KYLE SCHNITZER - Tuesday, January 20, 2015
After completing the move back to MLS with Toronto, Jozy Altidore walks away from Sunderland richer and that's about it.
In what could have been a staple, a "look at this American" statement by Jozy Altidore turned into nearly two miserable seasons and still no answers for American strikers in Europe.
When he moved from AZ Alkamaar in the summer of 2013, Altidore wore a heavy price tag, nearly £9m thanks to Premier League inflation rates. To put that in perspective, Swansea City signed Wilfred Bony for £12m from Vitesse, and then flipped him earlier this month to Manchester City for £31m. Other strikers from the Eredivisie have found success in the Premier League like Southampton's Graziano Pelle. Tottenham midfielder Nacir Chadli was purchased for £1m less and has scored seven goals and added five assists in 18 appearances this season. So the Eredivisie argument is somewhat irrelevant when it comes to bigger signings in the Premier League, unless you're Sunderland and Altidore.
In defense of Altidore, Sunderland doesn't belong in the same category as Southampton and Tottenham. Unfortunate events happened while Altidore was with Sunderland, specifically the firing of Paolo Di Canio, the man who brought him in. Altidore was Di Canio's big signing, along with Emanuele Giaccherini, who was an important player with Juventus before his career fell off the map with Sunderland.
Blame Sunderland for the abysmal showing of Jozy Altidore or blame Jozy Altidore for the abysmal showing of Jozy Altidore?
Altidore was never going to blow away the Premier League with his speed, he's not the best in the air. But he's been able to show glimpses for the national team that make us all forget of his struggles with Sunderland. But is that really enough?
His time with Sunderland was a failure. There are no goals to look back on that said he belonged there, let alone any performances that suggest he deserved time at the Stadium of Light. His most memorable moment was the nervous touch to Fabio Borini, who drilled a screamer outside the box against Newcastle in a 2-1 win. Some have desperately tried to find praise in Altidore's few performances but if we really need to dig deep to fid the positives, doesn't that mean nothing?
As for the future, maybe Altidore tears through MLS. Maybe he scores 25 goals and leaves after a year and so on. Does that help the image of MLS? Sure his homecoming enhances the brand, gives MLS another national team member to market to World Cup fans on the fringe, but is it a bad thing if Altidore struggles in MLS and completely falls off the map?
Most importantly, what does Altidore playing in MLS say for the international team? It seems Altidore was never going to be replaced on the national team roster because he played in Europe. He did nothing to deserve his position minus a few penalty kicks and lucky goals. Jurgen Klinsmann basically handed him the keys to the house on the first date, perhaps only because he played in Europe.
Klinsmann is practically begging players to play abroad against better talent. If Altidore could fail for two seasons and still start in the World Cup, than anyone playing in Europe seems destined for the same treatment. Is Altidore really the best option for the U.S.? Is it time Klinsmann and co. should look elsewhere, maybe domestically for a new striker?
In the long run, Alkamaar ran away richer, Sunderland remain with questions, MLS has their new poster boy, and Jozy Altidore continues to be the Rubik's Cube American soccer fans may not have the patience to solve.