By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson made some waves earlier this week in an interview in The Mirror saying “I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 per cent MLS would be attractive for him.” That ‘he’ is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Paulson and MLS’s competition, China.
As we all now, China has been a rising force economically for the last 15 years or so. Over the last several years they have started making waves with their signings in the Chinese Super League. Drogba, Anelka, Hulk, and Robinho are some of the big names that have made the move to China (if only briefly).
With growing wealth comes investments overseas. The Guardian recently did a piece on the new Chinese owners breaking into the English football. It also means that there is money to spend. It sounds eerily familiar to the early days of MLS in a lot of ways with the signing of big names if for nothing else but the publicity and ticket sales but with the long range goal of building a competitive league.
Rooney is a bit of a different animal. There is a lot of top level soccer left in him. While China may be able to offer an overly exuberant amount of money but MLS isn’t exactly sitting on it’s hands when it comes to spending money. Plus several of Rooney’s former England teammates have made successful moves to MLS (Beckham, Gerrard, Cole).
MLS is over the big name signing for the sake of doing it. Now it’s about how that player fits into what the team is already doing or what they want to do on the pitch. China may not have learned that lesson as of yet which could give MLS a key advantage over China when it comes to luring a player like Rooney.
Bottom line, could Rooney make his way to MLS? Absolutely but it will not be an easy decision to leave Manchester United no matter how much money someone like Paulson may throw at him. It’s also clear that MLS and other leagues have a new bidder at the table when it comes to top flight talent and that is China.