Back in 2009, this Chelsea star player was subject to a mammoth £30 million bid from Manchester City, who were looking to build one of the greatest teams in world football by buying up the very best talents using the billions provided by new owner Sheikh Mansour. Seven years on, and Chelsea are struggling to give the veteran centre-back away.
When John Terry announced that his Chelsea career was more or less over back in February, speculation began to mount that he would become the latest name for England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ to end his career in America, joining the likes of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in Major League Soccer. A few years ago, almost every club with the financial capabilities to do so would have been fighting for Terry’s signature, yet, if reports are to be believed, the veteran centre-back is an unwanted man stateside.
Should Terry depart Chelsea this summer, his most likely destination would be the Chinese Super League, with reports suggesting that the 35-year-old has been offered a staggering £230,000-a-week to move to the far east. The deal, a significant increase on the £150,000-a-week that Chelsea have been paying him this season, would make him one of the best paid players in the world.
MLS has been known as a ‘retirement league’ for Europe’s elite players ever since David Beckham‘s move to LA Galaxy spawned the Designated Player rule back in 2007. China have now taken over as the go-to place for ageing stars, yet MLS appears willing to let it happen.
The Designated Player rule was originally used as a way of boosting interest in the sport back when the league’s survival was still far from certain. Average attendance throughout the 2006 season was just 15,504 and the purchase of global superstars was viewed as a way of guaranteeing big crowds and plenty of shirt sales, effectively turning every MLS fixture into the kind of exhibition game that the bigger clubs play during pre-season.
An increase in attendance to an average of 16,770 the following season shows that it made a difference, but with that figure growing year on year every since, MLS no longer needs players like Terry to draw in crowds. The fact that Chelsea recently signed centre-back Matt Miazga from New York Red Bulls says a lot about the increase in quality that MLS has achieved in recent seasons. Europe’s big names aren’t needed quite as much any more because the league is now producing its own quality players.
Sure, by allowing China to take North America’s place as the best retirement league that world football has to offer, MLS does by and large lose the part of its identity that has allowed it to not only survive, but grow over the last decade. However, change isn’t always a bad thing. League chiefs outlined their visions of MLS as one of the biggest leagues in the world and to make that a reality MLS clubs will have to change their approach to the game. Their rebuttal of John Terry shows that they are doing just that, and it is a massive step in the right direction for Major League Soccer.