Getting Stuck In: The Great American Hype Machine

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into The Great American Hype Machine as the nation waits for a world class player to emerge…

I was used to waiting. It’s part of the deal when you interview celebrities. This time, in 2004,  I was waiting to interview a soccer prodigy.  He was supposed to call at 10am. It reached 1pm. I called the Nike representative that set up the interview and asked if she could call him. She rang back an hour later and said he would be calling me in ten minutes. Two more hours went by. I called the Nike rep back again. She apologized and said he was busy playing an intense game of FIFA with friends during some downtime. He finally called at 5pm and didn’t even apologize for making a grown man wait.

You see, Freddy Adu has been making everyone wait his entire professional career. He has shown glimpses of magic with US youth teams but he has been an utter dud everywhere else he has gone. He has played for 13 teams in eight countries over a 12-year career so far. But is it all his fault? He has to take some of the blame for sinking faster than the Titanic. Some say bad attitude, bad practice habits, laziness, no commitment to defence are among some of his problems. My buddy Eric and I theorize about why he continues to move from club-to club and we just assume that he does something behind the scenes to piss off his managers. Some would just say he sucks. But some blame the ‘Great American Hype Machine’.

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Yes, we Americans are guilty of cranking up the Hype Machine to epic levels. We are always waiting for our Messi, our Ronaldo, our Pele – but we just get Adu. When Adu signed a pro contract with MLS side DC United at the age of 14 (debatable), we were all swept up in the Hype Machine with no idea he would be spat out 12 years later. Before he ever kicked a ball professionally, Nike gave him huge money and soft drink company Sierra Mist created a cool ad that debuted during Adu’s first pro game. It featured him with Pele on a soccer field competing for the last bottle of Sierra Mist. The ad sprouted from the American soccer intelligentsia saying Freddy Adu was the “next Pele” (Hype Machine at its worst). Even Pele bought in: “His left foot is fantastic. It’s like Mozart. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer. If he is prepared mentally and physically, nobody will stop him.” Pele may have been an all-time soccer talent, but he’s not an all-time talent evaluator.

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Adu is only 26 (debatable) and mentally and physically he seems shot. Many think his career has finally come to an end because he now plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, a division below MLS. He shows glimpses of being a decent player but when I found this headline the other day I wondered if Freddy was doing ok: “Freddie Adu has gone from ‘next Pele’ to vacuum cleaner salesman on Twitter”.

This brings us to the next great product of the Great American Hype Machine: Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. There is surely no way this kid will be the next Adu, right? Yes, the Machine has churned out hope-to-nope players like Julian Green and Juan Agudelo, and may take down Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, but I think (and I hope) Pulisic is different. Here’s a few reasons why:

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  • He is 17 (not 14) and is being groomed with smarts by one of the best clubs for developing talent in Europe.
  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp loved him when he was Dortmund’s manager and saw him excel with their youth academy and destroy fools with the US U17 squad (20 goals in 34 appearances).
  • He is humble, respectful, hard working and technically sound (rare for an American player).
  • He is strong for his size, doesn’t back down from anyone (see his work against some of the strongest players in Germany).
  • He feels American. With all due respect to Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and the other German-Americans on the US squad, he is from Hershey, Pennsylvania so he feels authentic.
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When Pulisic became the youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga this past spring, I went bonkers. It convinced me that he was for real. No fugazi. Legit. Not just a good American player but considered a great European prospect. I mean, when a headline like this appears in the Daily Mail, I believe the hype: “Liverpool face competition from Real Madrid and Manchester City in pursuit of Borussia Dortmund whizzkid Christian Pulisic.”

Are you kidding me? Pulisic wearing the kit of my beloved Liverpool? An American, dancing around the midfield to You’ll Never Walk Alone on one of those special European nights at Anfield? I just hope the Hype Machine leaves him alone. Because if he does come down with a bad case of Adu-itis, I don’t know how much more waiting I can take.

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Former Chelsea star tips in-demand coach to manage in England

Former Chelsea midfield powerhouse, Michael Ballack, tips Jurgen Klopp to manage in England for ‘the foreseeable future,’ reported by Sport1de.com.

