal might go down.
Money. Manchester City needs to extend their fan base beyond Europe. We just learned that their headed to NYC for some exhibition against Tottenham and others later this year. What better way to extend a fanbase than to hire a striker from the U.S.
Beat ’em, join ’em. Altidore’s best game this year? His demolishing of the Manchester City backline.
Finally, Roque Santa Cruz has been injured and is not the answer as the target man up top. Adebayor is more a slasher; Tevez more of a pinball.
What about slotting in Altidore up top with Tevez’s runs off him from behind and Adam Johnson, Craig Bellamy or Adebayor coming in on the wings. Works for me.
Manchester City does not have any players–that we can tell–represented by Jozy’s agency.
All of the analysis above as well as Jozy Altidore’s final destination is highly dependent on his World Cup 2010 performance.
Assuming an “average” performance by Altidore, you’ll likely see him still in the Premiership next year and if I had to place the bet I would go with Everton.
TSG’s preference? Aston Villa or Birmingham, but really we just want some consistent service and playing time for the pride of the USMNT.