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Report: Besler would spurn Premier League, Europe for new deal in KC

Jul 18, 2014, 7:54 AM EDT

Matt Besler, Dries Mertens AP

Sporting KC and United States national team defender Matt Besler is ready to say “thanks but no thanks” to interest from around Europe’s top leagues to stay in Major League Soccer.

It’s been just a few days since Besler, 27, confirmed interest from Sunderland and Fulham, stating no preference but asking for a quick resolution to the issue.

Now a report from the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell says Besler would turn down any European interest in order to sign a long, lucrative deal that would keep him at Sporting Park through the prime years of his career.

From the Kansas City Star:

While Besler previously conveyed interest in an opportunity to transfer overseas — an option his agent said remains in play — he would rather sign a new long-term contract to remain with his hometown club, the source said.

Eddie Rock, Besler’s agent, said his client has not dismissed the possibility of playing overseas. He declined to comment when asked if Besler is leaning one way or the other, but he acknowledged productive conversations with Sporting Kansas City over the past week as the two sides look to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Besler is under contract through the 2015 season but is searching for a raise from his $220,000 salary, which makes him the league’s 32nd-highest paid defender in Major League Soccer.

“Matt has continued to engage in discussions with the owners and executives,” Rock said. “Talks are in an advanced stage.”

A decision will be reached by the end of the weekend, as Rock doubled down on his client’s desire for a quick resolution. Besler has been at KC since departing Notre Dame in 2008 and has played 137 games for the reigning champions, currently boasting the most points and least goals allowed in the Eastern Conference.

So what’s the catch for KC? How much money is Besler looking for? His agent says he’s not looking to be the highest-paid defender in the league, while the source told McDowell that Besler is looking for less than $1 million per season.

The 6-foot-1 Besler will be 31 at the time of the 2018 World Cup, so the story begs the question of whether Jurgen Klinsmann would be okay with his starting center back staying in Major League Soccer. Klinsmann recently used Facebook to implore players to “add to the competition level“, which some took as another nod to the coach’s preference for European competition.

And we have to ask whether part of this could be a smoke screen, as also of note in the report is that KC has not received a tempting bid for Besler, according to head coach Peter Vermes. With Besler under contract with KC, it would follow suit that his agent should take advantage of his client’s World Cup performance in any way possible. If there hasn’t been a suitable offer from overseas, Rock’s job is a Besler raise and contract stability.

There’s undoubtedly a market for Besler’s services, and this report takes the conversation fodder for MLS fans up to the next level. Turning down a move to Europe to stay home is admirable for his club and league and Besler, by all accounts one of the ‘good guys’, has earned the right to do whatever he sees fit.

He’s also earned the right to ask for a raise. Could be win-win-win for MLS, KC and MB.

  1. patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    That sucks and it hurts American soccer more than it helps. It’s his career though so he has the right to be selfish. His talent is good enough that it should demand that he test himself at a higher level. The opportunity is there. IMO, it’s better for American soccer that he goes rather than the MLS keep a near obvilous defender stuck in the mid west. If he could make any impact on the EPL though that would be a huge expression of the possible quaility of American talent. What a waste. Klinsmann cannot be happy.

    • mikeevergreen - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      The teams over there showing interest are losers. Fulham just got relegated, and Sunderland almost got relegated. I don’t blame Besler for staying. However, were Hannover 96 to come calling, that would be something to mull over. The “Mayor of Hannover” is American. (Dolo).

    • tariencole - Jul 19, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I don’t buy that there’s one “What’s best for American soccer” answer. It’s not best if the entire USMNT goes overseas, because ultimately, MLS needs to be strong and competitive if American soccer is going to continue to grow. You could argue that’s best, short-term for the USMNT. I would respond, “Only as long as they play.”

