The Undervaluing Case of Maurice Edu

There seems to be an issue for some over the rumored $1.2 million salary Maurice Edu was offered by the Philadelphia Union. Whether the Major League Soccer front office actually blocked the signing for financial reasons or simply used it as a negotiation ploy will hopefully come to light in due time. For now I will table any commentary regarding that possible incident.

What is more disappointing is the outrage from several writers and those in the soccer community that Maurice Edu will be overpaid.  An attempted rational for the argument is the inequity between his possible salary and the salaries of current MLS defensive midfielders. Either they choose to remain ignorant that there is a market for players outside of MLS or they don’t have the stomach to have MLS be a part of it.

While Maurice Edu’s rumored salary appears astronomical in comparison to the league’s upper tier defensive midfielders, it is not a number plucked out of thin air. Edu’s contract with Glasgow Rangers in 2011 was a reported $1.38 million. He signed a new three-year contract with Stoke City on a free transfer.

This situation is not the same as the $6.5 million Michael Bradley received after earning $1.09 million at Roma. What were the metrics Toronto FC and Tim Leiweke used to conjure up that massively inflated figure. No whispers from MLS headquarters about a squad player at Roma receiving more than a 500% raise plus the reported $10 million transfer fee.

There is a narrative built around Maurice Edu that is short sighted and questionable in motivation. Maurice Edu is pointed out as not good enough to dress for Stoke City. Edu was signed by, then manager, Tony Pulis from a Rangers club liquidating their assets due to financial crisis. Edu appeared in 96 league matches for Rangers plus several in the UEFA Champions League over four seasons. Edu was unable to catch on at Stoke City under two different managers. On a loan to top Turkish league club Bursaspor this season, Edu made 11 appearances.

A player not fitting in at a club is nothing new. Bradley’s loan to Aston Villa earned him three appearances and no permanent contract. Bradley does not face similar indictments on his career after failing to catch on in the EPL. To declare Edu overpaid but not broach the topic with Bradley is ignorant at best.

Bradley is higher in the USMNT depth chart than Edu, but is Bradley five-times a better player than Edu? No. It is absurd to make that statement, so why make the comparison with Kyle Beckerman, Ricardo Clark, Will Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso.

The salary for those defensive midfielders is based on the MLS market. Edu’s more than a million-dollar offer is based on his current and recent salaries in the EPL and Scottish Premier League. Edu is returning to MLS on a free transfer after Toronto FC sold him to Rangers in 2008 for $5 million.

Maurice Edu, the prime aged 27-year-old, would slide in with the top tier of defensive midfielders. It is not his problem MLS undervalues the position, or players in general for that matter. The Vancouver Whitecaps just lost the Golden Boot winner, Camilo, to a Liga MX club willing to pay him a million annually, more than four times his MLS salary. Do you honestly believe MLS is paying market value for their players under contract?

The concern to fans of the Union should only be the cap impact, which is $368,750 for a DP earning a million annually. Why would Maurice Edu or anyone leave the final year of a million dollar plus contract for a non-DP salary in the low to mid six-figures? No agent would allow him to erode his market value that much, World Cup year or not.

Comparing salary cap impact rather than total salary: Seattle Sounders made Ozzie Alonso a DP this off-season. Last season Beckerman earned $300,000 base, Clark received $275,000, and Johnson $243,750. Since USNMT caps is a convenient metric especially since they all play the same position, Edu has 45 caps, Clark 34, and Beckerman 33. Age is also on Edu’s side, where both Clark and Beckerman are north of 30 years old.

Maurice Edu’s salary request is not an indictment on him. Rather it reveals how far MLS is from seriously competing with the rest of the world, not in quality but in use of resources. The league and the clubs will do what they can to remain profitable. Instead of fans and writers buying into the overpaid athlete narrative, we should demand the league’s commitment to talent is equal to our passion.

This week’s Throw-In:

  • The SuperDraft itself has become largely irrelevant as more college players sign homegrown contracts rather than enter the draft. As an event gathering supporters, club executives and coaches, league officials and the press it is fascinating. I followed the coverage on NASN and twitter while at work. It’s tough for me to rail against the draft when I can get three hours of entertainment in the middle of the work day, capped off by reports from the lobby of Zac MacMath berating his agent over the phone.
  • Now that the Timbers signed Argentine Gaston Fernandez their squad has a log jam of forwards and wide players. Where does that leave Rodney Wallace and league DP (still a mystery) Maximiliano Urruti? This likely means last season’s second leading scorer Ryan Johnson is on the way out.
  • News came out this morning that Diego Forlan would like to make a retirement home in MLS, and who is calling, none other than Toronto FC. It is becoming less frequent, but I still cringe when a former world-class player comes for low taxes and easy living. MLS is to the world what Florida is to elderly Northeasterner.

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