Despite investing substantial amounts, MLS clubs do not always find the promising players they anticipate. Indeed, numerous high-profile signings have turned out to be utter disappointments.
From Bradley’s lackluster performance after the 2018 World Cup to Lampard’s brief and unimpressive tenure at NYC FC, we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 most overrated MLS signings of all time.
This list serves as a cautionary tale, a stark reminder that a big name doesn’t necessarily translate to brilliant performance on the pitch.
1. Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo’s move to Major League Soccer (MLS) is widely considered one of the most disappointing signings due to his underwhelming performance.
Renowned for his skilled control in midfield and impeccable passing precision, his transfer to New York City FC was greeted with great enthusiasm. However, the much-celebrated Italian playmaker struggled to bring his AC Milan and Juventus magic to the American field.
Although he produced some dazzling moments, they were rare and inconsistent. Critics suggest that he lacked the necessary physical strength to keep up with the demanding pace of the MLS. His defensive efforts were lackluster, often resulting in opportunities for his opponents.
Despite his impressive career and reputation, Pirlo’s American journey was a harsh lesson in unfulfilled expectations.
2. Frank Lampard
Despite signing with New York City FC in 2015 on an impressive $6 million-per-year contract, Lampard’s position in Patrick Vieira’s top 18 has been compromised this season due to a leg injury. This absence has had notable implications:
For the team:
- His experience and goal-scoring ability have been noticeably missed.
It has necessitated others to rise to the challenge.
For his reputation:
- Doubts have emerged regarding his physical fitness and dedication.
He has encountered criticism from supporters and critics alike.
For the league:
- This has highlighted worries about aging European players transitioning to MLS.
Some interpret it as showing a dependence on high-profile players.
However, Lampard isn’t done yet. Having returned to training, he is resolved to silence the skeptics, keen to make his mark once again.
3. Steven Gerrard
You’re likely aware of Steven Gerrard’s switch to the league, which did not pan out as expected. Joining LA Galaxy in 2015 after a stint at Liverpool, there was a lot of anticipation for Gerrard to match his Premier League achievements. Regrettably, his displays were often not up to par.
A look at Gerrard’s numbers during his time at LA Galaxy reveals a less than stellar record:
While he had flashes of genius, consistency eluded him. A number of spectators believed he struggled to acclimatize to the unique demands and style of the MLS.
His exit in 2016 left a varied legacy – a far cry from his legendary status at Liverpool. In the end, Gerrard’s MLS stint underscores the unpredictable nature of soccer transitions and serves as a warning for upcoming signings.
4. Maurice Edu
Wow, who could forget the buzz when Maurice Edu joined the Philadelphia Union? This guy had European experience with Rangers FC and Stoke City, and everyone thought he’d be the midfield maestro the Union needed.
The excitement was electric; fans were already dreaming of playoff runs and maybe even a championship.
But let’s talk stats, the real MVPs of any sports debate. In two seasons, Edu graced the field in 53 matches and netted a modest five goals.
Not exactly the numbers you’d expect from a player pegged to be the team’s anchor. Sure, injuries had their say, but even on his best days, Edu couldn’t quite become the field general everyone hoped for.
Now, let’s chat dollars and cents, or should I say, goals and assists? Edu was among the Union’s top earners, and that’s where the disconnect happened. The club went all-in, banking on him to be a game-changer.
While Edu gave it his all, the dream partnership everyone envisioned didn’t quite materialize. It’s a lesson for all of us fans and teams alike: a big name doesn’t always translate to big plays on the pitch.
Robinho’s tenure in the league can be described as a rollercoaster ride. The Brazilian forward was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm, but his performance left some fans puzzled.
He showed flashes of brilliance with his ball control, but maintaining a consistent performance was a challenge for him.
These statistics highlight a player who found it challenging to adjust to the unique style of play in MLS. Despite sporadic displays of exceptional skill, Robinho was unable to match the high expectations that had been set upon his arrival.
His experience in MLS serves as a testament to the fact that natural talent alone isn’t enough, it also requires time and adaptation to truly shine in a new setting.
6. Mix Diskerud
Let’s discuss the subject of Mix Diskerud, who was voted by a group of 123 professional soccer players as not meeting expectations. Despite garnering 37 caps for the U.S. national team and netting four goals in his first year playing for New York City FC, the performance bar set for him wasn’t quite reached.
Perspectives on Diskerud from other players:
- Some highlighted a disproportionate income as a factor.
- Other players critiqued his performance considering his high income.
- A handful defended high incomes, maintaining that they didn’t set their own pay rates.
- In 2015, he earned $750,000, which is less than the top eight players deemed as overrated.
- Three of the top four overrated players were teammates at New York City FC.
In soccer, it’s apparent that fame does not always parallel performance.
7. Jozy Altidore
In the survey that spotlighted Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore was also highlighted, with a second-place ranking. This ranking implies a collective opinion that his performance may not align with his prominent status and hefty salary in Major League Soccer.
Despite his commendable career record, with 41 goals in 110 appearances for Toronto FC at the poll’s time, there’s a belief among some players that he might be overrated.
Altidore’s position on this list might surprise some, considering his significant contributions to his club and national team. However, it exemplifies the harsh truths of professional sports – even well-established stars aren’t immune to critique from their peers.
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8. Giovani Dos Santos
Giovani Dos Santos, the LA Galaxy’s forward, found himself in the middle of a heated discussion when he was labeled as somewhat overrated by his MLS colleagues in an ESPN poll.
Critics of the Mexican international cited his uneven performances and hefty salary as the primary reasons behind their vote.