      The days of it being better to be buried in reserve games overseas as opposed to playing here are past. In any league. And I’m not convinced the Championship is a better level of opposition than MLS. And Fulham and Sunderland are closer to being mired there than the Champion’s League–which is what Klinsmann is ‘really’ agitating for when he encourages players to go overseas.

      Furthermore, I do think the parochialism of saying it’s a ‘waste’ to play in the Midwest is absurd. America is more than the coasts. And Sporting KC is one of the League’s best stories. A team all but given up for dead that is now consistently competing for trophies and selling out every single game. Yay. Go play for Fulham and get the honor of playing Blackpool or Birmingham City, or win honors as a fixture on your hometown team, get paid, and maybe still get loan offers to play in better situations than a team mired in nowhere.

      Be the kind of player that inspires hundreds of others to choose to play soccer in this country. Or be just another Yank toiling on a team that you can’t find on TV in your home country without a Ouija board?

      Yeah, it’s all so simple. While I totally agree that a young player like Yedlin should leap at the chance to play at an AS Roma side that very well could be in the Champion’s League on an annual basis. I don’t see Besler’s situation *nearly* as appealing. Especially for a player on his last chance to get paid who is essentially playing at what is near the maximum of his ability already.

  2. troy2 - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    I always get the feeling from his interviews that he’s a very sheltered kid and hasn’t explored too much of the outside world. Not the choice I would make or hope that people with influence in my life would recommend but to each his own.

    • danielk1 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      He is a typical midwesterner. If it werent for his particular talent, I bet he would have spent his whole life within a 100 mile radius of KC. Not sure why so many midwesterners are such homebodies. My best guess is that they are so far from everything that they decide to just stay.

      • tariencole - Jul 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        Wow. Love the patriarchal tone of people here.

        Could be he’s one of those people who actually LIKES where he’s lived, and while he enjoys traveling, living somewhere else doesn’t interest him.

  3. cegr76 - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Not committed to getting better? It should be clear by now that WC roster spots are not guaranteed.

  4. amartinez99 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Looks like I’m in the minority in this, but I think a good balance for both MLS and American soccer regarding the 4 most likely to get transfer offers (Besler, Zusi, Yedlin, and Gonzalez) would be for both Zusi and Besler to stay in MLS with some sort of wage increase, and Gonzalez and Yedlin to go overseas.

    At 27, no matter where you go, you are not going to get much better than what you have developed. So, if you’re comfortable in an area, and they want you, then stay. Is MLS the most challenging league in the world? No, but that didn’t stop Besler, Yedlin, Beckerman, Dempsey, and to a large extent Gonzalez from having significantly positive impacts on the US’ World Cup run. I agree it’s important to challenge yourself to get better, but I also believe that at a certain point, you need playing time and comfort, and, like I said, at 27, Zusi and Besler are not all of the sudden going to become Lampard and Cahill by moving overseas.

    If Gonzalez (25) and Yedlin (21) go overseas, they still have some years where they can acquire new skills and significantly refine their games. Moreover, MLS can’t continue to let all their good young players go if we are serious about becoming one of the big boys. Letting the young ones go for good money, but retaining the good, in-their-prime ones for the right price, I think, is a good balance to help the future of the USMNT, and help our league continue to grow.

    By the way, not sure how you can call someone selfish, because they aren’t makig a decision aligned with what you want to see.

    • jslip1 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      Thank you, voice of reason.

      Also, I’d add that in the long run this is better for US Soccer because it reinforces that the best US players play in the domestic league. More exposure for US kids whose heroes play for hometown teams.

    • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      I said he had the right to be selfish, that his self interest obviously trumps all else because it is his professional career and his alone. Your ridiculous hyperbole not withstanding, there is no gulf between my point and what you said. It’s his career and he has the inherit authority to do what is best for him.

