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MLS: Money-making Loan System?

Many people would say that America is an ideal place for footballers to go and end their career.

Others would say that it is just used as a way to make money.

It is becoming much more common for professional players to make the move across the Atlantic Ocean, with the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard all leaving high profile clubs to play in the MLS.

A recent report by Paul Gerald suggested that players may not be choosing to play in America for the money, as the team salaries per year are actually a lot less than many English teams salaries on average.

Gerald reported that if a team from the MLS was to be introduced into the Premier League, then they would more than likely not survive. The average total MLS team salary in 2016 was $8million. The same year, Leicester City won the Premier League, but had a payroll of around $63million. 

If this figure was anything to go by, then your average MLS club would not only more than likely drop out of the Premier League, but would also struggle to stay in the Championship in that particular season, with Championship teams averaging between $8million and $49million. 

However, if it is the case that players do go to America to make money, then why is there such a demand to come back to Europe during the MLS off-season?

We take a look at some of the biggest names in the game who have gone on loan to European teams, and assess whether it was in an attempt to keep fit or just to make as much money as possible.

 

1. David Beckham 

David Beckham made his name at Manchester United before moving to Real Madrid in 2003. In 2007, Beckham moved to LA Galaxy where he played for 5 seasons. During the 2009 and 2010 off-seasons, Beckham moved to AC Milan on loan. This caused major dissatisfaction in LA, who thought that Beckham only wanted to expand his ever-growing image with the move to Italy. However, with his career coming to an end at the time, it was a good opportunity to keep fit when the MLS season had finished.

2. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry will forever be a legend at Arsenal. The Frenchman signed for the Gunners in 1999 and went on to score 174 times for them in over 250 appearances. After spending nine years in London, Henry moved to Barcelona and then on to New York Red Bulls in the MLS. After two years in NYC, Henry made an emotional return to the Emirates in 2012, in the MLS off-season, but only played four times in a move that seemed to be more of a publicity stunt from Arsenal than for personal gain on Henry’s part.

   3. Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane has played for some huge football clubs in the past, including Liverpool, Tottenham, Inter Milan, Leeds United and Celtic. After years of scoring goals in Europe, Keane moved to Los Angeles in 2011 to play for the Galaxy. However, Keane returned to England following his first season across the pond, signing on-loan for Aston Villa. This was seen as an attempt to maintain his fitness level for the following season, and proved a success for the Irishman, who scored three goals in his six games for the midlands club. 

In 2016, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, compared the demands of English soccer against that of MLS by telling the Guardian, “It’s a different challenge.”

“People think it’s easy to play there (MLS). Believe me, it’s more difficult than playing in the Premier League because of the travel. You can stay at an airport for three or four hours if you miss your flight, so that is really what is levelling the game. There are not a lot of away wins because when the teams arrive they are tired.”

Therefore, with that in mind, it could be possible that players don’t really care about the fitness or the money, and they may just want to return to Europe for a short period to recuperate and to be nearer to home. 

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