Javier Saviola; The Art Of Designated Player"ing"

I’m not going to go near in-depth with this thought as much as I really would like too. I simply ask that you would at least as I will probably make a barge of various assumptions as there is little to no discernible means to measure a player against another player at this given time. As you consider A) systems and B) roles that each players must play it’s difficult to even compare two forwards such as David Ferreira and Fredy Montero, even though we can distinguish that Montero is better.

But, for a moment let us consider some of the MLS Designated players that are currently listed according to Major League Soccer press announcements. As you can see some of this is accurate and other parts of it aren’t.


Rafael Tezeira de Souza D.C. United 20
Diego Valeri Portland Timbers 26
Landon Donovan LA Galaxy 30
Thierry Henry NY Red Bulls 35
Alvaro Fernandez Chicago Fire 27
Claudio Bieler Sporting Kansas City 28
Fredy Montero Seattle Sounders 25
David Ferreira FC Dallas 33
Alvaro Saborío Real Salt Lake 30
Eric Hassli Vancouver Whitecaps 31
Fabian Castillo FC Dallas 20
Diego Chará Portland Timbers 26
Torsten Frings Toronto FC 36
Danny Koevermans Toronto FC 34
Robbie Keane LA Galaxy 32
Mauro Rosales Seattle Sounders 31
Hamdi Salihi D.C. United 29
Kris Boyd Portland Timbers 29
Fredy Adu Philadelphia Union 23
Shalrie Joseph Chivas USA 34
Javier Morales Real Salt Lake 33
Osvaldo Minda Chivas USA 29
Marco Di Vaio Montreal Impact 36
Jerry Bengston New England Revolution 25
Oscar Boniek Garcia Houston Dynamo 28
Barry Robson Vancouver Whitecaps 34
Kenny Miller Vancouver Whitecaps 33
Tim Cahill New York Red Bulls 33
Federico Higuaín Columbus Crew 28
Sherjill MacDonald Chicago Fire 28
Christian Tiffert Seattle Sounders 31
AGE MEDIAN 29.58064516


The take away that I want to most focus in is the fact clubs are less and less inclined to go after the dying bread of euro star, trying to make one last cash-in on the name, Canadian teams are kind of the exception–not so much the rule and you still have New York Red Bulls skewing the numbers.

But looking at guys such as Federico Higuain, Claudio Bieler, Jerry Bengston, Deigo Valeri and Sherjill MacDonald. Teams that aren’t in big markets are seeking quality players that can be difference makers. This is no disrespect to these clubs, but they aren’t necessarily the ones attracting Kaka or Frank Lampard discussions.

These “difference makers” aren’t on the wrong side of 30 and they are guys that will have immediate impacts in playoff pictures. Looking at last year, Higuain came in and set up 40 key passes, created 4 big chances and scored 5 goals. Basically he came in and provided, what Mauro Rosales was for the Sounders, to the Crew–only younger.

He changed the game and did so in less than 1100 minutes on the field. Claudio Bieler and Deigo Valeri will most likely do the same for Sporting KC and Portland, only over a full season.

The days of going and getting the biggest name available isn’t reality.Rather teams are becoming wise and are looking for good players and snatching them up out of leagues and increasing the depth across MLS rather than just finding names that may or may not drive attendance to the park.

Clubs are also getting wise with the use of the Designated Player. Looking at DC United they have used it to acquire young and very promising South Americans. The past calendar year has shown them signing young talents such Rafael Tezeira de Souza and Raphael Augusto, 20 and 21 respectively.

Retrospectively, the Sounders have used the designated player to sign the following


Freddie Ljundberg, Midfielder, 2008 signed on at the age of 31.

Blaise Nkufo, Forward, 2010, signed on at the age of 34

Alvaro Fernandez, Midfielder, 2010, signed at the age of 24

Fredy Montero, Forward, 2011, signed at the age of 23

Mauro Rosales, Midfield/Forward, 2012, signed at the age of 30

Christian Tiffert, Midfielder, 2012, signed at the age of 30


I found that Joshua Mayers actually had typed all that stuff up (with dates) after I went and used all my time to find it myself. Whateves. The point that I’m trying to make is that the Sounders have tried an assortment of all different means to utilize their 3 available designate players.

Since the departure of Fredy Montero the Sounders have reportedly flirted with a handful of euro stars and individuals that go beyond the usual “difference maker” title. Most frequently they’ve been tied to Joan Verdu, a move that has been herald as having the potential biggest signing ever for the Rave Green. However, despite that long lingering and awkward looks from Sounders fans the deal fell through and nothing could get done.

