So MLS added a big-name European right winger in his 30s, who captained his national team, played in the English Premier League for a decade, has a penchant for getting injured, sports a fashionably short haircut and tattoos and moonlights as a male model.
Where have we heard this one before?
While Freddie Ljungberg's signing by the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday may not have had the same fanfare and media attention that David Beckham's did in Los Angeles last year, make no mistake that the two are from the same mold. Not just because both get paid for modeling underwear and like taking their shirt off more than Matthew McConaughey, but they were brought in for the same reason: give credibility to MLS and raise the profile of their new team. The two also signed for similar reasons, to grow their brand in the States and transition into a post retirement career in Hollywood.
There may be no bigger name in sports than Beckham and no more talked about couple than Becks and Posh. But I have a feeling that Ljungberg will have a bigger impact in MLS than Beckham and will make a bigger splash in Hollywood when his playing days are over than Becks.
Now it isn't a stretch to say that Ljungberg will have a more positive impact on his team than Beckham. After all, the Galaxy have been an absolute mess since Beckham arrived and they weren't much better off before he got there. They've missed the playoffs the past three seasons, had the worst record in the league this season and haven't scored on a set-piece since Cobi Jones was playing. OK, that's not true. It's only been 27 games (practically an entire season) but it feels like more for anyone who has watched them go through the motions this season.
Not only has Beckham done nothing to improve the Galaxy on the field, he's turned the team into somewhat of a joke off the field as his management team seems to be pulling all the strings in the front office, making them look foolish when his people were speaking to AC Milan about a possible loan in the offseason; a development that was news to coach and general manager Bruce Arena when reporters asked him about it last week.
Ljungberg, who played for Arsenal and West Ham for the past decade, is everything that Beckham is right now on the field except for all the hype and fanfare off it. He may be going to an expansion team for half the price as Becks, but he'll likely have the Sounders in the playoffs before Beckham's Galaxy ever get out of the basement, partly because the Sounders are building their team from the ground up the right way and because I don't think Beckham will be in MLS long enough to see the Galaxy turn this sinking ship around before he jumps overboard, er back to Europe. And while he might not be the celebrity Beckham is off the field right now, give him some time with Sounders owner Joe Roth, the ex-chairman of Disney and 20th Century Fox and he'll be in US Weekly and People more than Lindsay Lohan by the end of his first season.
The problem, however, for the league as we've seen with the Beckham experiment in L.A. is whatever Ljungberg does off the field will likely be more noticed than anything he does on the field, where the Perez Hiltons of the world will likely give both players more coverage than any mainstream sports outlet. While that won't change anytime soon, Ljungberg at least has a chance to give fans something to talk about on the field next season, which is something his European male model counterpart hasn't been able to do yet.