      Is there some positive in a macro sense as well if he stays? Sure, a little and you highlighted them. BUT it is beyond disingenuous for you to ignore the quality in competition. No matter which way you cut it, the passing of an opportunity to play at a higher level and improve is a big opportunity missed. Besler is in his prime and you are flat out wrong if you think he still can’t improve at 27. And you point on Lampard makes no sense. 1st he is not who he was anymore. And 2nd, you will see Besler locking down on him in the MLS sooner than later.

    • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      I said he had the right to be selfish, that his self interest obviously trumps all else because it is his professional career and his alone. Your ridiculous hyperbole not withstanding, there is no gulf between my point and what you said. It’s his career and he has the inherit authority to do what is best for him.

      • amartinez99 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        Would really love to hear your explanation of my ridiculous hyperbole?

      • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        “By the way, not sure how you can call someone selfish, because they aren’t makig a decision aligned with what you want to see.”

        He greatly took me out of context and displayed no response to the core of my comment, that the ability to grow not only his game but the perception of American soccer players has a great platform at higher levels of competition, like the EPL. I have said in all the comments that he has the right to be self interested and do what is best for him but for some reason you and you MLS bias can’t see thru that.

      • amartinez99 - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        It’s not an MLS bias. I even said it’s not a top league. What I’m saying is that I disagree with the notion that at 27 he is going to get so much better playing in any European League. Sorry, but Fulham in the Championship does not, to me, constitute a huge jump.

        And out of context how? YOu called him selfish for wanting to stay, then go on to state “IMO, it’s better for American soccer that he goes”. Therefore, his “self interest” trumps what you want to see. So, again, where is the hyperbole?

        The core issue is that there are multiple ways to grow the game, and ONE of the ways is to see our domestic league improve, and ONE of the ways to see our domestic league improve is to retain some of the talent we develop. So, if one of our talents WANTS to stay, I say pay him the money and support him. Let’s not criticize him for not going to Europe.

        By the way, interesting how my comments have all of the sudden a ton of negative down thumbs, but other comments on this thread that essentially say the same thing I have, are mostly positive…

      • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        You keep going off the rails. Maybe people are down voting you because your opinion is lacking. Your “conspiracy” theory is also without merit and even more hyperbole to distract from the topic.

        Do you need the definition of selfish? In these comments, it is not meant with the level of negativity you are implying. I have gone out of my way again and gain to spell out that acting selfishly and with self interest is 100% okay. It’s his career and his choice. You keep neglecting that MLS teams can only generally pay a hand of players good money, and the rest of the rosters vary on pay; though each team differs. Even so, he can make much more overseas. Money is not everything though. BUT we are talking talent level. You completely neglect to say anything about the difference in talent level and that the MLS is not on par with the EPL or even the first Championship division of English pro ball.

        IMO it better for american soccer that the best american soccer players are playing in the best leagues and testing their talent vs the best the sport can offer. MLS is not there and keeping players like Belser here does not grow the sport, IMO is stunts the growth by stunting the growth of players b/c the league how a low talent level.

        You also neglect that in pro soccer, playing internationally is common. If you want that game to grow, get with the times. The competition and talent is not at a place were anyone can honestly pretend it is level with the EPL or other Euro leagues.

      • amartinez99 - Jul 18, 2014 at 7:04 PM

        I apologize for not clearly stating “MLS is not on par with the EPL, La Liga, etc”, though, I clearly said “Is MLS the most challenging league in the world? No…)

        I apologize for not talking about the pay structure. Though, I did say, “pay him the right price” and “pay him the money” on two separate occasions, and mentioned a wage increase to stay domestically. But, again, if this omission is what threw off my argument, I apologize for not being clear.

        I apologize for not clearly stating my understanding that international play is common in pro soccer. I also made no inference or statement about how this is unacceptable, or that this should never be done. I very clearly stated that, in my opinion, at 27, no matter where Besler plays, he is unlikely to all of the sudden become a star, so I think he could help grow the game better by being a domestic star and helping increase our domestic league’s quality.

