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MLS boss warns stars like Neymar: no US retirement plans

24 February 2022   |   2:46 pm
While he appreciates the interest from Neymar or Lionel Messi, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber warned football's global stars on Tuesday that US clubs aren't their retirement homes.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 16, 2021 Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar looks on as he warms up before the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Stade de Reims at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. – Nike said on May 27, 2021 that it parted ways with Neymar last year after the superstar Brazil attacker “refused to cooperate in a good faith” as the company investigated an employee’s claim that he sexually assaulted her. The apparel giant said in a statement that its investigation into the alleged 2016 incident — which was reported to the company in 2018 — was inconclusive. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

While he appreciates the interest from Neymar or Lionel Messi, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber warned football’s global stars on Tuesday that US clubs aren’t their retirement homes.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s MLS season kick-off, Garber addressed 30-year-old Brazilian striker Neymar’s podcast comments that he “would love to play in the US” for at least a season after his deal with Paris Saint-Germain expires in 2025.

The former Barcelona star noted: “Their season is shorter so I would get three months vacation. I would play many more years.”

Garber said MLS had outgrown the days of needing to bolster its image with big-name players in their later years.

“We don’t need to bring in a big-name player at the end of their career because they decided they want to retire in MLS,” Garber said in a conference call with reporters.

“We want our story to be about young players coming here at the earliest stages or in the prime of their career and making our league their league of choice.”

Colombian James Rodriguez, 30, and Argentine standout Messi, 34, have also been linked to MLS interest.

Garber pointed to 30-year-old Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri joining the Chicago Fire this season, saying, “You have players coming at 30. I don’t think 30 is old when you are an MLS player.”

Garber also noted that when Swedish 40-year-old striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the Los Angeles Galaxy for AC Milan in December 2019, “nobody said he went to retire in Italy.”

MLS will grow to 28 sides when an expansion team in Charlotte takes the field this year and to 29 when St. Louis joins in 2023.

Garber noted that MLS was among the top five leagues worldwide in transfer fees received and spent.

“Like all the top leagues around the world, it’s about buying and selling players,” Garber said.

“It’s very clear there’s a global demand around the world for our young talented players.”

Garber said one the league aimed to keep a healthy balance in spending for players and selling young talent from a growing academy network.

Garber, a member of the US Soccer Federation board of directors, congratulated USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone on Tuesday’s announcement of a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against USSF by the US women’s national team, the reigning Women’s World Cup champions, that will ensure equal pay moving forward.

“If it wasn’t for her focus and her courage and her steadfastness, I don’t think she would have been able to lead us to the settlement that was announced today,” Garber said of Cone.

“I think it’s time for the organization to move forward with the women’s program and repair some of the challenges they’ve had in the relationship.”

Team owners, who Garber said have together invested $12 billion in MLS, will meet Cone and rival candidate for president Carlos Cordeiro, who resigned in 2020 to allow Cone to take over, before next month’s USSF election.