>>From Europe to U.S.: Can Djorkaeff help end stigma?

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
February 27, 2005

By Jeff Rusnak, Soccer Columnist

Youri Djorkaeff is not a name that rolls easily off the tongue, but
in international-soccer circles it's a name most fans recognize. Many
can even pronounce it.

Upon joining the MetroStars two weeks ago, the former France midfielder
became the biggest name to sign with Major League Soccer in five
seasons, and it's an addition that has stirred an age-old American
soccer debate.

Djorkaeff is a week shy of 37 and he's come stateside to finish a
career that began at FC Grenoble in 1984. In the 20 seasons since the
slender Frenchman has scored nearly 200 goals for eight top-flight
clubs in France, Italy, Germany and most recently England, where he
last played for the Blackburn Rovers.

He scored 28 goals in 82 internationals for France, and was a member
of the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship winners. His club
titles include the French Cup with AS Monaco, the UEFA Cup Winners
Cup with Paris Saint-Germain, and the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan.

It's a resume most players could only hope for. Yet, because of
Djorkaeff's age, there's some debate about the merits of bringing him
to MLS. It's a debate that's fueled in part by the dismal showing of
the last World Cup winner to sign with the MetroStars, former Germany
captain Lothar Matthaus.

Matthaus joined the underachieving franchise in 2000 and did nothing
to improve matters. He also did nothing to erase the stigma of
thirtysomething European imports that come here for what amounts to
a soccer holiday. It's a stigma with roots that trace back to all
those pricey imports who played in the North American Soccer League,
and it grows deeper every time someone like Matthaus disappoints.

There hasn't been a player of Matthaus's pedigree to sign with
MLS until Djorkaeff, and the league has suffered from the vacuum of
cultured talent. While the average American player has gotten better,
the style of play has become more predictable as teams failed to
replace Carlos Valderrama, Peter Nowak, Marco Etcheverry and the like.

Djorkaeff's signing is a good first step in replenishing the playmaking
drain. Despite his years, he was fit enough to score nine goals in 28
goals last season for Bolton. He moved to Blackburn on a free transfer
last summer, but played just three games before injuring a hamstring.

He was released in December, but left an impression before
departing. Blackburn coach Mark Hughes described Djorkaeff as
"a fantastic professional" with the ability to play a support role
behind the two forwards. Just want MLS needs more of.


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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress