We May Have Gotten What We Paid For, Or Did We? Plus an Interview with Fernando Cardenas
Posted by tonybiscaia on March 19, 2012
A VIEW FROM THE FORT by Jim Dow
Back in the day, when there were only six teams in the National Hockey League and the Boston Bruins were run by an amiable but ineffectual bunch every new season of despair brought forth some fresh, cut-rate prospects who had toiled in obscurity for clubs like Kamloops, Flin Flon and Marquette in the far reaches of the International or Western Hockey Leagues.
While the regulars in those days were hardly topnotch, the B’s were locked in an apparent perpetual embrace of sub-mediocrity with the New York Rangers, by early season most of the new hopers were either benched, cut loose or back in the minors, never to return.
If the first two matches of the new season have proven anything it is that the new New England Revolution continue to frustrate their supporters with poor play and, according to some, worse prospects. Some fans are calling for the heads of those in charge, citing what they feel have been a run of bad decisions in both player acquisition and retention.
With any new administration in charge there is bound to be a shuffle but it is hard to see how the new forwards, for example can be any better, or even as good as those who have departed. But it gets really interesting when you start to run some numbers and try to assign market valuations to those who have come on board and those who they replaced. It makes the picture more complicated.
To do this I used transfermrkt.uk, a German based English language website that has been around since 2007. It is possible to ascertain the supposed monetary market value of almost any player in the world, indeed to track the ebb and flow of these numbers over their careers. While some of the valuations are as arbitrary as anything you might glean from conversations at the corner pub or on Big Soccer, they do provide an interesting baseline from which to make comparisons.
By way of example, starting at the very top, the current market value of Wayne Rooney is given as $91,200,000. Luka Modric, the wonderful Spurs playmaker, is put at $55,200,000. Clint Dempsey, the most respected US field player, tips in at $18,080,000 with his US Nat mate Landon Donovan going for $4,960,000 after a second successful loan period at Everton.
Rooney and his mates, the entire Manchester United senior squad, are valued at $584,000,000, while Premiership punching bags and soon to be relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers total up to $111,200,000. Going down the scale, Once Caldas, the former Libertadores Cup finalist now fallen on hard times and selling off the likes of Pepe Moreno to the Revolution, are valued at $21,600,000, the same total as MLS Champions LA Galaxy with Beckham, Donovan and Roy Keane pushing up the price. The Millwall squad, a Championship side purchased by Boston investors fetches $19,200,000 and CSD Rangers of Talca Chile, who seem to be able to afford Milton Caraglio, are seen to be worth $10,800,000, a couple of journeyman pay packets higher than our own entire 2012 New England Revolution team at $10,560,000.
Before we take any of this too seriously, consider the way transfermrkt.uk rates the New England backline. New signings, Florian Lechner and Jhon Lozano, are priced at $360,000 and $1,000,000 respectively. The other two starters, Kevin Alston and A.J. Soares go for $160,000 apiece. But then substitute Darrius Barnes is rated at $360,000! Maybe that is due to his long throwing ability, a highly valued skill in the lower Premiership.
The most valuable Rev is, no surprise, Benny Feilhaber, rated at $2,000,000, with newly anointed but fading DP Shalrie Joseph fetching $640,000, down from the cool million offered by the solvent side from Glasgow a few years back. Matt Reis is pipped at $280,000 and future wunderkind Diego Fagundez at $160,000. You can find out the details for the entire team at transfermrkt.uk.
To give more comparison, Jeff Larentowicz, the much lamented late partner in the Revos middle, goes for $440,000 while his supposed replacement, Clyde Simms, fetches $360,000. The now perpetual, why can’t we get players like that, Seth Sinovic is at $160,000, no more valued than those he left behind. Recent 2012 opponents like Teal Bunbury – $1,120,000, Kei Kamara – $720,000, Chris Wondolowski – $960,000 and Bobby Convey – $560,000 offer further comparative figures.
Besides draft choices, the new look Revolution have thus far inked eight players; Fernando Cardenas – $720,000, Florian Lechner – $360,000, John Lozano – $1,000,000, Pepe Moreno – $1,040,000, Lee Nyguen – $720,000, Sane Saer – $400,000, Clyde Simms – $320,000 and Jeremiah White – $560,000 for a total incoming value, according to transfermkt.uk of $5,120,000.
Since midseason, 2011 the team has not resigned, or dropped, five players; Milton Caraglio $2,000,000, Osamane Dabo and Didier Domi, both at $640,000, Rajko Lekic – $1,400,000 and Monsef Zerka – $560,000 for a subtraction of $5,240,000 worth of horseflesh.
The difference, then, between the values of the players let go from 2011 and those added in 2012 is, at this point with potential further changes, only $120,000.
While none of these numbers are totally reputable and even if they were, the proof is on the playing field, it is interesting to see how the outside world, if even comprised of a few German nerds, rates the quality of the various components.
Fernando Cardenas has already established himself as an openly friendly, even somewhat puckish jokester among his new teammates in New England. Speedy, skilled, left-footed and apparently fearless, it certainly remains to be seen if he turns out to be the best foreign pickup of the offseason for the Revolution but if a hard work ethic, positive attitude and willingness to run all day can help offset his relatively small stature when the tackles start flying and the studs come in, the team may have found a way to stretch the field in a way they haven’t been able to do since Steve Ralston was in his pomp by signing the former America de Cali winger/forward.
