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Dom Dwyer and Neymar: A tale of two transfers

Friday 28th July 2017
Dom Dwyer and Neymar's respective transfer sagas illustrate the chasm between Major League Soccer's and global relevancy.

July 27th, 2017 will not be a date that lives in infamy, at least not in American soccer annals. Three newsworthy events occurred, however.

Early in the day, US President Donald Trump, perhaps to deflect from his continuing failure to repeal Obamacare, arbitrarily tweeted that, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." Displeased with being used for political purposes, generals and military experts, along with members of lesser rank, celebrities, even Republican politician John McCain, a veteran and decorated POW in Vietnam, roundly criticised the decision. Trump's policies again proved to be out of touch with the the majority both at home and abroad.

In the evening, Barcelona played Manchester United in a friendly at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, a Washington suburb, less than twenty miles from the White House. Neymar Jr, who has been rumoured to be close to a blockbuster transfer from the Catalan club to Paris Saint-Germain, scored the match's only goal. It was a gift from an off-balance Antonio Valencia. The defender, trying to shield the ball, fell on the edge of the six-yard box. The Brazilian stepped over him to drive the ball past a helpless David de Gea.
The day concluded with the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final 2,800 miles away at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara California, just outside transgender-friendly San Francisco. The United States defeated Jamaica 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Seattle Sounders striker Jordan Morris.

Again, the title-winner was something of a gift. LA Galaxy forward Gyase Zardes' cross pinballed around the box, hitting two Jamaican defenders, then ex-Fulham and Spurs striker Clint Dempsey's back, finally settling at Seattle Sounder strike partner Jordan Morris' feet, near the penalty spot. The 22-year-old sensation, who had notoriously declined a contract with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen to play in the US, calmly teed up his shot, then volleyed past Reggae Boyz deputy keeper Dwayne Miller.

The youngster had earlier failed to mark Je-Vaughn Watson at the far post on a corner, allowing the Jamaican to cancel out Jozy Altidore's brilliant first-half opener from a set piece. His poise and determination in atoning for a costly error not only demonstrated maturity beyond his years, but reveal why USMNT boss valued him over fellow MLS standout, Dom Dwyer.
Thanks to arcane Gold Cup rules, Dwyer, who had featured for the Yanks in the group stages and scored the opener in a tune-up against US nemesis Ghana, wasn't even with the squad for the final. Countries that progressed to the knockout phase were permitted to switch out up to six players from their original 23-man squad. Bruce Arena brought in USMNT mainstays Dempsey, Morris, Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Tim Howard, as well as young FC Dallas netminder Jesse Gonzalez, sending Dwyer and five others back to their respective clubs.

Dwyer didn't return to Sporting Kansas City, however. Instead, he was sold by the club to Orlando City. The surprise mid-season move was a record transfer between MLS clubs. Laughably, MLS labeled the deal a "blockbuster." The total amount SKC can receive from Orlando is $1.6 million. At current exchange rates, that's less than €1.4 million.

By comparison, Neymar's as yet unconsummated transfer to PSG is said to be for €196 million. Premier League newcomer Huddersfield Town recently broke its transfer record three times in just a fortnight. Fees paid for Laurent Depoitre, Aaron Mooys, and Steve Mounie were €3. 9 million, €8. 9 million, and €12.3 million respectively. Major League Soccer obviously lives on a much smaller block, in football terms, than top European leagues.
Overhyping a paltry transaction is the least concerning aspect of the deal, though. While Dwyer isn't first choice for Bruce Arena in the USMNT set-up, he is among the most prolific strikers in Major League Soccer. Only NY Red Bull's Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored more for an MLS club since 2014. Sporting KC hasn't a comparable replacement waiting in the wings. Worse, they sit second in the Western Conference, and, before the sale, were considered among a handful of genuine MLS Cup contenders.

SKC boss Peter Vermes pulled the trigger on the deal because negotiations for a contract extension had proven ineffective. He wished to get something in return for a valuable asset before the player could move on a free at season's end.

That may sound reasonable on its face. On the other hand, wouldn't a third MLS Cup be worth more than $1.6 million to Sporting KC? Were the club to become league champions again, Vermes could recruit a goalscorer in the offseason, knowing fans would fill Children's Mercy Park for a winner. Even if the title run fell short, the effort would engender goodwill in fans. Instead, Vermes has effectively communicated his belief the squad can't compete this season. He has left his players with no motivation, supporters no reason to invest their money or emotion in the club. He is as out of touch with his constituency as Donald Trump is with his.

Regardless his latest goal's ease, Neymar has set a torrid pace in pre-season for Barcelona, despite his alleged desire to move on. With Barca's starting XI given the second half off in Washington, the Selecao wunderkind could be seen relaxing comfortably between Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench, engaged in a prolonged, amiable discussion with the latter. Some will read into the scene an indication the star is not leaving Barcelona. Maybe so, maybe not. His two teammates know it's not for them to decide. All they can do is enjoy the time they have.
In any event, Barcelona are in a vastly different place than Sporting Kansas City. The Catalonian club has little cause for worry. Should the Brazilian leave, other options exist in the roster, as well as funding to not just sign another world class striker but further supplement the squad.

What Barca's board knows well, however, is they did not reach club football's pinnacle by fussing over finances. They did so by building a competitive team, by valuing players over maximising profit. If Neymar was intrinsic to a La Liga or Champions League run, they would not sell him to avoid a financial loss. They would chase glory because money is just a means to an end.

If MLS wishes to one day rival UEFA, its clubs must embrace that philosophy. As it stands, they have no chance.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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