Klopp will leave Borussia Dortmund this summer after seven years at the club. He has guided the German club to Bundesliga titles twice and his side were runners-up to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final.

Ballack, former German captain, highlighted that Klopp speaks English and is successful due to his training techniques.

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Klopp has been linked with the Manchester City job despite Manuel Pellegrini remaining adamant he will be at the club next season.

It would be surprising to see Klopp managing any club without Champions League football, leaving City as the most likely option.

Klopp has not had a good season with Dortmund, who are slumped in seventh place and had been in the relegation zone for parts of the campaign.

Ballack has not commented on when Klopp will be managing in the Premier League. We could well see the German coach take some time out of the game before his next move is decided.

Will Klopp manage in England and when will it be?

United, City and Arsenal to battle for £20m German star – report

Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal are set for a three-way transfer battle for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan this summer, according to the Daily Star.

The 24-year-old German has just one year remaining on his current Dortmund contract and is believed to be keen on a move to the Premier League, with three of the countries top sides interested in securing his services.

Gundogan is valued at £20 million, and City believe they can steal a march on their rivals by offering misfiring striker Edin Dzeko to Dortmund in a swap deal.

New Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel, who will take over from the outgoing Jurgen Klopp this summer, is an admirer of Dzeko’s and that could see Gundogan seal a move to City.

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Arsenal are known to have had long-term interest in the German midfielder who has nine caps for his country, but could be beaten to his signature by one of the Manchester clubs.

United are closing in on a £21.5 million deal, according to Sky Sports, as the race for Gundogan looks set to heat up with the season drawing to a close.

He has struggled with injuries in the past few years but has made 27 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring three goals with four assists.

Klopp is being strongly linked with the Manchester City job and if the Dortmund coach is to move to the Etihad this summer, Gundogan will be expected to follow him.

Where will Ilkay Gundogan move this summer? Who needs him most – Manchester City, Manchester United or Arsenal?

Jurgen Klopp favourite for City job Dortmund exit set to be announced

Borussia Dortmund head coach Jurgen Klopp is looking set to quit the Bundesliga club more than three years before the end of his current contract, and he is now the favourite to take over at Manchester City.

Klopp has been with Dortmund since 2008 and has enjoyed incredible success with the German club over the past seven years, but this season has been disappointing and the club have called a press conference to address their coach’s pending exit at 12:30 BST (07:30 ET).

Dortmund currently sit in 10th place in the Bundesliga and there is a real danger that they won’t qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League – a competition Klopp guided the team to the final of in 2013.

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Klopp reportedly wants some time away from football but he has already been backed as the favourite to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City this summer.

Pellegrini is looking set to leave, and is the favourite to be axed next in the Premier League as the reigning champions are currently 12 points behind leaders Chelsea and are in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification themselves.

A major shake-up is expected to take place at City in the next few months and a new manager will likely be the first step.

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Klopp is now as low as 11/10 favourite to take over the City job from Pellegrini as his time in Germany looks to be coming to an end.

The Dortmund coach has also been linked with the Arsenal job in the past but moving to City this summer would surely see an end to those rumours.

Would Jurgen Klopp be the right man to bring success to Manchester City? Should he leave Dortmund?

Arsenal linked with summer move for £20m midfield star

Arsenal have been linked with a summer move for £20 million-rated Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, according to The Metro.

Gundogan is being targeted by Arsenal and Manchester United despite reports suggesting Dortmund want to sign him down to a new deal. But a move to the Premier League could be favourable as Dortmund are struggling to make the Champions League, sitting 10th in the Bundesliga.

Arsenal have been linked with a number of Europe’s top rated players, including the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, as manager Arsene Wenger is again expected to dip into the clubs funds this summer in an attempt to further strengthen the team to challenge for the Premier League title.

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Gundogan has made 18 Bundesliga appearances so far this season, scoring three times with three assists, and at 24 could be an ideal replacement for Jack Wilshere, who has been linked with a move away from the club.

The German international already has a wealth of experience and after losing the 2013 Champions League final, will be hungry for success as his time in Germany could be drawing to a close.

