Amsterdam-based Greg Seltzer is certainly a unique cat.
Greg decided long ago to make his name and career in soccer reporting and found himself relocated over to the Netherlands reporting for Soccer America.
With the re-vamp, or re-start if you prefer, of MLSSoccer.com and the need for a qualitative reporter on player movement became clear, Seltzer fit the bill.
Greg writes at both MLSSoccer.com and his blog “No Short Corners.” he’s built an extensive network of overseas sources and usually the first place you can go to get an educated corroboration or refutation on an American player movement rumor.
Greg’s been nice to engage me from time-to-time on TSG and we’ve had our moments of agreement and disagreement whether it be debating about the merits of a Jeremiah White call-in because the United States Men’s Team was in Denmark to trying to get scoops when Charlie Davies was at Sochaux to sparring on Sacha Kljestan’s expected playing time at Anderlecht (Greg was right–Kljestan is one of the minutes leaders at the club this season) or tussling over Roma news–for what’s it worth TSG doles out the snark on Roma rumors, but Greg’s got the sources and corroboration. Somethings going to give there at some point.
Greg’s been a good spirit and always been helpful in providing perspective and data that’s not available either in the States or only available to him. It’s easy enough for me to comment that he’s got probably the best true handle on pre-movement news on American players in Europe than just about anyone.
So, his perspective is quite unique.
Greg was nice enough to work on this back-and-forth email exchange–today is Part I–as good fodder here for discussion during the holiday news pre-transfer window doldrums.
We’ve broken it into two parts to focus the discussion in the comments section. Today, general American player value. Tomorrow, specific player movement and potential.
Matthew, TSG: Greg, thanks for taking the time. More important development for US players aboard heading into 2012: Jurgen Klinsmann’s rolodex or increased acceptance of US players skill set across the major league’s in Europe?
Greg, MLS: I would lean toward the second choice… only it’s not such an acceptance of of the “US skill set” – which is really more an intangible set than a skill set, to be honest. The American player has been appreciated in Europe for things like work ethic and field leadership for a good while now. That’s not novel. What’s on the rise is the actual skill set, which makes these players easier to appreciate for more than being “a typical US player” that busts his ass for the team and connects to the supporters.
Now, some of our players can actually score silly goals to knock Juventus out. They can actually help Chievo beat two first place teams in a row with soak-up-pressure strategy, having just walked in the Serie A door. They can actually play some defense in Portugal, which is not an easy league for defenders. They can help Norwegian teams win their first title as a teen playing out of position half the time.
The better American players get, the more they will be appreciated. The more they’re appreciated, the more they’re brought over and given responsibility, the more cultured they are come World Cup time. It’s that simple. Scouts aren’t jingoistic and the dudes who sign the player bill don’t play favorites – these people just want players for winning and representing the shirt. Coaches are the wildcard with attitudes for or against this or that, but that’s whole other story.
Not to downgrade Klinsman’s connections or experience – or the development capability of MLS, for that matter – but, as is, growing expectations fall on the national team with a Euro-footprint growing every year. Now, it’s up to Klinsmann to fulfill the more reasonable expectations and take us up a tier. That’s his task and it’s no surprise that he’s hooking Nats up with training stints like an epidemic right now. He definitely know’s what’s up in that regard.
Matthew, TSG: Interesting take Greg. So it’s almost inverse with Klinsmann–the US player has been making strides and it’s up to Klinsmann to capitalize on the increase talent.
Here’s another juxtaposition:
All things being equal, do Americans have a fair shot in Europe when going up against a player of any other nationality? For example, if Brek Shea’s agent is angling for a transfer to say Arsenal and Arsene Wenger if choosing between he and say French U-23 player Frederic Bulot. Does it matter if one is American or not?
And does that adage hole true if it we’re comparing a “Euo-raised American,” say John Anthony Brooks and say England U-20 Reece Wabara and they are both the transfer target of say, Real Madrid?
Greg: MLS: That sounds pretty good, much more concise than mine.
Things aren’t equal in several countries for American signing. The Eredivisie has its minimum non-EU salary near a half-million Euros, the UK has its work permit ordeal, other leagues have homegrown roster quotas and non-EU squad limits to think about. A few countries are “the most equal” in the regard, places like obviously Germany, Denmark, Belgium.
From a player standpoint, it’s certainly possible that a coach will make more of an effort for promising domestic starlet over a foreigner, or a Dutch coach may feel more at ease with a Dutch player fitting into a 4-3-3. Other than these issues, Americans are plenty popular as targets. Even I don’t hear about everything that goes on, or maybe I hear about it much later. Obviously, Americans who hold EU passports are the most “equal” of all.
As for the other thing, if Real Madrid is after an American, where he was “raised” as a player is about the last thing on their mind. But they are quite on their own planet, really. That club could think marketing first, as they did when they had a speculative bid for Gooch rejected years back. With a regular-size Earth club, it would depend most of all on the whims of a particular technical director or coach.
Matthew, TSG: Two questions: 1) How important is the agent in the deal these days? Are there package deals? Many thought Freddy Adu getting a trial at Ingolstadt last year was the result of Edson Buddle’s signing….and 2) On average, are Americans “cheaper” than others players?
Greg, MLS: The influence of the agent depends, probably more on average when the players are less well-known. I don’t know about package deals, but having prior working contact with a club certainly helps. I’m pretty sure Ingolstadt just wanted offense to stay up and the agent had another idea for them.
On average, perhaps, but that is starting to go away a bit. And the best American players in MLS can often be more expensive because they have a major marketing value at home. If the Galaxy gave up Landon Donovan, they would not simply be giving up his playing aspects. The days of grabbing Michael Bradley for peanuts are over. That won’t happen again.
Matthew, TSG: So who are the key Americans abroad that US fans should truly be excited by? So many times one goal is enough to chop a forest worth’s of timber to power the hype machine…who are the Americans that in either good club situations or just have more talent than anyone else that fans will start hearing about in say 2013 or 2014?
Part II will begin with Greg’s answer here.