LAFC are entering a crowded sporting market, and know that a big player or three will likely be needed for off-field reasons as much as those on the field. And that’s why they are being linked to some very big names.
A report from ESPNFC noted LAFC, which will enter MLS for the 2018 season, are eyeing potential Designated Players, and included a superstar quartet: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, Mexico striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric.
Between the four of them, they’ve won nearly every major club and international competition, and Chicharito has previously been club teammates with both Rooney and Modric, so if LAFC could land more than one of that group, there would be some familiarity, potentially.
Will any of these players come to Los Angeles for 2018, however? That’s the pertinent question, and while some (ahem, Rooney) appear to be aging more rapidly than others, there’s no indication at this stage any of them would be tempted to come to MLS.
But players of this caliber are certainly on the right track for LAFC. There will be considerable talk about Designated Players, especially older European DPs, in the context of mixed tenures of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, with neither returning to their respective MLS teams for 2017. Lampard was good for New York City FC when he was healthy, but he was rarely healthy, while Gerrard seemed to be homesick for Liverpool the moment he stepped off the plane in Southern California and never really dominated MLS midfields like he was expected to.
But contrast those cases with one of David Villa. Lampard’s teammate at NYCFC, Villa has basically been a dream first player signing for the club, playing nearly every game, almost winning the MLS Golden Boot this year and in the running for MLS MVP. Finding fit, motivated European stars may be tricky, but they are out there, and LAFC will surely be hoping for a home run like Villa to help launch their club.
One thing is clear: Whether fans are eager to find out which superstar(s) will be joining LAFC or would rather they dispense with the superstar approach, for soccer and marketing reasons the team will definitely be signing a superstar or three. It’s the reality of the market and trying to make a splash, while of course also seeking success on the field. And it’s not guaranteed success, but MLS teams starting from scratch, like LAFC, have little choice in approaching their roster.
LAFC managing owner Larry Berg talked to SoccerNation recently about the excitement in thinking about top players who could join the club one day.
“I have what I call some ‘fantasy players’ that I would love to get someday.,” he said. “But it’s a little premature and I’m not sure how realistic some of them are. Soccer is a wonderful, global game and so there are fantastic players, playing throughout the world and now we have the opportunity in the U.S. to watch all of them at home. So it’s easy to scout them and just watch them.”
When asked about the potential he has to play real-life fantasy soccer, Berg demurred, seeming to ground his comments in reality rather than the popular fantasy phenomenon.
“I don’t play ‘fantasy’ fantasy [soccer], but when I watch the games I fantasize about bringing some of them to Los Angeles so we can watch them live. And there’s so many great players that are a lot of fun to watch. And as we get closer I think it gets more realistic, we’re obviously talking about it.”
(Image courtesy of LAFC)