Cristiano Ronaldo Will Make MLS a Main Attraction
Cristiano Ronaldo is the one player in the world who will transform the MLS into a major football league.
David Villa, Steven Gerrard, Kaka and Frank Lampard were all world-class players who may yet add some star turns to their highlight reels in the twilight of their careers in the United States.
They will help the marketing people sell some shirts but the MLS will still be seen as a retirement home for ageing superstars looking for a way to get season tickets to Disneyland for their kids.
Ronaldo would be the game changer.
He is well aware of the league’s interest, as is his agent, and I believe he will eventually take the bait.
The day that happens is the day the MLS starts hitting the back page headlines in the US papers and not two paragraphs below the NHL results.
The league thought that day was coming when they signed David Beckham, believing that his fame would be enough, but they were blinded by his celebrity and didn’t give enough thought to the kind of footballer he was.
Beckham, in many ways, was a footballer’s footballer. He made a team better, but he wasn’t the team. He worked extremely hard, from his earliest days in Leytonstone, East London, right through to his final hurrah with PSG. Nobody could ever question his desire or his work ethic. That is why he is still held in such high esteem among English football fans that have little interest in his fancy friends or his wife’s fashion choices.
But he was never going to dribble past three players, dummy the keeper and chip the ball onto his head to score.
I saw Beckham’s first couple of games for the Los Angeles Galaxy and you could sense the deflation in the stadium as the crowd realized it wasn’t going to be the kind of showtime many were expecting. Beckham was playing balls into spaces his inexperienced teammates hadn’t even thought of occupying. It made him look poor but the truth was that he was simply too good for the rest of his team. The biggest cheers came when he took off his shirt.
I once had the good fortune to play against the great Sir Trevor Brooking in an amateur game and he was so superior to the rest of his team they couldn’t get on the end of any of his glorious passes and we won, much to our amazement.
In Ronaldo’s case, he really could win a game all by himself. He may be 33 by the time his Real Madrid contract ends and past his very best, but a slightly sub par Ronaldo is still better than everyone else other than, perhaps, Lionel Messi. He’s no stranger to Los Angeles, his likely destination and will provide that star power, on and off the pitch, that could, finally, force soccer, into America’s sporting mainstream.
As we stand now, the MLS remains a sideshow in world soccer despite the strides it is making in both quality and facilities.
If Ronaldo signs on, it becomes a main event.