D.C. United Rumor Mill: Juan Sebastian Veron -- According to the New York Times' soccer blog, an Argentine newspaper is reporting that DC United officials are traveling to Buenos Aires to conduct negotiations with Juan Sebastian Veron. Veron's reported salary demands are farcical -- the Times notes he's demanding $20 million.*** Even if that were stretched out over anything less than 5 years, it's still way too much to be paying Veron -- I doubt that United will pay anything like that. Even Beckham's base salary will be closer to $5 million.
However, United's been holding on to that precious designated player slot for someone special, and Veron could be that special player. It's true he struggled in stints with Manchester United and Chelsea, earlier in this decade, but he's been quite successful everywhere else he has played. He helped Inter win the Italian Serie A title (the scudetto) in 2000, and he's won the Coppa Italia four times, with three different teams. With Lazio, he led the team to a rare Italian triple in 2000.
Last December, Veron completed a successful return to his native Argentina, helping Estudiantes to its first premiership title in 23 years, including a stunning comeback win in the playoff final against Boca Juniors. Most recently, Veron got plaudits for his contributions to Argentina's run to the finals of the Copa America.
Veron certainly has a strong pedigree. He was named to the FIFA 100 in 2004, after returning to play in Italy. When he signed with Manchester United three years earlier, the team paid what was then the largest transfer fee in league history. It may be that Veron's game was ill-suited to the blistering pace of the E.P.L. If so, Veron will probably find the sometimes ponderous pace of the M.L.S. more to his liking.
He will likely join Christian Gomez in the central midfield, but play more of a holding, or defensive role. This will probably relegate Brian Carroll to a substitute role, in relief of Ben Olsen or Fred, along with the occasional spot start. But, that's getting ahead of ourselves.
The competition has been improving. The Dynamo haven't brought in a designated player of their own, but they've added considerable depth with Nate Jacqua, and they are dominating the league right now. FC Dallas is rumored to be the likely landing spot for the Brazilian veteran Denilson. In New York, Juan Pablo Angel has become quite simply the best player in the league, making everyone forget that New York has 2 designated players -- the other being Claudio Reyna. Eddie Johnson is scoring at a prodigious rate for Kansas City. New England is still a strong team, despite losing Clint Dempsey to Fulham. The Revs have the best goalie in the league, and still have a potent attack. Lastly, the Chicago Fire are to debut their designated player, Cuahtemoc Blanco, this weekend -- possibly lost amid the Beckham hoopla.
While Emilio and Fred are starting to really contribute to United, signing Veron would be a big shot of adrenaline -- perhaps helping United avoid a collapse similar to the one that occurred last season, beginning shortly after the All-Star break. But, that's getting ahead of ourselves. First, Veron needs to come down to realistic levels. He's out of contract, so United won't have to pay a transfer fee, but the number they will offer will be exponentially lower than the one he is seeking, if reports are true.
Veron to United? We'll just have to wait and see. According to the Argentine newspaper, El Clarin, Veron would like to stay with Estudiantes for another year, to play in the Copa Libertadores, before making a jump to North American soccer, in June 2008.
Still, if he does come to United, Veron's likely to get a shot at the Copa Sudamericano or possibly even the Libertadores, anyway -- if he can help lead D.C. to a title. According to the El Clarin article, Veron might wish to sign a commitment to go to D.C., but that he would want to defer playing there for the year. I imagine he is hoping that perhaps a one-year loan to Estudiantes would be worked out. But, that's getting ahead of ourselves.
Besides, United wants help now -- to secure a return berth in the MLS Cup final, which is being played at RFK this year. Winning the title at home would be a great boon to United's local popularity, as it tries to win approval for its Poplar Point stadium plan. (see related post above)
**** [Update] **** I might add, that as I read the article in El Clarin, it doesn't suggest the $20 million is Veron's salary demand -- rather, that is what United is expected to offer him, along with various incentives. Presumably that would be stretched out over at least five years, as I can't imagine that United would offer more than $4 million a year for Veron. He's a nice player, but he's no goal scorer. He might help win some titles, but he won't put fannies in the seats just to see him play.