- Fell short when it mattered the most
- Plagued by injuries
- Among the top earners in MLS
- His pay doesn’t match his contribution on the field
- A high-profile signing that didn’t meet the hype
- His celebrity often eclipsed by unimpressive performances
Despite these grievances, it’s impossible to ignore Dos Santos’ talent and potential. However, it’s apparent that many see a disconnect between his fame, financial rewards, and actual performance on the field.
9. Michael Bradley
You are likely aware that Michael Bradley, a prominent figure in the soccer scene, was also mentioned in the same poll, his position just a notch below Dos Santos.
This fact might come as a surprise to many considering Bradley’s significant role at Toronto FC and his standing in the U.S. national team. Some critics, however, suggest that his hefty $6.5 million salary doesn’t align with his actual performance on the field.
It’s essential, though, to remember that this poll represents the players’ views rather than concrete data such as goals scored or assists made.
A common belief is that these results mirror more the inequality in MLS salaries than the individual skill or contribution level.
It’s evident that we shouldn’t underestimate Bradley. Despite some seeing him as overrated, his leadership and technical skills are held in high regard within soccer communities.
10. Paul Arriola
Shifting our focus from Gyasi Zardes, we now turn our attention to another intriguing character that emerged from the poll – Paul Arriola.
This player’s name rings with dispute among Major League Soccer followers, finding his own place on the list of overrated players. After joining DC United in 2017 for a then-record transfer fee, Arriola’s on-field performance has been closely watched due to his high price tag.
While he has shown moments of exceptional skill during games, critics argue that his contribution has not been worth the initial investment.
Let’s consider some vital statistics:
These figures contribute to the ongoing debate – is Arriola genuinely overrated or just subjected to an unjust standard?
11. Lothar Matthäus
Let’s take some time to discuss Lothar Matthäus, commonly viewed as one of the most significant letdowns in the annals of Major League Soccer.
Despite his shining career back in Europe, Matthäus’s time with the MetroStars was far from triumphant. He only clocked 16 games, failed to score a single goal, and was often found missing, claiming ‘spa treatments.’
Here are some possible explanations for his lackluster show:
- Low Commitment Levels: Matthäus appeared more engrossed in personal pursuits than contributing to his team.
- Regular Absences: His repeated absences for spa treatments didn’t reflect professional behavior.
- Brief Stay: His tenure in the MLS was fleeting, only lasting from 2000 to 2001.
The experience of this German superstar serves as a cautionary tale that signing a high-profile player doesn’t always guarantee success on the field.
After the letdown of Matthäus, MLS followers were optimistic about Brazilian left back, Branco, stepping up to the plate. As a key player in Brazil’s World Cup victory in 1994, his acquisition by MetroStars ignited waves of enthusiasm.
Yet, this enthusiasm was short-lived, replaced by disappointment. Despite a hopeful beginning, Branco’s tenure in America was fraught with controversy and uninspired performance.
He played a mere 11 games, contributing a single goal and racking up three red cards – a dismal record that didn’t resonate well with fans or his team.
Instances of unsportsmanlike behavior, such as spitting at an opponent during a game, only added to the negative sentiment.
Sadly for MLS fans, who had high expectations from this acclaimed player, Branco’s performance was even more of a letdown than Matthäus’, marking yet another unfortunate episode in MLS history.
13. Rafa Márquez
Rafa Márquez’s stint with the New York Red Bulls fell short of expectations. With his $15 million Designated Player contract, Márquez was anticipated to make a significant impact, but his performance on the field was underwhelming.
Over three seasons, he only scored one goal and made nine assists in 50 MLS games. His time in New York was further tarnished by off-field scandals.
Márquez is often recalled more for his disciplinary problems than his positive contributions to the squad.
He received two red cards in playoff matches, showing a lack of self-control during crucial times. His behavior off the field was just as concerning, with incidents such as throwing a ball at Landon Donovan.
Looking back, Márquez’s time with the Red Bulls serves as a warning that high-profile signings do not always translate into success on the field.
Mista’s time in MLS didn’t meet the lofty hopes set for him, marking a letdown in terms of high-profile signings.
Joining the league from Valencia CF in 2010, Toronto FC was optimistic that Mista could invigorate their attack. Regrettably, this wasn’t the case.
- During his singular season with Toronto FC, he managed to net only one goal.
- His unimpressive performances resulted in his exit from the club after a brief six months.
Impact on Toronto FC
- The failure of this highly-anticipated signing left a gaping void in the team’s offense.
- This also led to a financial loss for the club.
Mista’s noteworthy career, which boasts of two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup victory with Valencia CF, was not replicated in his MLS journey. This instance reinforces the narrative of renowned signings failing to deliver on the field.
15. Innocent Emeghara
Switching gears from the less-than-impressive tenure of Frank Rost, we now shift our focus to Innocent Emeghara.
This forward, with Swiss and Nigerian roots, is often referenced as one of the biggest letdowns in MLS history. He was brought on by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2015 and was expected to leave a significant mark on the field.
Regrettably, his performance fell short of expectations. Plagued by injuries during his inaugural season and battling to find form thereafter, Emeghara only managed to put one goal on the board in 13 games before his departure.
His high pay, juxtaposed with his poor performance, left fans questioning the club’s decision to invest so heavily.
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Emeghara’s experience is a stark reminder that not all signings with potential pan out as expected. Regardless of the letdown, soccer fans still appreciate the unpredictability and spontaneity that make the game so captivating.
These celebrated players in the realm of soccer were akin to brilliant pyrotechnics that lost their sparkle prematurely.
Their entry into MLS was marked with great fanfare, their reputations and hefty price tags raising expectations of stellar performances.
But, their brilliance failed to translate on the field, instead becoming tales of caution.
Their narratives underline the fact that soccer isn’t just about deep pockets or popularity; it’s about discovering those who genuinely belong and perform within this unpredictable yet mesmerizing sport.