Chris Klein, President of the LA Galaxy, is trying to replicate the success of Florentino Pérez’s Galacticos’ teams at Real Madrid with recent salary dumps, trades, acquisitions and rumored acquisitions. But is it a smart move?
Pérez made the Galácticos (Spanish for superstars) a worldwide soccer phenomenon as when he was president of Real Madrid, he signed at least one superstar every year. During his tenure, some of the Galácticos he signed included: Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Walter Samuel. Pérez was able to bring Real Madrid two La Liga titles and one UEFA Champions League title within the first couple of years, but the team soon became synonymous with prima donnas and failed to live up to the hyped and hopeful success.
The galáctico policy seemed to fail with high-profile signings for one of the top clubs in the world, so why does Klein think he will be able to make the idea a success?
First, Klein is breaking up the young core of his team with two surprising salary dumps this past week. Omar Gonzalez (center-back) and Juninho (center-midfield) led the Galaxy to raise the MLS Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and playoff appearances in 2013 and 2015, but both will now be applying their trades in Mexico’s Liga MX – Gonzalez to Pachuca and Juninho to Tijuana.
Gonzalez was the MVP in MLS Cup 2012 and became the Galaxy’s third Designated Player in August of 2013, the first pure center back to ever earn a Designated Player contract in Major League Soccer. This success led him to a starting position for the national team in the lead up to the World Cup. Furthermore, Gonzalez seemed to embody the mold of the young national team player that the MLS was trying to retain and that US Soccer and Jurgen Klinsmann has been yearning for.
Juninho hasn’t generated the headlines that teammates like Landon Donovan, David Beckham and others have generated, but he arguably has been the crux of the Galaxy’s recent success. The creative force in the Galaxy’s midfield, a once soft-spoken newcomer, blossomed into a leader on and off the pitch. The Brazilian never lacked confidence, guile and had an often flair for the dramatic with beautifully taken long-range goals.
Second, if the 2014-2015 is any example, stockpiling world class talent isn’t the key to success for the Galaxy. During the season the Galaxy made two high-profile signings as Designated Players with England International and former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Mexican International and former Villarreal stand-out Giovanni dos Santos. Both were greeted to much pomp and circumstance, as these big-name players were supposed to bolster the already proven and strong Galaxy team. Well this wasn’t really the case as the team finished the regular season fifth in the Western Conference and lost in the knockout round in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Third, is going after older former stars really the way to go? If the rumors are true and the Galaxy are to sign former England international Ashley Cole – who will reunite with England and Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard – this team looks more like the aging galacticos. Cole (35) will be paired with Gerrard (35), Robbie Keane (35), and Giovani dos Santos (26) the one young gun. It is undesirable that the Galaxy are trying to bolster their chances to again lift the MLS Cup and achieve the success Gonzalez and Juninho’s Galaxy teams of the past several years had, but their team was built much differently.
Those Galaxy teams were built from the ground up. They didn’t just add one star willy nilly to be a stop-gap. The team was built around Galaxy legend Landon Donovan and (then) recent additions Robbie Keane and David Beckham, with key role players like Mike Magee, Edson Buddle, Sean Franklin and others.
Fourth, the trend of big-name players to the MLS is ruining the parity of a young, fun and competitive league. The league which was built on the foundation of spreading the wealth and good players across the league, seems to be long gone. It’s great for certain teams (detailed below) and their supporters, that go after these superstars – or aging superstars – but it is tugging at the fabric of what the league was built on.
Los Angeles Galaxy: Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovanni dos Santos
New York City FC: Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Frank Lampard and Mix Diskerud
Toronto FC: Sebastian Giovinco, Benoît Cheyrou, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore
*note like reason two above, none of these teams made it past the knockout round in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The high-profiled New York City FC team didn’t even make the playoffs
So will the Galacticos strategy work across the Atlantic? Only time will tell…
By: Jarone Ashkenazi