No thanks, Lewandowski! Major League Soccer is no longer a retirement league

David Villa. Remember him? He’s the former Valencia and Barcelona striker who left Atletico Madrid to retire in the United States with MLS side New York City FC. Except, that is not what he did. Sure, he moved to Major League Soccer in the latter years of his career, but he has done anything but retire in the U.S.

Spain’s all-time top goalscorer has been immense in MLS, scoring 65 goals in 98 games, which earned him a recall to the international team after a three-year absence. La Roja manager Julen Lopetegui is just another top football personality coming to realise that MLS has a lot to offer and has moved on from the days when aging European players could sleepwalk through games and pick up a good salary while living in the sunshine.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, the wife of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski revealed the couple’s desire to move to Los Angeles, where the Poland international could end his career while Anna would expand her food business.

“We dream of Los Angeles. That’s where we want to develop our brands,” Anna Lewandowska told Business Insider Poland. “We hope Robert will end his career at a club in Los Angeles and we can say it would be our dream.”

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But MLS in 2017 and 2018 is a lot different from the league’s early days, when the likes of Jorge Campos and Carlos Valderrama were as much marketing tools as football players. David Beckham’s move to MLS 10 years ago was just the beginning, with the England international joining the LA Galaxy on the back of a La Liga title win with Real Madrid, with the Spanish giants keen to keep hold of the former Manchester United star rather than let him move to America.

“The success Beckham brought to MLS, nobody can deny that,” FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo told Goal. “He changed the game in the United States as a player and what he represents as a gentleman on and off the field. He gave us a push like nobody ever did before, and we will always be grateful for what he did.

“But right now, the direction is different. The league is recognised worldwide. In the next couple of years, it can become one of the best five leagues in the world.”

Clavijo is at the forefront of Dallas’ vision of developing the club’s own talent and bringing in young international players rather than signing aged former stars. Under his guidance, the Texas franchise has become one of the league’s strongest teams, and boasted the most homegrown players in any MLS squad this season. Dallas’s two designated players (DPs) are occupied by 22-year-old Ecuador international Carlos Gruezo and 23-year-old Paraguayan forward Cristian Colman — a stark contrast to previous years when these spots would have been saved for veterans on inflated wages.

Dallas’ approach brought the club U.S. Open Cup success in 2016, and saw FCD reach the semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this year. Success of teams that have moved away from the traditional marquee signing model has also begun to shape some of the more marketing-driven teams, with the Galaxy signing younger DPs in Mexico’s Dos Santos brothers and 28-year-old former Marseille winger Romain Alessandrini. After Beckham and Robbie Keane flourished in Los Angeles, the Galaxy learned that big-name signings sold jerseys but did not always produce results. 

“Steven Gerrard, when he came into the league a few years ago, said it himself: If anyone comes here to retire, they need to think again,” Clavijo said. “You need to come here to work. The league is difficult. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different in many ways: altitude, turf, distances, playing in different countries like Canada, it is difficult.

“If someone wants to come to my team with the intention of retiring, with the greatest of respect to their career, we only want players who come to play. The future of MLS is in younger players. Even Beckham came to play. Villa, [Sebastian] Giovinco, they’re unbelievable, they came here to play. The guys who came in like Robbie Keane came to win. That is the type of player we welcome. Having someone like Villa who comes to play, as a younger player is amazing — you learn so much from playing with these types of professionals.”

GFX Clavijo Lewandowski Quote

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After scoring 17 goals for Toronto this season, Italian forward Giovinco went one better than last season by winning the MLS Cup. Toronto finished as runners-up to the Seattle Sounders last year, but recorded a 2-0 win to lift the trophy on Saturday. Giovinco came up against Nicolas Lodeiro, who recently helped Uruguay qualify for the World Cup. There, he could easily face Spain and Villa in the round of 16.

Neither side in the biggest game of the MLS season contains a player who is just in America to retire. That’s no longer what the league is about: “Some of those players like Lewandowski are amazing players with great careers. But when you’re talking about retiring, pick another league,” Clavijo insisted. 

“This league is not for retiring. This is to prove yourself. If you are a professional who has had a great career, this is not somewhere to retire. You have to come here to compete. The competition is stiff, the competition is hard. Some teams may accept it [signing potential retirees], but the majority will not. This will keep adding so soon nobody will come here to retire.”


