By Frank Farina*
“I want to be a part of it – New York, New York.” Apologies to Leonard Bernstein, but it’s been interesting reading the reaction to Tim Cahill’s decision to go to the MLS in the United States.
Let me also say I have a special regard for Tim. As national coach of Australia, I fought hard to have him freed up to play for Australia and got to know him well both as a player and a person.
The reaction to his move to the New York Red Bulls has ranged from outrage that he dared to spurn the A-League, through to great sadness and fantastic tributes from Evertonians, and a few more reasoned heads amongst Australians who realise this is a good option for Tim. Some people have even criticised him for heading towards the MLS as it can afford to pay more than the A-League! Since when is it not appropriate for people to maximise their earnings?
Clearly, Everton wanted him to move on. Not because they don’t value him or he had nothing further to contribute, but because they are a very cash-strapped club always struggling financially and Tim was one of the highest paid players. (In fact, some reports said he was the highest paid Everton player). By selling him to New York Red Bulls, they not only got a modest amount of cash for the transfer (reported to be around AUD$2 million) but also his weekly salary.
Tim’s decision to go to the MLS is a great option for him. It’s a mature, high standard league which is secure, on a sustainable footing, has a nine month season, still in a growth phase, pays well, is well administered and his team mates include players of the calibre of Thierry Henry. Doesn’t that strike you as being in contrast to the A-League?
I read some reports that say the standard of the MLS is no better than the A-League. That may be so when comparing some individual games. I am sure we could also go through the vaults and find an individual game in any competition – EPL, Serie A, La Liga etc – which may not be as good as an individual game in the A-League. But week-in, week-out, the MLS is a competition of longer duration – which is important to a player in maintaining his match fitness and preparedness – and a tougher competition, and there’s one key indicator of this: the US national team. They have performed consistently in international competition over a number of years now and most – but not all – of their players are home grown and play in the MLS. This is an important point in relation to the quality of the MLS and in relation to the development of football within the US over the past two decades.
But there’s one more point about Tim’s transfer and that is this: Tim will be good for the MLS.
We know better than most that he is articulate, personable, passionate about, and loyal to, the teams he plays for. He is a hard worker on the pitch and well as off the pitch; and, if used astutely by the good people at the New York Red Bulls, as a well-known EPL star, he will help get more people to games through community work and public relations activities. The New York Red Bulls, like the LA Galaxy across the other side of the country, are important to the commercial success of the MLS and Tim is the man to make a really strong contribution.
Well played Timmy – and all the best mate!
Frank Farina is a former Socceroos striker and coach. This blog appeared first at www.frankfarina.net