Opinion

What a Coup: The MLS and New York steal superstar David Villa from Spain

David Villa celebrates a goal for his Spanish club, Atletico de Madrid, in the country
David Villa celebrates a goal for his Spanish club, Atletico de Madrid, in the country's La Liga.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (author Carlos Delgado)

Congrats to New York FC for scooping superstar David Villa from Spain – just as they (reportedly) also alley-hooped English national Frank Lampard from London's Chelsea – but perhaps the glass deserves to be raised not to the club, but to the MLS.

Yes, the league hasn't let up from its 2007 importing of David Beckham, back when the LA Galaxy bought the underwear model's right foot for a rumoured (and exaggerated) $200 million-plus. (Beckham very likely made that amount while in California, but it was more from endorsement and speculation, not salary.)

That was the make-or-break move for the league, which was still hanging on as, well, the soccer world's version of the CFL.

Getting Beckham to drop back in North America was a coup, but it had to be more than that. The Red Bulls still have Thierry Henry, but his and Beckham's exodus wasn't really Chris Columbus-like. It was more a couple of old guys playing out their golden years in Hollywood and on Broadway.

But now, with the bringing-over of David Villa and Lampard, already adding to last offseason's steal for Toronto FC – the club got American stud Michael Bradley and English international Jermain Defoe – the MLS has sustained its momentum to last it at least a decade.

There were worries or at least wonderings, when Beckham signed with L.A., that the MLS would fall prey to the same naive fate of the NASL, which had all-timers like Pele and Beckenbauer and George Best and Eusebio moving to North America in the 1970's.

The league couldn't keep up with the steroids it once could afford and it died, like muscles needing their milk, pretty predictably.

"The requirements for ownership now are very rigid," said Glen Johnson, the Vancouver Whitecaps' first-ever signing (back in '74) and a White Rock, B.C. resident now. "There has to be some real deep pockets back in the team and they have to have a venue for the games in place.

"They're not winging it anymore."

I spoke to Johnson back in May, after he was inducted into Vancouver's ring of honour with the rest of his '74 team – remember, they were a big part of the NASL, winning the league's championship in 1979. Neither the club nor the league could follow up their initial years of enthusiasm, and both had to reincarnate themselves in the 21st century, in the MLS.

I know Johnson well and when I see him, our conversations immediately disintegrate into a back-and-forth about soccer. He likes Suarez; I don't disagree.

So when I interviewed him about his place in Whitecaps lore, that discussion (again) quickly turned into a two-man roundtable about the health of the league and the Caps.

I can only imagine he's as excited about the score for Villa (and Lampard?) as I am.

"There will always be the odd exception," he said, on whether Major League Soccer's teams can sustain their value. "But there is in the NHL as well. I think the league is solid. I think we're going to see more and more, some players are going to start ending up because the salaries are available and the clubs can afford to pay them."

Wow. Nailed it...

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