Arsenal reportedly had an £18.4 million bid rejected in January but Dortmund’s poor season could see a move develop with the Gunners looking to be a strong force in Europe once again.

Is Ilkay Gundogan the right man for Arsenal and do they need sign the midfielder?

Chelsea to HIJACK Manchester United transfer for £37m star – report

Chelsea are set to make a surprise move for Manchester United target, Mats Hummels, according to Fichajes.net, and would be willing to splash £37 million on the German centre-back.

The World Cup winner has been heavily linked with a move to United this summer after Borussia Dortmund’s disappointing season and his comments regarding his future have done little to quash rumours of a move away.

Louis Van Gaal had seemingly been chasing the centre-back alone but Chelsea will reportedly look to pounce before the Red Devils can seal their man.

Jose Mourinho is apparently looking to secure a world-class centre-back this summer and Hummels is a player that has been previously linked with a Stamford Bridge switch.

Blues captain John Terry signed a one-year contract extension just a few weeks ago but will turn 35 next season. He is now in the twilight years of his career despite plaudits from many in the game after key performances this campaign.

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At just 26, Hummels could be a long-term replacement for the former England captain and would be part of one of the toughest defences in Europe if he makes the move to the London club.

Mourinho is keen to add depth to his squad and Hummels would join Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma as the Chelsea manager’s centre-back options in the long-run, though the Dortmund star would likely be a regular starter with a move to Stamford Bridge.

Would Mats Hummels be a good signing for Chelsea? Do the Blues need him?

Manchester United preparing HUGE £105m triple swoop

Manchester United are preparing moves for three players that will cost a combined total of £105 million this summer as Louis Van Gaal looks set to further strengthen his side.

Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling is reportedly being lined up as a shock £50 million target, while Mats Hummels could join for around £35 million and Dutch winger Memphis Depay could also be brought in for £20 million.

Sterling is refusing to negotiate a new contract with Liverpool until the end of the season and a whole host of top clubs are now monitoring the situation as the young England star could be available this summer.

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United have joined the race, according to the Sun, and will try and beat off competition from Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid to sign Sterling for a huge £50 million.

Another winger being lined up is PSV Eindhoven’s Dutch wonderkid Memphis Depay, who impressed for the Netherlands under Van Gaal at the World Cup last summer and has been linked with a move to the Premier League since.

United have received a boost in their pursuit of the 21-year-old attacker as PSV manager Phillip Cocu has told Voetbal that he looks likely to leave at the end of the season.

“I think he is ready for the next step, and I think that he will leave. We take it into account in any case.”

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As well as focusing on attacking players, Van Gaal is keen to improve his defence and Mats Hummels has long been linked with a move to United.

That deal now looks increasingly likely to happen as Dortmund chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke has said the Bundesliga club would listen to offers for the German centre-back.

“In this moment this a total dummy discussion, because there is no offer,” he is quoted as saying by the Guardian. “If one arrives, we will discuss it internally and make a decision.

“The situation at Dortmund is like this: We’ve lost one major player each year but we don’t stop playing football. To be clear: Mats knows his contractual situation, he described it in that interview himself. The decision where Mats will play next season will only be taken by BVB.”

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Hummels would cost in excess of £30 million but is viewed by many as one of the world’s best central defenders.

United would have to sell to be able to buy £105 million worth of talent and Angel Di Maria is one man who could leave for big money after joining from Real Madrid for £59.7 million last summer.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Di Maria and his transfer away from United would free up moves for the likes of Sterling and Depay.

Do Manchester United need Sterling, Depay and Hummels? Which of the three should be the priority?

Manchester United target rejects claims he is set to sign this summer

Borussia Dortmund and German international centre-back, Mats Hummels has dismissed a report claiming he has a promise to join Manchester United.

The World Cup winner claims the reports were invented, and with his current deal not set to expire until 2017, it doesn’t look like he is planning a move away this summer.

Hummels tweeted: “Just to be clear. This alleged ‘promise’ is simply an invention. And that is saying it nicely.”