        And finally, and the only thing I actually am serious in my apology about, is that I apologize for not realizing that the word “selfish” does not always have a negative connotation. Every time I’ve encountered the word it’s come with negative undertones, but I did not realize you meant it in a more positive manner. I probably shouldn’t have made that comment about selfishness.

        I don’t think my opinion is lacking, because I see others say pretty similar things posted here, so I’m not the only one. Simply put, I believe that there are multiple fronts in growing the game, and one of them includes growing our domestic league. Not at the sake of those that can make significant contributions and grow exponentially, like 21 year old Yedlin, but, someone like Besler is on the same boat Donovan was in after 2010. Sure, he COULD go to Europe, and he could do well there. But is he going to grow so much as to make the hit in quality in our league worth it? I don’t think so.

      • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:29 PM

        No problems man, I am sorry for saying your opinions are lacking. You clearly have well thought out ideas and they do have merit. We will have to agree to agree and agree to disagree.

        All and all, it’s great to debate soccer both on and off the field and that in and of itself is growth within the sport. Thanks for the fun back and forth.

    • tariencole - Jul 19, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      That is actually a very realistic position. One could argue that Besler will only have this one chance to go overseas. But if that’s not really a huge goal of his, or if the opportunity is at a club that stinks, then why not take a comparable wage deal for a successful club where he’s a hero now.

      It’s not nearly as cut-and-dried as young players who have considerable upside to grow into still. And nothing with relation to his contract would prevent him from going on loan into a better situation later, if the chance arose.

  5. dfstell - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Worrying about where Besler plays from the standpoint of, “What’s best for American soccer?” is just so screwed up. The guy has spent his whole career here and he played fine at the world cup. Omar played fine at the world cup. The only central defender who was a mess at the world cup was Cameron and that’s because he’s not a center back anymore.

    Anyway, “What’s best for American soccer?” is more money and more sponsorships going into the game. We need better academies. We need cash to bring talent in from abroad to play at those academies and coach at the academies to diversity the soccer therein. Besler is mostly a developed player. He should just do what’s best for him.

    • charliej11 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      Thank you dfstell.

      Geez Louise. Chad Marshall would have been incredible back there too.

      All these guys solutions are. Go to Europe, when plenty of guys are achieving in MLS. Gooch make the Nat team ? No beaten out by a handful of MLS guys who developed better.
      Not saying don’t go to players, but if that is your only thought process, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  6. braxtonrob - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    I’d like to see what he and KC can do in CONCACAF Champions League. If after that, they’re not doing well and there are still offers, then go, but I think MLS can produce (albeit unique) great defenders as well without needing international club experience.

    • bobinkc - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      I think you see SKC do fairly well in CONCACAF, but don’t hold your breath on Vermes using all his best players for the games. SKC is currently in a fight for first place in the East and Vermes has typically NOT used his top-of-the-line men when the MLS Cup is out there just waiting to be won.

      As far as all you people yapping about going to Europe to play, take a look at the number of players who have gone to Europe, spent 2 or 3 years parked on the bench and then come back to the US. You can NOT improve your skills if your butt is on the bench instead of playing 90 once or twice a week no matter who the competition is. We need to start retaining our best players or accept a future of being the farm team land for the big leagues.

      • braxtonrob - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:58 PM

        MLS is NEVER going to get respect until we win Champions League, and dare I even say it – the FIFA Club World Cup.

        Until then, MLS fans will have to put up with getting bashed in the head with snide comments about the ‘inferiority’ of our league.
        What’s shocking to me is how easy a ‘sell’ it is to other American fans that our league (supposedly) sucks. Even if it did (which it doesn’t) have some PRIDE in your own league.

        @bobinkc, I agree with everything you said. I hope Vermes’ priorities have balanced out more (since winning the MLS Cup once).

  7. charliej11 - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Funny how a ton of guys who are not Besler all want him to piss away his career at some mega-losing team. Then they rip on him for not doing so.

