Got an interesting scoop on the Benny Feilhaber-to-MLS saga this afternoon. But before we get into it, I want to excuse myself if it seems like I can't get away from this story. It's only because I genuinely like Benny as a person and a player. I think he has a lot of natural gifts, untapped potential and the soccer smarts to really make a name for himself if he got the chance.
That said, I just got off the phone with a league source who says that Feilhaber (or maybe more specifically, his German agent, Henner Janzen) is demanding designated-player like money from MLS to make his return to the U.S. after what can only be considered a failed attempt in Europe.
We all remember Feilhaber's awesome game-winning goal against Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final last summer, which came amid several solid appearances for the U.S. national team during 2007. But if Benny thinks an MLS team will be willing to pony up in excess of $1 million for his services, he's nuts.
That Mexico goal was spectacular, and Feilhaber has shown flashes of his potential. But let's be honest: He failed to stick in Germany with Hamburg, now he's struggling to get into the first team at Derby County -- the last-place club in the English Premiership. Those aren't exactly qualifications that merit money similar to what guys like Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Ángel are earning.
I'll repeat: I'd love to see Feilhaber in MLS. The Orange County, Calif., native has never played club soccer in the U.S. as a pro, and finding him a team where he can play every game is a far better way to get him ready for the big-time (he's still only 23 and eligible to be on the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing this summer).
But if it's true that he wants seven figures, no team should bite (Houston, Chivas USA and San Jose all have been linked to him at some point over the past few weeks). Remember, a player that makes DP money counts as $400,000 against a team's salary cap, which is a shade more than $2 million. If you're a GM, is Feilhaber worth 20 percent of your entire budget?
Then again, this all might be a negotiating tactic. Just a month ago, Janzen was telling Yanks Abroad that Feilhaber wasn't at all interested in coming home to MLS, and clearly he's backed off that stance as interest in Europe undoubtedly waned. Hopefully someone will reach a compromise somewhere along the line.