MLS: Would Antoine Griezmann harm or harness league reputation?

Antoine Griezmann said that he wants to end his career in the United States. This illustrates the growth of MLS’ reputation, but might he also harm it too?

It seems that around the globe the reputation of soccer in the United States is growing. The latest player who wants to make their way to Major League Soccer is French superstar Antoine Griezmann, who this week revealed that he would one day like to end his career across the pond.

Griezmann was asked what remains on his football bucket list as he enters the latter stages of his prime. speaking to the LA Times, the Barcelona star said:

“Winning La Liga and the Champions League with Barca would be a dream, and also my objective. After that winning whatever comes. There’s another World Cup so the World Cup in Qatar. And after that MLS. I don’t know with which team, but I really want to play there. For me, it’s an objective to end my career in the United States with the possibility of playing well and being a big part of the team and fighting for a title.”

Griezmann’s interest is a double-edged sword for the league. The fact that a player like Griezmann wants to come over shows how much respect the league has gained around the world. We saw Carles Gil say that he was surprised by how great the league was. With Gil’s experience playing in Spain, this means a lot. Griezmann is a similar, if not even more emphatic, case.

His resume speaks for itself. In LaLiga, he has scored 142 goals and provided 54 assists in 10 seasons for the likes of Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and now Barcelona. He has also performed well on the international level. In 2018, he helped France win their second World Cup in the nation’s history. Griezmann had four goals and three assists in the tournament.

He is an elite European player, wonderfully skilful, prolific in the final third, a joy to watch. And he would be a terrific talent to have in MLS, even if he is in the tail end of his career. However, as is almost always the case with these ageing European stars, that is the key caveat here.

MLS has been desperately trying to shed the retirement league image for years. It does not want to be a league where old stars go to relive their wonder years. And yet, for large portions of its existence, that is precisely what it has been. Griezmann waiting until he is in his mid-thirties to make the switch, while adding a major name and profile to the league, only compounds the retirement league image.

Hopefully, if he does come over, it isn’t too late. Griezmann’s contract is set to expire in 2023. If he left at that point, he would have just turned 32. There is plenty of gas left in the tank at the stage, especially at the MLS level.

However, if he waits too long, MLS could get a shell of the former Griezmann, and for however successful he has been in Europe, that would do more to hurt the league than help it.