Ya, we know…it’s a whole three years and in the world of international wheeling and dealing on the transfer market that’s a lifetime. However, after Grant Wahl of SI.com reported reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will come to Major League Soccer in 2018 it’s hard not to get excited.
According to Wahl’s report, Ronaldo’s current plan is to come to MLS after he finishes at Real Madrid, with one source saying he would likely arrive on a free transfer in 2018 once his current contract ends.
While Ronaldo will be 33 years old at the time and older than David Beckham when he made his famous (or infamous) deal to come to the LA Galaxy, Ronaldo isn’t coming in to an MLS landscape devoid of stars or well past his prime either.
He won’t be 35 like Steven Gerrard or 37 like Frank Lampard will be when they move to MLS sides this summer. Instead, Ronaldo appears likely to make a move to the States once his current Real Madrid deal is up.
This move has to potential to trump anything Beckham did for the league, as we’re talking about the biggest on field star in the world of soccer today and a player commercially as recognized as Beckham ever was in his day.
While Beckham had appeal to the outside world in the United States, Ronaldo and MLS are both on a different playing field than the English superstar was when he came to MLS. A move like this wouldn’t take the massive marketing scheme that it took to fill stadiums, instead MLS has taken on a much more sophisticated and organic fanbase since Beckham’s arrival on the RFK pitch in the summer of 2007.
In fact, this move has the potential to elevate MLS to a level where European players in their prime could see the league as a viable option.
The unfortunate part is it appears MLS (and the billions behind the LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and NYCFC) aren’t quite ready to open the pocket books the way it would need to in order to make bigger moves happen for players at their peak in European soccer.
Still, this rumored move could be the next big catalyst to move MLS even more in to the mainstream than it has become in recent years (which is still light years away from truly mainstream in the general sports conciseness).