Barcelona to clear up Mascherano future ‘soon’ amid mounting exit rumours

Javier Mascherano’s Barcelona future will be sorted out “soon”, according to director Guillermo Amor.

The Argentina international’s contract at Camp Nou still has 18 months to run but he has suggested he could leave the Catalan giants after falling down the pecking order under Ernesto Valverde.

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Mascherano, who has been struggling with injuries, has seen his playing time significantly reduced in 2017-18, making just 10 appearances in all competitions.

He has suggested a move back to Argentina could be on the cards at the end of the current campaign, while Valverde has stressed his desire to keep the 33-year-old.

Exactly what will happen with Mascherano remains uncertain as the transfer window prepares to open in January, but Amor says it will soon become clear.

“What happens with Mascherano we will see soon,” he told Movistar.

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“We have to see the movements and how everything happens.

“Mascherano is a captain, he is a winner and he is very important for us, when he plays and when he does not play, when he is injured or on the bench.”

Since moving to Barca from Liverpool in 2010 Mascherano has won four LaLiga titles, as many Copa del Rey and two Champions League crowns.


Giroud to consider Arsenal exit during January transfer window

Olivier Giroud admits that he will consider a move away from Arsenal during the January transfer window to keep his World Cup dream alive.

The France international was among the goals for the Gunners in his latest outing, but once again he was forced to start a Premier League meeting with Southampton on the bench.

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A record-equalling 17-goal return as a substitute helps to highlight how effective he can be as an impact player, but the 31-year-old is eager to find more starts.

That could force him away from Emirates Stadium in the new year, with the experienced striker aware that he needs minutes after opting against a switch over the summer – amid interest from the likes of Marseille and Everton .

“I have the World Cup at the back of my mind weekly, almost daily,” Giroud told  L’Equipe .

“Each time I go onto the pitch, it’s to be more clinical and keep on track for the World Cup.”

He added: “If I wasn’t able to leave this summer, it was because of the opportunities I had.

Olivier Giroud Arsenal exit January

“It wouldn’t have been good to leave for leaving’s sake, but it’s certain that eventually, even in January, I’m going to have to ask myself the question again.

“It won’t be easy to find the right solution and take the right decision, but we’ll look at the opportunities.”

Despite preparing to weigh up his options with international ambitions in mind, Giroud claims that France boss Didier Deschamps has advised him against leaving Arsenal.

He added: “During international get-togethers, the coach usually warns me against that.

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“He has told me the things he wanted to tell me, which is totally logical and I understand. He wants me to play more.”

Giroud, who has passed the 100-goal mark for Arsenal this season , has found the target 29 times in 69 appearances for his country.

He has, however, seen just 252 minutes of Premier League football in 2017-18 and is yet to start an English top-flight fixture this term.


MLS unveils unprotected players for LAFC expansion draft

MLS has unveiled the list of 309 players who have been left unprotected for Tuesday’s expansion draft, during which Los Angeles FC will add up to five players ahead of its inaugural campaign.

Each club was allowed to protect 11 players, with homegrown players from a club’s off-budget roster and Generation Adidas players automatically protected without counting toward that total. No club can lose more than one player in the draft.

Seattle Sounders midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Harry Shipp, Minnesota United midfielder Miguel Ibarra, New York City FC defender Maxime Chanot, Toronto FC winger Raheem Edwards, and San Jose Earthquakes forward Marco Urena are among the notable names available in Tuesday’s draft.

