David Beckham for LA Galaxy. Freddie Ljungberg for Seattle. Juan Pablo Angel for New York. What do they have in common? They are all players with vast experience in the tough world of European football, now plying their trade right here in Major League Soccer. Unfortunately Beckham's future has come under a major cloud with his season ending injury while on loan at Italian club AC Milan, but his impact on the league here has been immense.
They also are all players whom have been drafted into MLS teams under the 'designated player' rule, created in 2007 to allow teams to sign one player who may earn above what the regular salary cap may dictate. The rule was nicknamed the 'Beckham Rule' for obvious reasons, such was the monetary size of the package LA put together in order to entice him to America.
The basics of the rule dictate that a team may write off $450,000 of the players salary to the salary cap, but anything past that is at the teams owners private expense. So although the league still is structured to be fairly even, any team with some money behind it can try to give themselves an edge in some sort of 'Marquee' player.
So, what should Portland look at when entering the league in 2011 as far as a marquee player? Should they take a leaf out of Seattle's book and sign a player of Ljungberg's status, or play it a little more low-key? There are pro's a con's to both sides. For pro's, its obviously the skill of the player. Any player who demands a marquee-type contract will, 99% of the time, undoubtedly have talent and skills that can be of benefit to any organization. Then there is also the fan-support a big name will attract, as we have seen with the "Beckham Effect."
The only real cons that could be found is if the player does not fit with the team ethos, such as the 'being bigger than the team' attitude that some players can occasionally exhibit when being at a team they deem below their talent level. But, if they choose to come to the MLS, then you wouldn't think this an issue.
Of course, Portland would need the private backing to be able to afford a 'designated player' but, speculating with the assumption of having those funds, lets think about some prospective players that could be of interest. This is, by the way, just thoughts of mine and are nothing more than that - don't see a name and think it may actually happen, as I have no real authority on the matter!
Thierry Henry (Barcelona) and Raul Gonzalez (Real Madrid) - Both two of the most recognizable striking talents of the last decade in Europe, and both coming to the twilight of their careers. But that does not mean by any means they can not offer anything right up until the days they hang up those talented boots. The fact is, given good support these players will never forget how to put the ball in the net. Give them the ball, they know what to do. Both have so much to offer as far as experience for younger players go's as well, and that could be invaluable. The New York Red Bulls have been rumored at looking at both recently, and in all honesty seems a more likely location as far as money available for the franchise goes, as well as the glittering new stadium. However, money talks and if Portland had it available, it could be an option. Not to mention if New York were to land one or both of those players, they may be forced in letting Juan Pablo Angel leave.
As far as midfield talent goes, again just musings, but there are some players with talent that are not getting the game time they deserve in Europe - most notably for me, Deco at Chelsea. Since his move to Chelsea from Barcelona, Deco has been somewhat a peripheral figure with Lampard and Essein generally bossing the centre of Chelseas engine room. Turning 33 in August, he may be getting on a little - but just like Henry and Raul, invaluable experience and knows what he is doing when he has the ball.
It's these kind of players that are out there if a team looks. They are world renowned, but with the seemingly growing interest in players coming to the MLS, not out of the question. These players, of course, will be a year older when the Timbers are actually entering the competition and probably out of the question - but it's something to muse over, as players of their caliber are always coming out of contract somewhere, and may just want a change of scenery. And Portland, and Oregon itself, does have some nice scenery.