Football leagues across the realm have their own unique attractions; some love the Eredivisie and their play-off for UEFA Europa League places and the entertainment value created within the atmosphere created by top sides vying it out for slots at the end of the season, others love the Liga BBVA and the competitiveness of the season culmination point when results start to outweigh the aesthetically pleasing elements of the football as putting points on the board is the sole objective, the purists love the Serie A TIM because there always seems to be a twist in the plot waiting to be written and a string of results could define a seasons outcome in a league where game management reigns supreme, while many of us begin to grow more of an affinity for the Fuβball-Bundesliga as they seem to churn out eyebrow raising results every weekend while the fans give us something more to marvel over with their devotion to their sides and the desire it breeds in the players to step up their performances. Yet for many seasons now, the last 10 odd games in the Barclays Premier League seem to always have many of us checking up on the latest log standings, upcoming fixtures, player availability and the entire media circus that seems to erupt whenever there is movement in the table and the permutations that could follow; its within that sphere that we find proof of just how different our diverse leagues truly are as one transfer could potentially have altered the future of two leagues simultaneously.
Having Jozy Altidore plying his trade in the EPL was brilliant for football in America and the US Men’s National Team as a whole, one of their premier footballers would be playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world while growing his game and the game of the nation even further. Yet the Haitian-American Altidore did not enjoy the best of stays in England, playing for a Sunderland side that had little stability while constantly remaining under pressure to get results meant that chances were at a premium for Jozy and he was bound to catch major flack for missing chances when he plays for a side that creates very few good chances and is prone to conceding a few goals at the other end just to compound the pressure. It was never bound to be easy for Altidore, who actually played pretty well during his stay in Holland, an impressive 1st season tally of 22 goals in all competitions was followed up by a 31 goal season in his second campaign as the lad helped AZ Alkmaar to the Dutch Cup title and he seemed to be adding more awareness to his game and combining his great physique with a more methodical approach to movement on and off the ball; yet Sunderland needed a proven marksman that knew the niches of the EPL in and out, not an American lad who could potentially develop into a lethal striker in the right set up, his prior spell on loan at Hull City showed that he might suffer from the same issues he hand during his first stay in England. Jozy’s career was at a pivotal point, he needed to feel trusted as a forward if he was to develop into the calibre of player required to lead the line for a young USMNT side that has the potential to grow together during the next international football cycle; Jozy was a player in need of a major boost of confidence and the next move would be career defining for him, decisions had to be made.
There are few strikers that have been as consistently feared across the EPL during the last 10 seasons in the manner that Jermain Defoe has, the London born hotshot is one of the finest goal scorers that the Barclays Premier League has ever seen and one of the most underrated footballer England has ever produced; he became the 20th player to score 100 Premier League goals in April of 2011 and he is currently ranked as the 14th highest goal scorer in Premier League history. How he couples his great burst of pace with a catlike agility and the touch of an artist is poetic in its own right; Defoe is a throwback No: 9, a man that can get you goals regardless of tactical setup or playing ideology. His move to the MLS was always bound to be a hard sell for both sides; Defoe didn’t have the profile to raise the level of football off the field in Canada or the MLS as a whole, what he did have was the ability to score goals for the side and help mentor the next generation of forwards in the league if he was approached to do so. Acclimatising to football in the States would naturally be hard for a lot of players, and more so for a player that had spent the largest parts of his career playing in one of the toughest leagues there is; Jermain did extremely well in Toronto, netting on his debut yet again with a brace in the 2-1 season opening victory against the Seattle Sounders and it seemed as if he could have come to the MLS a season or two too early as he still had even more to offer football in England where his heart truly was, his run of 11 goals in his 1st 16 league games proved that he was a man still at the top of his game. No disrespect to the MLS, but Jermain Defoe at the current level was a major coup for the league, maybe Toronto was not as big a city as Jermain expected a player of his ilk to play in or maybe Jermain was not the global superstar Toronto expected as their next Designated Player; the entire deal seemed destined to end in the player leaving sooner rather than later after the sacking of Toronto gaffer and former Spurs teammate Ryan Nelsen, the only question was regarding his next destination and the ramifications of him moving on and needing replacing.
These two situations could have ended any other way were it not for the unique demands and rigours of each league; the beginning of the MLS season is always a hive of activity and it has become even more active with the expansion sides brining more top level players into the league while the 3 Designated Player slots make the transfer market even more competitive as teams now need to wheel and deal better than they did before. Having Michael Bradley leading the side meant that Jozy had a midfield general he could rely on while their partnership could form the core of a competitive Toronto FC side while also giving the team a tad bit more financial breathing room, Bradley is also rumoured to have courted Jozy moths prior by talking up the setup over in Toronto.
The relegation dog fight is something that Sunderland has become so accustomed to in recent seasons, that they have devised a formula for survival every season; their recipe for survival somehow involves sacking the gaffer two games before the derby and cooking up a treat that fixes their defensive ailments and remedies their goal scoring aches with a touch and go effort to raally through at the end and save the day. This season however, the Black Cats have added a new ingredient X to the mix with the procurement of Jermain Defoe midway through the January transfer window; the club had bought themselves a proven EPL forward with a point to prove and the ability to bang in a couple of goals for the cause. It may still be too early to call it, but one would get great odds on Sunderland surviving the drop now that the chefs over in the boardroom seem to have mixed their ingredients right in the nick of time yet again by adding an indigenous ingredient that was imported from across the pond. Sunderland may have spent $13m to bring Jozy over to the North-East to bag in 3 goals in 52 games for the club, but that may all be forgotten if Jermain Defoe adds to his current tally of 3 goals and saves The Black Cats from relegation yet again; these Black Cats may be about to use up another one of their lives and Bob’s Your Manny Pacquiao backing tiyuhin mate.