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4 MLS Players Who Belong at Elite European Clubs
A few years ago, a Gallup survey showed that about 7% of Americans think of soccer as their favorite sport. That’s nothing compared to the popularity of soccer on the other side of the Atlantic.
In fact, over in Europe, soccer (or football as it’s called outside the US) is by far the most popular sport. This explains why the world’s best players play in Europe’s top leagues rather than in the MLS.
Still, the fact is there are some really good players in North America’s top soccer league. Actually, some of them would definitely do well if they went to play for major clubs in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, or any other major European league.
So, which players are those? I will now share with you my picks for the best MLS players who belong in Europe’s elite clubs.
Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)
According to Transfermarkt, Josef Martinez is the player with the highest price tag in the entire league in 2021.
With an estimated value of almost $15 million, he would be among the most expensive players in a number of European leagues if he decided to move.
Still, the golden era of his career commenced when he moved to the MLS. The year was 2017 when he signed for Atlanta United.
Just a year later, he engraved his name in the history of this competition by winning the following accolades.
- 2018 MLS MVP
- All-Star Game MVP
- MLS Golden Boot (31 goals in 34 games)
- MLS Cup Final MVP
He continued playing well in the next two seasons before suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of the 2020 MLS.
Martinez made his comeback in 2021 and is currently his team’s leading scorer.
Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC)
At the age of 16, Carlos Vela moved from Mexico to England. He was signed by Arsenal by the Gunners’ manager at the time, Arsene Wenger.
Back then, Arsenal was one of the most dominant clubs in the English Premier League, having won the league two seasons before. When Vela arrived, Arsenal’s squad was still packed with real superstars, including Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and many others.
Working with those guys certainly helped Vela develop into an elite-level forward. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t elite enough to stay at Arsenal for too long. After spending several seasons at loans at different clubs, he moved to Real Sociedad in 2021.
That’s when his career really took off. In the next six years, he played 184 games for the Spanish side, scoring 54 goals along the way.
The next chapter in his career started in 2018 when he signed for Los Angeles FC. The same year, he was included in MLS Best XI. A year later, he won the MLS Golden Boot Award and was crowned the league MVP.
The 2020 season was plagued by injuries, but in 2021, we saw him playing at his best once again. The bad news is that he did pick up an injury in late August which put him off the pitch for several weeks.
Knowing Vela, it’s safe to say that he’s going to bounce back.
Gonzalo Higuain (Inter Miami)
As he’s turning 34 in December, he probably wouldn’t be a good fit for the very best European soccer clubs. However, a player of Higuain’s quality and experience would be a fantastic addition to any mid-table club in any league in the world.
The Argentine striker epitomizes the role of the no.9 player. He’s big, strong, and most importantly, great at scoring goals.
He hasn’t scored too many while playing for David Beckham’s Inter Miami, but in the past, he was a true goal-scoring machine.
Don’t trust me? See for yourself.
- 107 goals in 190 games for Real Madrid
- 71 goals in 104 games as a Napoli player
- 48 goals in 105 games for Juventus
This guy has also scored plenty of goals for his national team. In the 75 games he played for Argentina, he scored 31 goals.
That puts him in sixth place in the list of Argentina’s all-time top scorers, just behind legendary Diego Maradona.
Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC)
Toronto FC’s playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is the reigning MLS MVP. This guy could easily become a key player at a number of European clubs.
Actually, he used to be a very important player of Belgian team Genk, which is where he played for four seasons before moving to America.
Before that, he played for Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis in Spanish La Liga, as well as Swansea City in the English Premier League.
At the age of 30, he remains one of the best MLS players despite struggling with an injury over the last couple of weeks.
Unfortunately for him, his teammates have also been struggling with injuries this season, which explains why Toronto FC is at the bottom of the conference table as of this writing.
What this means is that we probably aren’t going to see Pozuelo winning another MVP award. At least not in 2021.
Other Elite-Level MLS Players
- Diego Rossi (Los Angeles FC)
- Daryl Dike (Orlando City)
These two guys definitely belong in Europe. Actually, one of them is already there. Despite still being under contract with Los Angeles FC, Diego Rossi will play the 2021-22 season in Turkey.
He’s currently at Fenerbahce on a loan deal that expires in summer 2022, after which the Turkish team will have the option to sign him permanently.
Daryl Dyke is the highest-valued American player in the MLS and has returned to the US after spending a season at Barnsley on a loan.
As he just turned 21 last summer, great things are expected from the 6’2 striker in the future. To achieve greatness, he’ll probably have to go back to Europe again.
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