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Spain’s Iker Casillas is latest to entertain MLS appearance

Dec 12, 2012, 10:54 AM EDT

'As Del Deporte' Awards 2012 Getty Images

I felt my protective side getting all stirred up, my sense of indignity rising.

I saw something about how Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, a World Cup winner with Spain and generally considered among the top globally at his position, was the latest to “diss” MLS.

He did so, it seemed, by painting a picture of a country club culture here, where he could be a part-time player, training almost leisurely and competing at a level more akin to Harlem Globetrotter games. As in, “Hmmm. Let’s see. Go to practice today … or maybe play some golf? … I’ll sleep in a little while longer and then decide after I watch the 11 a.m. SportsCenter.”

He would hardly be the first to portray Major League Soccer in such unflatteringly low light.

Only, that’s not exactly what he said, not apparently anyway. Never mind what the reports in major outlets say or imply. (Seriously, guys … let’s be better than this.)

What Casillas told Spanish television’s La Sexta:

I would like to play out my soccer in the future in a more relaxed environment, and if I have to play somewhere else then it would be for a team that would not come into direct competition with Real Madrid. For example, in the USA, which I love.”

“I would like to retire with Madrid, but if the critics are fierce when I am 31, imagine what they will be like when I’m 37.”

Not that Casillas needs me to defend him … but let’s be fair here. There’s a subtle distinction in his words.

No, he didn’t really impugn the league’s competitiveness. He said something about the league’s less taxing environment relating to its far-less-frenzied fan culture. And he’s absolutely correct. If anyone thinks the weight of playing in MLS is in the same weight class stratosphere with competing in Spain’s La Liga … then I suggest they may not be smart enough to peel a banana.

Of course this is a more relaxed environment for soccer players – which is a ginormous selling point as MLS sides lure these global heavies. They can train and play hard … but then go to the mall without being spit at / slobbered over, depending on which way the supporter winds are blowing.

About the Los Angeles and New York thing. Yes, I’ve said that plenty of times before, that too many players say they want to play in MLS, but really mean they want to play in New York or L.A.  And I’ve explained time and again that the match simply doesn’t work.

I believe that, too. But content producers need to couch that sentiment as a generality. It’s unfair to pin that on one certain individual minus evidence that he truly feels that way.

Casillas may or may not feel that way. I don’t know. But let’s not pretend to know when we, you know, don’t know.

  1. dfstell - Dec 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    It’s funny that his comments originally got interpreted that way at all. By all accounts, he’s a class act. Remember the video of him asking the ref to blow the whistle at the end of Euro 2012 when Italy has basically stopped playing and Spain was just tacking on goals? It just doesn’t compute that the same guy would be dropping bombs about “retirement leagues”. Even if he thought that, he probably wouldn’t say so in public.

    I dunno what to do about the LA/NY thing, but that’s not just a problem for soccer. If Columbus had an NBA team, they’d have a hard time attracting players too. In all sports, lots of the players want to play in LA or NY. It does make me wonder why a Miami team can’t work today. It seems like there would be lots of international players who’d like to live there.

    • Steve Davis - Dec 12, 2012 at 12:30 PM

      Two great points. I forgot about that moment at Euro. … And great point about not an exclusive MLS issue, although it may recur with more frequency because European players are lesser aware of how MLS really works.

  2. tackledummy1505 - Dec 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Though I won’t doubt that overseas as of right now has the competitive edge, I give the U.S. 10 years where it’ll be as competitive or even better than the rest of the world. Kids are starting to play soccer at a very young age and there’s more and more clubs popping up every where. I could do a whole column on this, but bottom line is overseas they hold onto tradition and play style too much. US kids are about originality and creative play. 10 years at max

    • east96st - Dec 12, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      I have been coaching youth soccer for over five years and spend time with family in England and Ireland. We’re farther away than ten years. Significantly farther. Simply don’t have the ball skills they have over there. Our kids do too many other sports and activities. Which is a great thing. Well rounded childhood is better for everyone in the long run. But it means that ten year plan ain’t happening. The majority of our best athletes still go to other sports. We can, and will, put together a solid national team, but have the MLS compete with Barclays? I just don’t see it. When the networks are bidding over who gets to broadcast “Monday Night Soccer”, then we will have arrived.

  3. charliej11 - Dec 12, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Hmmm, his team won the league with a Goal differential of +89 and he thinks that MLS will be more relaxing.
    Interesting theory, completely stupid theory, but interesting anyway.

    He will be fine as long as they don’t give him a Wonderlic test.

  4. tylerbetts - Dec 12, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    I think more relaxing, when I read it, has a lot more to do with the Soccer culture and the type of fan bases we have and are building in the US and in MLS, as opposed to the level of play on the field.

    It makes me think about the comments we heard from Frederico Higuain about why he enjoys playing soccer in Columbus and that it’s because of the fans. Because in Argentina, fans would threaten players at gun point for missing a crucial PK. And, you don’t get that in MLS. And, hopefully, we never do.

    That’s what it’s about. To me at least.

    Plus, what option does the guy have? If he never wants to play against Madrid, he needs to get out of Europe. Asia is, by and large, not as competitive (or lucrative) as MLS, and so that leaves Mexico or South America … both of which can present some real fan base problems, as mentioned above.

  5. profootballcaulk - Dec 12, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    This is more relaxed than Colombia for sure. They killed a player when he returned home from the World Cup against or in the USA. Remember that?

  6. Mad Moose Baits - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Playing here would be much more relaxed. The pressure outside the traing grounds and matches would be much less than in Spain. Imagine being able to shop with your family with only a few people recognizing you when compared to Spain. I would love to see him come here (Columbus Crew). He is the best ‘keeper in the world right now and keepers can go into their 40’s he could play here for 5-7 years and still be king of our leagues mountain.

    Just FYI I am completely biased.

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