Finding the Right Fit for DempseyClint Dempsey will attract interest from top clubs, but some are a better fit than others
by Jeff Maurer | Thursday, April 12, 2012
Clint Dempsey is probably leaving Fulham. As a fan of both Fulham and Dempsey, I am not happy about this fact, but I know it to be true. He’s outgrown Craven Cottage. He wants to play in the Champions League (can’t blame him for that), and let’s be realistic: Fulham’s odds of playing in the Champions League are the same as Newt Gingrich’s odds of winning the Republican nomination (which are the same as the odds of Newt Gingrich playing in the Champions League: zero). If a big club offers Dempsey a chance to live out his Champions League dream, then you have to be happy for him and let him go. It’s like if Jon Hamm shows up at your door and professes his love for your wife; just paste a smile on your face and let her go. Because, man...she’s gone.
As a national team fan, I’ll be happy if Dempsey at least lands somewhere where he can play, develop, and get minutes in the Champions League. I’m not going to be happy if Clint transfers to a bigger club and then doesn’t play - a maneuver known as “The Gooch.” And he won’t be happy if he transfers to a club that doesn’t have a regular stay in the Champions League. This makes picking a suitor a lot more difficult. In England, I see seven potential suitors. I have no idea if any of these clubs have Dempsey in their plans, but here are my thoughts on all seven, arranged from worst fit to best fit.
Newcastle United. Don’t do it Clint - it’s a trap! If Newcastle gets into the Champions League, I hope they take a lot of pictures, because my guess is that they won’t be back for a while. It was only three years ago that they were relegated, and it’s taken breakout seasons from two strikers (Cisse and Ba) plus an off year from two perennial favorites (Liverpool and Chelsea) to put them in contention. I feel bad disparaging a club because of their pedigree, but the Premiere League is like the England of the early 20th century: your class is 90 percent of what determines your place in the world. You don’t see Bates working his way up to CEO of Downton Abbey, and you won’t see Newcastle in the Champions League several years in a row.
Manchester City. I don’t think they’ll bid for him, and if they do, I don’t think he’ll play. Manchester City’s recent purchase history has been all about big names and gaudy transfer fees. The words “29,” “Fulham” and “American” will hit Sheikh Mansour’s ears the way American car buyers hear the words “compact,” “practical” and “fuel-efficient”. No sale.
Manchester United. Again: I worry that he wouldn’t play. The soon-to-be champions don’t need a lot of tweaking, and with Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez in the fold and the expiration dates on Ryan Giggs’s and Paul Scholes’s deals with the devil still unknown, they seem pretty much set in attack.
Chelsea. As with Manchester City, I think that Dempsey would be much too efficient of a purchase to be appealing to Chelsea. Clearly, the oil barons who own these clubs are engaged in some sort of dipstick-measuring contest, intent on buying the most expensive players instead of the best ones. Better to throw ungodly sums of money at Shevchenko and Torres than to buy Van der Vaart or Dempsey at wholesale prices, or so the thinking goes.
Liverpool. Look, I know that Liverpool were great in the ‘70s. So was Aerosmith, and have you seen Stephen Tyler lately? Every time I watch Liverpool play they look astoundingly mediocre - I can’t believe that they were constructed to be a Champions League-caliber club. It’s like learning that a Kia Sportage was designed to be an elite-level racing car - how could they miss the mark so badly? I have no doubt that they’ll get back to the Champions League sooner or later - their fans and their business model demand it - but Clint is 29...he needs a baby NOW (so to speak).
Tottenham. Tottenham could work for Dempsey, especially if Adebayor gets recalled to Manchester City (and I think that he will). True, Tottenham are strong on the wings with Bale and Lennon, but Adebayor might be leaving, Saha is close to finished, Van der Vaart isn’t a pure striker, and Defoe is sort of the Mitt Romney of English soccer - the guy people will settle for but aren’t really thrilled about. Dempsey could probably work his way into the rotation, and Tottenham have the foundation to challenge for a Champions League spot for the next few years. Of course, if they continue their freefall out of the Champions League places this year, then a move would make a lot less sense.
Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is the world’s third-proudest bargain shopper behind Billy Beane and my mom, so Dempsey probably has some appeal. I also think that Arsenal will get a Champions League spot this year and will contend for a spot in coming years. I do worry about Clint getting playing time in such a stacked lineup, but it helps that Dempsey is the type of player the Gunners need. Arsenal is loaded with small, stylish, dare-I-say delicate players who are great on the ball but a little foppish when it comes to dirty work. Dempsey is a blue-collar player who can win headers, use his strength to hold the ball and defend from the front while Arsenal’s other attackers are busy bleaching their doilies and cutting the crusts off their watercress sandwiches. If I were Wenger, I’d buy.