    Sheltered MidWestern guy ? Maybe he realizes those team stink and will never win anything, ever.

    Hurts American soccer ? Yeah, really wish we would be good like the English Nat team whose players all play in England.

  8. jdfsquared - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    What’s best for American soccer here is more eyeballs on TV broadcasts of MLS. Period. Endstop.

    A strong, popular domestic league means consistent (not every 4 years) money flowing thru the US soccer market, in turn bringing better players, stronger academies, and increased viewership and popularity of the USMNT in off-years.

    How key has it been for soccer here that Clint Dempsey is now starring and scoring again for Seattle?? It’s SO important to have those stars at home. It’s the chicken and the egg. Many things need to happen in concert, but recognizable and relevant (re: no retirees) faces in MLS is the baseline for the long-term growth of the game in this country.

    • patriotsdefense - Jul 18, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      Sure, yeah!

      But for some reason i think people are missing that international play is very common within professional football/soccer. Every nation has home grown talent playing somewhere that is not home.

      One day, we all hope that the MLS grows and eventually gets on a level with Ligue1, Primeira Liga, and the Eredivisie. That IMO is the 2nd tier of the European club football. And maybe within the close of this decade MLS can grow and maybe be on par with those leagues. When MLS grows to that level then growing and keeping players will be much more important and much easier. But we are not there yet. Outside of a few players, many players on MLS rosters are getting paid nothing (in terms of professional athletics).

      • jdfsquared - Jul 18, 2014 at 7:43 PM

        Completely agree with you. It’s just that Americans are a uniquely fickle bunch, and the other sports soccer has to compete with all feature the top level of athlete in their respective sport. Are there basketball leagues in Europe? Hockey in Russia? Baseball in Japan? Football in Canada? Sure. But Americans know that the elite play here. And until that’s clear to the average fan about soccer, the real dollars (I mean the MLB/NBA/NFL dollars) won’t start coming in to prop up the entire system. And that’s where soccer in this country is headed.

        Can that happen when we’re on par with the Dutch league? We’ll be a helluva lot closer, and I think that’s a great place to shoot for by, as you say, the end of this decade. But it’s when MLS is on par with (not necessarily better than) the top Euro leagues that conversations about eclipsing the NFL will begin.

  9. overtherepermanently - Jul 19, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Very Donovan-esque of him.

    • tariencole - Jul 19, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Not at all.

      Donovan had spent a decade of not breaking into Bayer Leverkusen/ loanee back to MLS before cutting loose because the two sides finally realized he was never going to make their team.

      Besler has been committed to SKC his entire career. It’s his club, and he’s involved in MLS’ best story in his hometown. This is somehow spun as ‘unambitious’ by the parochial coasters who think they know better than Matt what he should do with his life.

      The teams making the offer are not appealing teams to play for. If you say ‘it’s Europe,’ Klisnmann would say, “Yes, but it’s not Champion’s League.” In fact, they’re closer to the Championship than that. With or without Besler.

      So he can play for honors every season with his hometown team and help entrench its brand here, and maybe compete annually in the CCL as well, or he can stare the English Championship in the face. Hmm. Why is the second appealing again?

  10. player169 - Jul 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    He won’t go to Europe unless it is a top half EPL team and he will start for them. The teams mentioned are garbage.

    He can stay in his hometown and win championships, stay in the USMNT mix and make close to a million a year in a town where a million goes a long ways…look at cost of living in KC. We’re not talking LA.

    Plus spend an entire career with 1 team…get your number retired, get a front office job…stay close to family….plenty of reasons to stay…

    • tariencole - Jul 19, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Exactly. It was entirely reasonable to sit and watch for what offers came in. They’re simply not appealing clubs to play for.

      Personally, I think Besler’s game translates to Germany or Italy better than England anyway. He’s not the tall, burly centerback most coaches there insist on to deal with high crosses. He’s more cerebral and plays on instinct and reactions rather than pure physicality.

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