I’m not like most supporters in the sense that I’m looking for an immediate great player to stand into the #9 position, as Fredy Montero. I actually think what they did with Montero was perfect and you can point to clubs such as DC United who are seeing it and attempting to build something in the same vein.

I was beyond enthused at the prospect of the Sounders were making efforts to lure Argentinian teenager Luciano Vietto to the Emerald City. Someone who, in my opinion, had  flash, potential and still was able to come in and be useful at the MLS level. These are the types of players who I would like to see the Sounders invest their money into.

The Rosales-type players are going to be leaders and their going to do good things. Don’t miss understand my sincere appreciation for him and I’m not personally of the belief that he shouldn’t be a DP. What he does on the field is more than enough to earn that check and the position.Regardless of the fact that he’s not built for 3,000 minutes. He’s 31. Breakdowns are not only expected but inevitable at this stage.

But looking beyond the present and who the Sounders are building on right now. My desire in the truest sense would be to find up and coming youngsters and become, more than just a spring broad for talent to Europe, but, a power house that cultivates talent. That grows it and teaches it and people know when you came from the Seattle system you’re getting quality.

You can point to teams in the Bundesliga (Borussia Dortmund, anyone) that are building their roster, all the way up through the academy, supplementing missing pieces by finding undervalued transfer assets and flipping their youngsters to facilitate their ability to continue to compete in Europa tournaments and also in UEFA. This is the quasi-model that I would love to see Seattle adopt in the long term.

The Sounders are still a young and growing club, not just in MLS but in the world market. They may or may not have another way that they see their club growing into and given the keen intelligence of those that make the deicsions, without knowing details I’m prepared to buy into it.

Each club has their own ethos–and SounderAtHeart did an amazing job at documenting what has, so far, become ours–it works for them and it’s what they’ve grow into. It’s obvious that clubs such as Manchester City, Juventus and Bayern Munich have different means to achieving their goal. But their all considered among the best in their respective leagues.

Adrian Hanauer has said, and reaffirmed many times over, the Sounders are interested in the right player when they fill this next designated player. I can only assume that this search comes with specific traits and check boxes or background they are looking. But one at the same time they’ve shown that they it’s not a matter of age or pedigree. The club front office is seeking someone who can deliver quality and take this club to it’s max in each respective competition.

Now enter, Javier Saviola, the next possible heir to the Sounders designated player linage.

This kind of grinds against what I was hoping for as a player. The soon to be 32 year-old forward from La Liga based  Málaga CF, is still scoring goals. And regardless of his stature he will likely be able to do the same in MLS. But I always worry about breakdown especially when you start investing in players on the wrong side of 30 (Nkufo?).

Sure the Barcelona/Real Madrid pedigree is huge and it’s hardly fair to compare someone of Saviola stature to Nkufo, however, the fear and worry of health related problems with his age is within reason. Especially when you consider, not just our past experiences, but, older designated player signings around the league.

I’m not in anyway taking away from the fact that this would be a great signing for the Sounders. But let’s have a real discussion about it rather than just look at it with our Rave Green coloured glasses.

Zach Wooley, over at SBNation, put up a great scouting report for him, and despite a typical run down of what I expected to see, immediately addressing my concerns.

he should have “less years” on his legs considering there have been three season out of the past five where he’s played less than 1,000 minutes.

This is huge and it might go without saying but the Sounders need someone who is going to consistently be in the line-up. The one worry and it was also in the scouting report

I’ve read stuff about him having questionable durability, so he might be the type of guy that picks up the miss a week here, miss a week there type injuries.

Personally, I’m far more willing to accept this type of thing, than a month here, be back and then gone another month or two month stint. A match is recoverable and considering the travel it’s easy to work around him missing a game here and another there. At least in my mind. Maybe, I’m wrong.

There are a lot exciting things happening here with the prospect of the Sounders finally acquiring someone that is a consistent goal scorer. But there is also something to say for his age. I’m not, not excited. But I think my enthusiasm is a bit curbed, in an unexpected way.

Saviola, again, is a great get for any team. No way I disagree with that, but, there were somethings that I wanted–and I don’t feel alone–from this venture. I wanted someone this next someone to be the next great fixture on the club going forward, a face, for the next two-better part of– three seasons. I’m not sure, and maybe it could, happen with Saviola.

It’s very exciting perspective but calling him the “right guy” seems a little underwhelming in my estimation. Maybe, I’m over ambitious. Maybe, I’m pessimistic. Maybe, I’m just an idiot.

Tags: Javier Saviola

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