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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jozy Altidore to Olympiacos

           Reports indicate that United States striker Jozy Altidore will join Greek powerhouse Olympiacos on loan from Spanish side Villareal for this upcoming season.  Altidore, who is one of the many United States internationals benefitting this transfer window from a surprisingly strong Confederations Cup showing, will be joining the most decorated team in Greek football.  This, unlike his first loan away from Villareal, looks to become a permanent deal as Altidore has expressed his desire to leave the Yellow Submarine, where he struggled to find playing time.

            This is quite an interesting move for Altidore.  Ironically, the 19 year old, while perhaps the most promising of young American footballers, will most likely be the only U.S.A. international moving to a weaker club this summer.  However, after a disappointing experience at Villareal, Altidore’s new team may provide him with just the right opportunity he needs to build his European career.

            At Olympiacos, Altidore will be given a great balance of success and mediocrity.  Olympiacos are the most successful football club in Greek history, winners of 37 Super League Greece titles and overall, over 50% of Greek football trophies.  Having won the League the past five years, Olympiacos will give Altidore a chance to win a domestic title in Europe, something only two Americans have ever done before: Damarcus Beasley with PSV (Holland) in 2005 and 2006 and Claudio Reyna with Rangers (Scotland) in 1999.  And because of these frequent championships, Altidore is very likely to experience Champions League football each year he spends at his new club, an enormous benefit for a young talent like himself.  Yet, despite their domestic dominance, the Greek giants are no continental powerhouse and thus do not necessarily attract individual names as big as their own.  Therefore, Altidore is likely to find in Greece what he could not in Spain: playing time.

            There is, though, a little bit of disappointment looming at the news of Altidore’s transfer from Spain.  Olympiacos is certainly a weaker side than Villareal, yes, but even more of a downgrade is the quality of opposition Altidore will be facing.  Although Olympiacos is a dominating force in Greece, the league they compete in is ranked 12th in Europe by UEFA, while Spain, Altidore’s former home, now arguably hosts the best football competition in the world.  Many have thought that, even if Altidore’s demands were a move away from Spain, he could succeed in the English Premiership, also perhaps the top football league in the world.  With the fast, long ball style of play and his big, strong body up front, Altidore might not be a bad buy for a bottom half of the table English team.  It was only last year when David Moyes of Everton was rumored to be interested in the Villareal outcast.  Unfortunately, though, with his move to Greece, Altidore will surely experience a weaker quality of play.

            In the end, however, for Jozy Altidore, the transfer to Olympiacos makes sense.  His gigantic move from New York Red Bulls of MLS to Villareal in 2008 proved too much too soon for the young American.  Altidore did not see the pitch more than six times in Spain, leaving him with a bitter feeling following the 2008-2009 campaign.  But, in June of this summer it was Altidore who had the last laugh, scoring the winning goal in the United States’ shocking upset over Spain in the Confederations Cup.  Now, instead taking a step-by-step approach with European football, Jozy Altidore prepares for the fall in Greece, the first stage of his very promising career.

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