With Major League Soccer's upcoming summer transfer window set to open on July 16, several teams are searching for a Designated Player to improve their fortunes.
Montreal, New York and Chicago are expected to attract world renowned names to their cities and even typically frugal teams like Philadelphia and Houston are also expected to make moves. Here are the latest updates on the top DP targets for MLS.
Last season's club: Bayer Leverkusen
Possible MLS destinations: New York, Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia
It won't be a surprise when the German international comes stateside after his representatives confirmed his intentions to play in MLS last March. What might be a surprise is where he ends up. The Red Bulls are focusing on other targets and the Galaxy are set with three DPs in Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham.
Ballack's agent Michael Becker pointed to three teams which have expressed interest in his client: Montreal, Chicago and Philadelphia. While the Fire remain quiet about their potential transfer targets this summer, the other two teams have admitted to talks with Ballack.
Sources within Philadelphia have told Goal.com that there were brief conversations about bringing in Ballack but the team was not willing to match the 36-year-old's wage demands. There were also reservations from the Union about how the veteran would fit on a team that is focused on developing its youth this season. Those same concerns applied to Raul, who the club also spoke to briefly. The source stressed that if Philly ends up signing a DP, it will be a young player similar to Seattle's Fredy Montero or a can't miss impact player.
As for Montreal, the team's general manager, Nick De Santis, told Goal.com that Ballack is the team's top target now that the Impact are close to signing Marco De Vaio.
Position: Center back
Last season's club: AC Milan
Possible MLS destination: New York, Chicago
According to a source with an understanding of Nesta's situation, New York is the defender's top choice this summer. But it is far from certain that the former AC Milan player will be a Red Bull on July 16.
New York's general manager Erik Soler has stressed that the club would not use a DP slot on a defensive player. Despite Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper's early season surge on offense, an advanced playmaker would elevate New York into an elite MLS contender. Plus, New York's backline has been responsible for three straight shutouts thanks to breakout performances by Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage. Still, it will be an interesting dilemma for Soler, who has a chance to add a defender who just two years ago was considered one of the top five in the world in his position.
Chicago is a potentially interesting situation. Last summer, the typically quiet team made its interest in Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand public knowledge. The Fire's defense has been average so far, allowing nine goals in eight games. Adding Nesta would make the Fire lethal in that area.
Last season's club: Beşiktaş
Possible MLS destinations: Kansas City
For some reason or another, Kansas City continues to be linked with the former Real Madrid midfielder. While Graham Zusi continues to be exceptional for Sporting KC, a motivated Guti could make Major League Soccer's top-ranked team even deadlier. There have not been any new developments about the 35-year-old heading to the Midwest.
Alessandro Del Piero
Last season's club: Juventus
Possible MLS destination: Chicago
A source in Italy told Goal.com that there is still a possibility that Del Piero might stay with Juventus, even after both the player and club have stressed otherwise.
The 37-year-old continues to impress off the bench for the Old Lady and fans are adamant that they would be greatly disappointed if he leaves. With a brand-new stadium heading into its second season, the last thing Juve would want is see patches of empty seats. Until the door is completely closed on Del Piero interested MLS teams will have to wait. Chicago is speculated to be the front-runner for his services.
Last season's club: Aston Villa
Possible MLS destination: New York
Ireland's representatives insist that they've held extensive talks with the New York Red Bulls that will continue at the end of May.
The only problem is New York is firmly denying that any talks have happened. Two well-placed sources within the club said that while the team has a DP target in mind, it is none of the players that the club has been linked with so far. One source also laughed off suggestions that Frank Lampard would be a good fit for this summer.
Also, Ireland's recent form with Aston Villa has led many to wonder why he would want to join MLS. He is only 25 years old and the Republic of Ireland would gladly recall the midfielder into the fold if he comes out of international retirement. Until Soler makes his intentions public, the former Manchester City player will continue to be linked with the Red Bulls. We'll see which side is telling the truth come July 16.
Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard:
Under Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea, it appeared that both Drogba and Lampard were on their way to MLS. Now that Roberto Di Mateo is in charge of the Premier League side, both have been reinvigorated. The status of both players will heavily depend on what happens with Chelsea in the Champions League final. Should the Blues win, Di Mateo will keep his job and likely keep both players around for at least another season. If Chelsea loses, there could be sweeping changes at the club especially if a new manager is brought in. Stay tuned.
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