Many of Dortmund’s key players have been linked with moves away from the club after their shock demise in the Bundesliga this season. They are sitting 10th, which is a stark contrast to 2011 and 2012 when they beat Bayern Munich to the league title.

Hummels comments will have helped him out with the club’s supporters no end as his side prepare for their crunch league game against rivals Bayern Munich this weekend as they chase down a European spot.

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal reportedly wants to bolster his backline this summer and sees Hummels as an ideal fit.

Will Hummels leave Dortmund this summer? How good a signing would he be for Manchester United?

Could this Dortmund star be on the way to England after advice from Arsenal invincible?

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has advised Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller that he should move away from the German club.

Lehmann was part of the invincible Arsenal team of 2003/04 and went on to make 200 appearances for the Gunners before leaving for VfB Stuttgart in 2008. He also played 61 times for Germany at international level and believes Weidenfeller needs a new challenge.

“Roman Weidenfeller is now actually at the best age for a goalkeeper, but I would advise him that he needs to change,” said Lehmann while talking before Germany’s friendly against Australia on Wednesday.

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Lehmann’s comments could spark a reaction among a number of Premier League clubs, with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham all potentially needing a replacement between the sticks this summer.

Wojciech Szczesny‘s Arsenal future is still in doubt after he was dropped following a 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day and has since been replaced as first-choice goalkeeper by David Ospina, who will need competition should Szczesny depart at the end of this campaign.

Rumours are swelling over where Manchester United shot-stopper David De Gea will be playing his football next season after impressive performances have sparked interest from Real Madrid.

Another ‘keeper who has had a great season is Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, and he could be on the move if Spurs don’t qualify for the Champions League, opening up a void that they will need to fill, with Weidenfeller an ideal replacement.

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Weidenfeller joined Dortmund in 2002 and became a first-team regular in 2003 after Lehmann was signed by the Gunners and the ex-Arsenal man also believes that Weidenfeller’s international career is coming to an end if he doesn’t move on, despite it only starting in November 2013.

“In the national team, the young goalkeepers will move up. In particular, Bernd Leno has recently shown very good performances. But Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Timo Horn are also safe candidates.”

Would Roman Weidenfeller be a good signing for one of the Premier League clubs?

Everton on alert with several clubs tracking Kevin Mirallas

Everton and Belgium winger Kevin Mirallas is being linked with a move away from Merseyside with several big teams interested in securing his services.

The 27-year-old is being touted as the possible replacement for Germany winger Marco Reus at Borussia Dortmund, while Spurs and Atletico Madrid are also believed to be keeping tabs on the Everton star.

Mirallas will be entering the final year of his contract this summer following his £6 million move from Greek side Olympiakos in 2012. But Everton do have the option to renew his contract by a further year that will take him up to 2017 and Everton manager Roberto Martinez does not want to sell.

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The Belgium winger has reportedly told the club that contract talks will have to wait until the summer as he is keen to evaluate his options before committing to the Toffees.

Roberto Martinez says Everton must satisfy the ambitions of Mirallas if he is to remain a Blue: “Kevin is happy with his football but I think it is only normal to see where we are as a football club before he signs a new contract or decides what he wants to do.

“Kevin is on a long-term contract. It is not as if his contract is up at the end of the season. I don’t see him not signing now as a sign of anything. It doesn’t make any difference whether you have a two year deal or a six year deal nowadays. If you want to move on you will do it whether you have a long term or short term contract.”

Mirallas has been one of many outstanding Belgian’s in the Premier League since his arrival at Goodison Park in 2012, making 89 appearances in all competitions and scoring 25 goals, including an impressive free-kick against West Ham in the FA Cup in which Everton went out on penalties last Tuesday.

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With Marco Reus appearing likely to leave Borussia Dortmund in the summer, the Bundesliga side will need to replace to German talisman and Jurgen Klopp has looked at the Everton man as an ideal replacement.

Dortmund won’t be the only side looking at Mirallas and The Telegraph have reported that the North London club have already made an enquiry and offered winger Aaron Lennon as part of the deal.

How important is Kevin Mirallas to Everton?