Zach Steffen is reportedly nearing a $7.5-10 million move to Manchester City. While the Columbus Crew will be sad to see their goalkeeper depart, they can hardly blame him.
Europe is the pinnacle of football. That has not always been the case, per se, but in the recent iteration of the sport, there has not been a debate as to which continent — and which leagues — is the dominant one.
As Miguel Almiron’s perspective when he first arrived at Atlanta United illustrates, there are few players and coaches that do not aspire, at some point, to be plying their trade in Europe.
Like with every career path, it is natural for an individual to want to challenge themselves and perform at the highest possible level. That is especially true for sports, a competitive industry that pits competitive people against one another. Each wants to play the best, to beat the best and be considered the best.
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That is why many MLS stars have left for Europe in the past. It is why many MLS stars will leave in the future. It is also why Zack Steffen is seemingly set to leave the Columbus Crew this winter. The allure of Europe is an insatiable one.
As first reported in The Athletic, which you can read here (it is behind a pay wall), Steffen is set to sign with Manchester City this offseason in a deal thought to be worth approximately $7.5-10 million.
While official details have not yet been confirmed, speaking to mlssoccer.com, Gregg Berhalter did confirm that the Crew have been approached regarding Steffen:
"“The Club has been approached regarding a potential transfer of goalkeeper Zack Steffen but no deal has been finalized and the Club will not be commenting on the specifics of reported offers.”"
It might be easy for Columbus and their fans to bemoan the anticipated exit one of their premier players. And it might be easy to begin to lose a little love for one of the more well-respected, brighter star in MLS. And you could make an argument that Steffen is setting himself up for a series of loan spells and periods sat on the bench by signing for Manchester City. But, in the end, you can hardly blame him for wanting to leave.
Not only is Europe the leading continent of the sport, but the Premier League is the leading league. And City are the leading team in that leading league which is in the leading continent. This is not a move comparable to Bill Hamid’s say, who joined FC Midtjylland in Denmark. This is the opportunity to join arguably the best domestic team in the world, play under perhaps the greatest coach of all time, and test himself at the very highest level that this sport has to offer.
Could it be the case that he has to endure loan deal after loan deal at obscure European clubs? Yes. And could it be the case that he has to sit on the bench every single week while watching Ederson as the starter? Yes.
But this is the chance of a lifetime for Steffen. You can hardly blame him for taking it.