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Here is the full list of unprotected players:

Atlanta United: Mikey Ambrose, Yamil Asad, Mark Bloom, Bobby Boswell*, Kevin Kratz, Jeff Larentowicz*, Zach Loyd*, Chris McCann, Tyrone Mears, Kevin Oliveira, Jeffrey Otoo, Tyler Pasher, Jacob Peterson, Kyle Reynish*, Anton Walkes, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Romario s

Chicago Fire: David Arshakyan, Rodrigo Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Matej Dekovic, John Goossens, Michael Harrington*, Daniel Johnson, Matt Lampson, Joao Meira

Colorado Rapids: John Berner, Bobby Burling*, Dennis Castillo, Mike Da Fonte, Joshua Gatt, Luis Gil, Alan Gordon*, Sam Hamilton, Mohammed Saeid, Mekeil s

Columbus Crew: Waylon Francis, Niko Hansen, Marshall Hollingsworth, Adam Jahn, Hector Jimenez, Logan Ketterer, Conor Maloney, Cristian Martinez, Jonathan Mensah, Abuchi Obinwa, Jukka Raitala, Rodrigo Saravia, Gaston Sauro, Brad Stuver, Josh s

D.C. United: Deshorn Brown, Julian Buscher, Steve Clark, Sean Franklin*, Bill Hamid, Jared Jeffrey, Eric Klenofsky, Chris Korb, Bruno Miranda, Patrick Nyarko*, Chris Odio-Atsem, Chris Rolfe*, Lloyd Sam, Marcelo Sarvas, Rob Vincent, Travis Worra

FC Dallas: Carlos Cermeno, Anibal Chala, Eduardo Cortes, Maynor Figueroa, Luis Gonzalez, Hernan Grana, Atiba Harris*, Walker Hume, Roland Lamah, Javier Morales*, Chris Seitz*

Houston Dynamo: Eric Alexander*, Arturo Alvarez, Jalil Anibaba, DaMarcus Beasley*, Calle Brown, Ricardo Clark*, A.J. DeLaGarza*, Jose Escalante, Boniek Garcia, Kevin Garcia, Joe Holland, Taylor Hunter, Alex, George Malki, Vicente Sanchez, Philippe Senderos, Charlie Ward

LA Galaxy: Michael Ciani, Bradley Diallo, Clement Diop, Rafael Garcia, Jermaine Jones, Jon Kempin, Ariel Lassiter, Jack McInerney, Brian Rowe, Pele van Anholt

Minnesota United: Bernardo Anor, Justin Davis, Thomas De Villardi, Vadim Demidov, Joe Greenspan, Miguel Ibarra, Ismaila Jome, Alex Kapp, Jose Leiton, Patrick McLain, Sam Nicholson, Rasmus Schuller, Jermaine Taylor, Johan Venegas, Kevin Venegas, Collen Warner

Montreal Impact: Hernan Bernardello, Patrice Bernier, Dein Boldor, Hassoun Camara, Nick DePuy, Shaun Francis*, Eric Kronberg*, Wandrille Lefevre, Matteo Mancosu, Dominic Oduro, Andrew Romero, Michael Salazar

New England Revolution: Benjamin Angoua, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Brad Knighton*, Daigo Kobayashi, Xavier Kouassi, Donnie Smith, Josh Smith, Matt Turner, Chris Tierney, JeVaughn Watson, London Woodberry, Brian Wright

New York City FC: R.J. Allen, Kwame Awuah, Migual Camargo, Maxime Chanot, Shannon Gomez, Eirik Johansen, Mikey Lopez, Jefferson Mena, Sean Okoli, Andre Rawls, Khiry Shelton, John Stertzer, Andraz Struna, Ethan White

New York Red Bulls: Anatole Abang, Gideon Baah, Vincent Bezecourt, Aurelien Collin, Dilly Duka*, Mike Grella, Muhammed Keita, Connor Lade, Zeiko Lewis, Dan Metzger, Hassan Ndam, Damien Perrinelle, Sal Zizzo*

Orlando City: Kevin Alston*, Giles Barnes, Hadji Barry, Servando Carrasco, Pierre Da Silva, Conor Donovan, Earl Edwards Jr., Devron Garcia, Victor Giro, Sebastian Hines, Antonio Nocerino, Leonardo Pereira, Dillon Powers, Rafael Ramos, Tony Rocha, Josh Saunders*

Philadelphia Union: Roland Alberg, Eric Ayuk, Warren Creavalle, Charlie Davies, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis, Aaron Jones, Richard Marquez, John McCarthy, Jake McGuire, Oguchi Onyewu, Chris Pontius*, Jay Simpson, Ken Tribbett, Giliano Wijnaldum

