A Red Bull For Raul?

By Kevin Koczwara

Raul is struggling for playing time at Real Madrid thus far this season because the club has a stock-pile of attacking talent, all of which is younger than the 32 year old legend. And to no surprise, the Real Madrid superstar is upset about his lack of playing time. He is, after all, Real’s all-time scorer and leader in appearances for the club. He has not played for any other club in his long and productive career. His name has been synonymous with the club for the past 15 years.

A surprise rumor surfaced earlier this week saying that the Los Blancos legend maybe looking  to move to MLS side the  New York Red Bulls this season.

The Surging Red Bulls

New York has long been rumored as a destination for top talent in the world at the close of their careers. The MLS is a relatively unknown league for the world, it is young, up and coming and expanding. And the best players in the world are always trying to challenge themselves to something new, and the MLS is a perfect challenge for many of the world’s best. The league’s lack of big paycheck’s makes it a last stop on the careers of many players as they try to stretch their legacies.

Thierry Henry has been linked with a move in the future (also to NY) and now Raul is waning over a rumored move to the “Big Apple.” This is the perfect time for him to do so. The Red Bulls plan to open a brand new stadium in the spring, they are located in the cultural heart beat of America, and the MLS is getting better by the year. And it is probably time Raul try something new and explore his talents in other places outside of Spain before his fame runs dry.

The Red Bulls are trying improve every year and have owners that care about the game and winning. They are doing everything they can to model the team after European powers. And Raul would be a huge piece to their puzzle. They have a new coach, and are scouring the earth for talented players to add to the mix.

His skill set lends him well to any league in the world, he is a poacher, a goal scorer who finds ways to score when the ball is around the net, and in the MLS the ball gets around the net often. He will find plenty of chances and opportunities to score a plethora of goals.

Raul could follow in David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg’s steps (moving to the Seattle Sounder last year) and move across the pond and make a splash in the MLS. He may not be playing in front of crowds like the ones at the Bernabéu, but he will be playing in front of passionate fans and experience a new life in the world of football.

MLS’s Labor Issues

The big problem facing Raul and his move to the MLS is the current state of the league’s labor contracts. Right now the owners and players have to agree on terms and wages to continue into the next year. The MLS doesn’t pay its players the best, but their players can be assured that the salary cap and the rules governing signings and trades is protecting the well-being of the young league.

For how much I hate the salary cap, I must admit it is a good idea when it comes to keeping clubs in the black and out of the red. The league doesn’t want clubs to spiral out of control like a Portsmouth, Crystal Palace or a Leeds United of the past. Players will have jobs if they can agree to terms and make the deal fair for both them and the owners. Because looking at the stats shows a good amount of players work for less than minimum wage.

The players and owners need to work out a new deal soon, the season starts in less than 6 weeks. And in their talks they should expand on what is being done for player development.

One Thing All MLS Teams Should Do

Each team in the MLS should have a shirt sponsor by now. It has been 15 years, and the league is starting to make money and the fan base is expanding. But the teams need to generate more revenue for new stadiums (soccer specific) and more widely known players.

How to do that? One way would be using shirt sponsors. I know it is not an American way to do things and no other major sports do it, but this is a league trying to expand and grow and teams need all the money they can get. and what better way to brand your team than get some extra cash from corporations willing to pay for the sponsorship. Look around the world and see how much money can be made from the deals.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com.

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