I spoke with him recently after training before the regular MLS campaign had begun.
JIM: First of all, welcome to New England. To begin with, how did you come to be playing here, with the Revolution?
FERNANDO: It was thanks to the efforts of my agent that I had the opportunity to be in contact with this club and thank God, things worked out and I am very glad to be with the team.
JIM: What has been the biggest surprise for you so far?
FERNANDO: I think it has been the way that my teammates have received me, making me welcome from the beginning. They have treated me as if I’d been with the Revolution forever. It is even more surprising when you consider the difference in languages that I am not used to English; it has been a really warm welcoming.
Also, the game here in the States is faster and more physical than in Colombia, but I will have to adapt to it and, with the help of God, I will. It has been a month or so here and I am working very hard to adjust to the way football is played here.
JIM: In 1994 I was lucky enough to see the great Colombian National Team with Valderrama, Alvarez, Valencia and so on; they all played here in Foxborough, in a friendly before the World Cup. With that team the ball moved like it does now with Barcelona, but the team in Spain, not Guayaquil, Ecuador.
FERNANDO (laughing): Yes, yes…
JIM: In Colombian football it seems that keeping possession of the ball and moving it quickly when there is pressure is the number one thing. Do you sense that that is the same here, now, with this team, with this new coach here in New England?
FERNANDO: Yeah, absolutely, we are trying to keep the ball at all times as well as to make good use of any openings and spaces that present themselves during play. We think we can adapt very quickly (as a team) to this way of playing football.
And, yes, there is certainly a difference between the style in Colombia and the way the game is played here, in MLS. But, speaking as a player, one has to adjust their style to that of their teammates and also to whatever the professor requires us to do.
(NOTE: In Latin American football the coach is often called “Doctor” or “Professor,” a sign of respect from the players.)
JIM: You are listed on the team sheet as both a winger and a forward, do you have a preference and, if so, what are the factors behind that?
FERNANDO: No, no, I can play perfectly happily in either position and wherever, whenever the Professor needs me I will be playing that position, working as hard as possible and giving everything I am capable of for these colors (pointing to the shirt).
JIM: You spoke earlier about the language barrier and how helpful the Revolution players have been, how have you managed to adjust thus far. I know that there are two or three Spanish speakers on the team and there are a couple of people in the front office but has it been difficult sometimes, are you working on learning English, at least on the field?
FERNANDO: Well, Diego Fagundez, my teammate who has been with the club before, speaks perfect Spanish and we train with one another most of the time, so he explains the drills, particularly the new ones, and it is easy for me to understand in this way.
I also think that it will be easy to learn English by being surrounded all the time by North Americans who are, of course, constantly speaking to each other in English. So even though I don’t fully understand things as yet, I will certainly slowly pick things up, here and there but of course, one has to study to be perfectly in sync with everyone as far as language goes.
JIM: Under pressure, in the middle of an intense training session or a game, will a teammate, who perhaps speaks some “football Spanish,” like A.J. Soares, suddenly switch to English when things get difficult? So, for example, going from, “derecho, derecho (straight ahead)” to “give me the ball!”
FERNANDO: Well, you understand from listening to what is said during training, in different circumstances and then you slowly learn more and more phrases, and the ways different players react and behave in games.
JIM: At this moment in the Colombian league there seem to be financial problems. Is it difficult for players to get their paychecks; are there some teams that simply cannot pay their bills? Is that a major factor now for Colombian footballers?
FERNANDO: Yes, I think there are many teams that do have financial problems but there are also others that have good economic standing, as you find in most countries and leagues. I think that in Colombia the bigger teams, with more resources, manage to keep up to date with payments to their players and that only a few teams owe significant back payments to their players.
JIM: So many Colombian players have had tremendous success here in MLS, from Alvarez and Valderrama in the first years to Fredy Montero and Jamison Olave today. I believe that statistically, there have been more Colombian players in MLS than from any other country, besides the States, of course.
Are there some particular qualities that allows Colombian players to thrive here, or is it just luck, that these guys and others who have succeeded are just good players no matter where they come from?
FERNANDO: I believe it is the will and the passion of the particular Colombian players who come here determined to give everything for the club that they sign with. Fundamentally, they want to maintain the stature, the name they have made for themselves during their careers in Colombia, where they have become important players, or at least players with great potential. We want to bring that same level of success to our careers in the States, to “leave our grain of sand in this road,” as they say. In this sense, our future is here, at least right now.
JIM: And finally, I guarantee that it will get warm (NOTE: This interview was done on a particularly cold day)
FERNANDO: Well, I’m working very hard to adapt generally and, of course, part of this means the weather and, at least for now, the cold. The idea is that when the championship starts both myself and the team will be in the best of shape and we can just play as well as we can, with the decisions in the hands of the club, the Professor and, God willing, we will play well and, maybe, win the championship.
JIM: Speaking of adapting, in Colombia, what is the longest distance that a team might travel for a match in the league, not counting Libertadores Cup games outside the country?
FERNANDO: For me, playing in Cali, the longest trip was to Cucuta, which takes about 45 minutes to and hour by plane. Well, already, going to Arizona, or San Jose, it takes about six hours, I think, so yes, definitely, the flights within the States are much longer and that will be another thing to adjust to.