Portland Timbers: Gbenga Arokoyo, Victor Arboleda, Jeff Attinella, Jack Barmby, Rennico Clarke, Jake Gleeson, Kendall McIntosh, Lucas Melano, Roy Miller, Chance Myers, Amobi Okugo, Lawrence Olum, Bill Tuiloma, Zarek Valentin, Ben Zemanski*

Real Salt Lake: Chad Barrett*, Tony Beltran, Nick Besler, Reagan Dunk, Omar Holness, Yuri Movsisyan, Stephen Sunday, Demar Phillips, Justin Schmidt, Chris Schuler*, Connor Sparrow, Matt Van Oekel, Chris Wingert*

San Jose Earthquakes: Francois Affolter, Quincy Amarikwa, Leandro Barrera, Victor Bernardez, Matt Bersano, Cordell Cato, Kip Colvey, Harold Cummings, Simon Dawkins, Andrew Imperiale, Lindo Mfeka, Marc Pelosi, Kofi Sarkodie, Matheus Silva, Marco Urena

Seattle Sounders: Tony Alfaro, Osvaldo Alonso, Jordy Delem, Brad Evans*, Oneil Fisher, Joevin Jones, Calum Mallace, Zach Mathers, Bryan Meredith, Tyler Miller, Lamar Neagle*, Harry Shipp

Sporting Kansas City: Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kharlton Belmar, Latif Blessing, Amer Didic, Andrew Dykstra, Cameron Iwasa, Kenwyne Jones, Diego Kostner, Soni Mustivar, Cameron Porter, Soony Saad, Seth Sinovic, Colton Storm, Alex Tambakis, Adrian Zendejas

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Toronto FC: Oyvind Alseth, Brandon Aubrey, Steven Beitashour*, Benoit Cheyrou, Armando Cooper, Raheem Edwards, Tsubasa Endo, Nicholas Hasler, Jason Hernandez*, Clint Irwin, Drew Moor*, Mark Pais, Tosaint Ricketts

Vancouver Whitecaps: Christian Bolanos, Marcel De Jong, David Edgar, Deybi Flores, Kyle Greig, Jordan Harvey*, Bernie Ibini-Isei, Nosa Igiebor, Andrew Jacobson*, Matias Laba, Brett Levis, Aaron Maund, Davis Ousted, Spencer Richey, Mauro Rosales

* indicates the player is a free agent


MLS Cup winners Moor, Beitashour headline 2018 free agent class

MLS Cup-winning defenders Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour are among 40 players eligible for MLS free agency, the league announced Sunday.

Free agency in MLS this winter requires players be out of contract — either due to expiration or an option being declined — be at least 28 years old during the 2018 season, and have a minimum of eight years in the league.

Moor and Beitashour were regular starters for MLS champion Toronto FC. The 33-year-old Moor made 24 starts in central defense while the 30-year-old Beitashour started 17 at right back and wing back.

They are not the only well-known veterans to hit the market this winter. Two U.S. national team veterans, Houston Dynamo fullback DaMarcus Beasley and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, are on the list.

Other players with U.S. national team experience on the list include 2016 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Chris Pontius of the Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders defender-midfielder Brad Evans, Colorado Rapids forward Alan Gordon and Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark.

Three players on the list — Robbie Rogers, Brian Carroll and Chris Rolfe — have announced their retirement.

MLS free agents are eligible to sign with any team in the league after 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

The list in full:

Goalkeepers: Tyler Deric, Brad Knighton, Eric Kronberg, Kyle Reynish, Nick Rimando, Josh Saunders, Chris Seitz

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Defenders: Kevin Alston, DaMarcus Beasley, Steven Beitashour, Bobby Boswell, Bobby Burling, A.J. DeLaGarza, Brad Evans, Shaun Francis, Sean Franklin, Michael Harrington, Jordan Harvey, Jason Hernandez, Zach Loyd, Drew Moor, Robbie Rogers (retired), Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Sal Zizzo

Midfielders: Eric Alexander, Brian Carroll (retired), Ricardo Clark, Dilly Duka, Atiba Harris, Andrew Jacobson, Jeff Larentowicz, Javier Morales, Lamar Neagle, Patrick Nyarko, Chris Pontius, Ben Zemanski

Forwards: Chad Barrett, Alan Gordon, Chris Rolfe (retired)


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