The Barcelona Way?
There has not been much to talk about in TFC land over the past couple of weeks since the announcement of the consultant/advisor role for famed former German International Jürgen Klinsmann… But this week there have been a few little tidbits that are somewhat interesting in and of themselves. I will be blogging about them over the next few days but for now I want to continue the discussion over Jürgen Klinsmann and his role with Toronto FC.
Klinsmann Comes To Town
Yesterday afternoon saw of course the first press conference for Jürgen Klinsmann at BMO Field where he had the chance to answer the questions of the assembled local media. There was little to nothing new revealed in the press conference that we did not know already about the arrangement between Klinsmann and TFC. We now officially do know that Klinsmann and his SoccerSolutions consultancy will be primarily responsible for suggesting the hiring of individuals to take over the front office and the club on the pitch. Tom Anselmi and MLSE will of course still have the final call. on who gets hired or not I for one think it unlikely that MLSE would not choose to employ whomever Klinsmann suggests as it would not be of course the logical way to get value out of the significant dollars a name like Jürgen Klinsmann must obviously command for even a short term project like this.
Here is the conference in its entirety (ourtesy of TFC TV)
A couple of other tidbits revealed were when Klinsmann confirmed that the relationship with TFC would be a relatively short term one when it was confirmed that his contract with MLSE will run until the beginning of the 2011 season. As well he did not tip his hand on whether him and his firm would go with suggesting the GM/Coach model that is the norm in places like Spain and Italy or the more traditional approach of a “Manager” model that predominates in places like the English Premier League. Interestingly MLS has examples of both approaches that have been successful in this league.
The one thing I took some issue with more than anything else was the touchy feely “identity” approach Klinsmann spent significant time discussing in the press conference. He discussed how he plans to try and assist TFC in finding a “style of play” that speaks to the fans and the city, and then use that blueprint to guide him in deciding whom to recommend for the positions at TFC that need filling. In theory I get this. I get that hiring like minded front office staff and coaches that share a philosophy of the sport is important. I get that you can often maximize the talent you have if players play a complementary style to one another. Teams that do this are the clubs that can transcend the sport and be more than the sum of their collective parts.
But we are not Barcelona. We are not Arsenal… And we never will be.
We are Toronto FC, a struggling club in a small salary capped league where until recently player development has primarily been the purview of the NCAA. You can never have a true style/philosophy of play of the ilk of Barcelona for example in MLS when you have no choice but to pay some guys down at the end of your bench $40,000 a year. MLS journeymen cannot play the “Barcelona Way”. MLS by definition has been a parity league from the outset. Yes that is starting to change in recent years with the emergence of the Designated Player rule and the entrance of more aggressive owners with new clubs (like Toronto FC), but it is going to take a long long time to completely change the structure of this league to allow clubs to truly embrace something like a true “..style of play…” from top to bottom. Yes this is ideally the correct approach to take but I would argue that it is not the most realistic approach in a unique league like MLS.
And with due respect to Jürgen Klinsmann he is not going to get true idea of what the Toronto FC fan wants, or for that matter what kind of city Toronto really is by hopping on a few flights in from time to time from the City of Angels. I can spare him from wasting his time by telling him what TFC fans want in a few simple points.
- TFC fans want a winner
- TFC fans want a well managed club that has a front office that is open to the fan base and communicates what it is doing and why
- TFC fans want a club that plays hard for the fans and the badge
- TFC fans want a club that becomes a destination players want to come to
- TFC fans want stability
- TFC fans want the club to continue to match fan loyalty by keeping up the investments they are making in the club on and off the field
Pretty well we want the club to be everything that it never was under Mo Johnston. Quite simple no?
And most importantly trying to get a grasp in a few hours of the character of a hugely complex city like Toronto and how that character can be reflected in how Toronto FC is structured and how it plays the game is almost an exercise in futility that wastes precious time.
This is a simple sport at its heart, and a simple approach in this league is the one that had been proven to pay dividends. And the requirements for on field success are relatively simple. You need a solid spine of goaltender and centre backs. You need defensive depth in the midfield. You need speed and flair on the wings to give the club pace and the attack width/creativity. You need creative play-makers in midfield that can both score the off goal and assist the strikers up top. And you need of course a money striker/garbageman who can bag you 15-18 goals per season. And you also need a sprinkling of cheap versatile depth players that can be plugged into different spots from time to time on the field based on injury and the need to rotate the squad. We have some of this at hand, and some of it we have never had. That is the challenge on the field.
Until the salary cap goes the way of the horse and buggy I think Herr Klinsmann should better spend his time sorting through those fifty odd resumes Tom Anselmi claims to have received for the GM/Coach jobs at Toronto FC. If Klinsmann is holding focus groups in December rather than announcing who the new coach and/or General Manager will be I think the goodwill his hiring has brought might evaporate very very quickly.
What do you think?
Your comments are always appreciated.