When the rumor first started circulating that that Didier Drogba may find his way to the Seattle Sounders following the end of his contract at Galatasaray, I reacted in a way that many wouldn’t expect. As opposed to those in the twitter-sphere and over at Sounder at Heart, I was not elated with the idea of Drogba donning the Rave Green and the Sounder Blue, but rather disappointed, and frustrated with the thought. For days I pondered "why would I feel this way?" and "is there something wrong me?," but now I believe I can fully articulate where my feelings come from.
My first instinct is that I am hyper-sensitive from the perceived failures of the FO to sign and retain older talent from the European leagues. The Ljungberg fallout, the disappearing act of Christian Tiffert, and the abrupt end to the Blaise Nkufo era before it even started has left me reeling whenever I hear the words "Seattle" and "Designated Player (DP)" in the same sentence. Hell, I’m still worried about Obafemi Martin’s future with the club, and secretly struggle with the idea that Clint Dempsey may not be the savior he was supposed to be based on his elaborate and over the top "unveiling." So where are we? We have one DP that helps me sleep easy at night, and that is Ozzie Alonso.
When analyzing the idea of Drogba joining the team, I immediately think of Nkufo. Nkufo was 35 when he arrived following the 2010 World Cup, Drogba would be 36 if he were to join the club. Both at the tail end of their careers, and both with strong pedigrees and resumes, although Drogba’s is far and away more impressive. Drogba would also arrive essentially three-months in to the MLS season, when the team has hopefully settled in to a groove after the major roster overhaul it went through following the 2013 season.
So naturally, given the end of the 2013 season and the excuses from the FO that locker room morale and lack of team cohesion were factors in its implosion, why would the team do it? Will they swap Obafemi Martins for Drogba as some have speculated, and what are the implications if the FO has already agreed to some sort of deal already? Will the MLS add a 4th DP slot outside of the current CBA? How will it be done?
The idea that a Drogba for Martins swap may take place is concerning on multiple levels. First, his late May arrival is inconsistent with the FO’s goal of roster stability entering the season. It would disrupt the ever longed for team cohesion roughly 3 months in to the season. Just as Obfemi supposedly begins to settle in, possibly accepting the fact that his WC2014 aspirations look dim, why on earth would the FO look to unsettle the lineup mid -season? If chemistry and morale were an issue with the 2013 squad, why bring in someone like Drogba and ship off Oba? Lastly, it also doesn’t prepare the team for the future after the 2014 season.
As mentioned, Drogba will be 36 by the time he arrives, so realistically Seattle would be fortunate to get him for the remainder of the 2014 and possibly 2015 season (although he could choose to retire any time much like Nkufo did). Following the 2015 season, if he makes it that far, he will be 37 going on 38 by the time the 2016 season comes about. Additionally, he comes with a full DP cap hit, which does nothing to allow for cap room flexibility.
But I also think there is something else that bothers me about the whole thing. I think it’s the message that our FO is unable to locate young international talent (outside of Fredy Montero), and is too fixated with high-profile, and therefore high-priced players. In the event that Obafemi for some reason or another wanted to leave mid-season, then why not search for a younger DP that would cost considerably less against the cap, and with the adequate development over a few years possibly result in a positive return on the investment when time comes to sell to a bigger club in Europe? Where is the forethought in our roster moves in the same vein as a club like Chelsea who look to buy as much young talent as possible, loan them out to clubs in need, and then either sell for a possible profit or retain the player if they make the cut? It seems as if we are so fixated on immediate gratification that we fail to see the bigger picture.
Going forward the fanbase simply wants stability and a longterm strategy. Big money moves look good on paper, and have had limited success (L.A. Galaxy and Robbie Keane/David Beckham). But for how long could Drogba really last? Is he the rule to the Sounders older DP curse or the exception? And do we really want to weigh the odds? Whatever happens, we have to hold faith that FO has the longevity of the organization at heart when they make these decisions.
Lachlan - thesoccerconvert.com