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Sunday, July 29, 2007

European Transfers of Freddy Adu and Sal Zizzo by Dan Leo

by Dan Leo for World Football Commentaries.

A Few Points on Adu

1) Freddy's transfer did not set MLS record for non-GK's, as Clint Dempsey's winter 2006-07 transfer was over $3M. MLS could presumably benefit via the sell-on rights but there's not been an indication that it managed to negotiate any.

2) Adu's salary also presents somewhat of a problem for MLS. A $500-600K annual salary is at the deep back-up/reserve player level. Once again, Dempsey's wage is presumably considerably higher and Freddy doesn't come anywhere near Tim Howard's alleged $4M compensation from Everton.

3) The two above factors do not cast a positive light at MLS, unless one deems it to be a top-level league. Developing its players - regardless whether they're sold or allowed to leave via free agency - is an essential task of a professional sports organization. In that regard, outside of Adu's physical maturation, it's pretty hard to pinpoint what aspects of his game have improved in MLS. He was already a good dribbler and passer when he joined the league just shy of his 15th birthday.
Obtaining a high transfer fee for a celebrated member of the league would have given MLS a more substantial pedigree to flaunt in front of college free agents ascertaining their potential value. Arguably, Adu should be worth now a lot more than he was upon entering the pro ranks. Yet, $2M is an amount that seems quite low when compared to other transfers. And, if one looks Benfica's purchase of Angel di Maria where the Portuguese club paid ~ (prorated) $6M amount for the Argentine U-20 winger, Adu's selling price seems ridiculously low.


MLS second-in-command Ivan Gazidis tried to spin the lack of the sell-on clause to the ever-so-gullible US reporters by insisting that MLS would receive additional fees from future Adu transfers. Many assumed that this amount was the previously denied sell-on clause.

The reality is that FIFA mandates additional compensation to the clubs that have trained players in their developing years from the proceeds of the player transfers. Should Adu be sold by Benfica or by some other club before his 24th birthday, MLS will receive 1.75% of whatever the amount Freddy will generate for his "selling" club. For example, if the next Adu's transfer amount is $5M, MLS will receive $87,500 for having once employed him between the ages of 14 and 18. In the global soccer market, $87.500 is also known as bubkis.

To learn more from FIFA, here is a link to Regulations for the Status and Transfers of Players.

Sal Zizzo

This leads us to the next item - UCLA's and the US U-20's winger Sal Zizzo's recent signing with the ambitious Bundesliga club Hannover 96. Even though Zizzo, 20, has an Italian passport due to his parents, he chose the club that had wanted him and was willing to "teach him the ropes". From Zizzo's perspective, he took an offer from a league known for its development. While MLS - perhaps rather foolishly - claims that it is not a "selling" league, Hannover 96 exists in reality. It is fully aware that it isn't capable of holding onto top talent like the German international Per Mertesacker and is perfectly willing to listen to good offers from clubs (Bremen) that are higher on the food chain. This buy & sell strategy motivates Hannover to maximize the potential of each and every player on its roster. The younger talents can be used in its minor league team games while those with higher and nearer potential stay and practice against the A-squad.

With its off-season acquisition of capped German internationals Mike Hanke and Benjamin Lauth, Hannover's current ambitions lie in reaching the UEFA Cup competition. Should the club succeed in its quest, Zizzo is likely to experience the rigors of both the Bundesliga and the general Euro-wide soccer. With all due respect to the very promising Superliga, MLS is still long ways from matching that level of competition on an every day basis.

And, as far as Zizzo's financial prospects go, the far superior European wage scale doesn't hurt here either.

About the author

Dan Leo is a freelance writer based in Miami, Florida.

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