DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham is great for all parties involved
By Daniel Rubens
DeAndre Yedlin has had one wild year.
After a breakout 2013 MLS season, the then-20-year-old Yedlin entered 2014 as one of the hottest prospects in the country. On the third day of the new year, he earned his first call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team (IMPORTANT NOTE: GOING FORWARD ON THIS SITE, THE U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM WILL ALWAYS BE WRITTEN AS USMNT), and his career took off from there. After starting each of the Seattle Sounders’ first 11 matches at right back, Yedlin left the team to participate in the USMNT’s training camp and earned a spot on the plane to Brazil.
He opened eyes with three substitute appearances at the World Cup, impressing with his speed, crossing, and spectacular display in the Round of 16 game with Belgium, coming on for an injured Fabian Johnson in the 32nd minute and holding down one of the world’s best wingers in Eden Hazard. The loss ended the USMNT’s run at the cup, but it also introduced Yedlin to the world football stage.
Almost immediately after returning home, the European rumors started. First there was the whispering of a trial at Liverpool. Next was the prospect of a deal with Roma, which was rumored to have been agreed upon in late July. But neither of those deals came to fruition.
Instead, after seeing Yedlin up close and personal over 90 minutes July 19, Tottenham Hotspur made their move, agreeing to a four-year deal with the right back on Aug. 13, allowing him to complete the MLS season in Seattle, which he finished with four assists in 14 post-World Cup matches, and join Spurs either in January or before the 2015-16 Premier League season. After negotiations between the two teams and Yedlin’s acquiring of a Latvian passport, it was announced that Yedlin officially joined Spurs on Dec. 23 and left for London shortly after.
How’s that for an insane 12 months?
Now, after that whirlwind of action, Yedlin will, in all likelihood, get his opportunity to settle in London and be eased into the Spurs squad over the next few months. If manager Mauricio Pochettino integrates Yedlin in the right ways and the youngster improves at the rate he has so far, this transfer has an opportunity to be a fantastic and notable one for everyone involved: Yedlin, Spurs, the Sounders, and the USMNT.
For Yedlin, the positives are obvious and numerous. First and foremost is the opportunity to move to Europe. It’s a dream of every young American soccer player to make the move to a big European team, and Spurs certainly qualify as an upper-level European team, if not quite on the very top level. Yedlin has mentioned an affinity to Spurs that dates back a few years as well, so that will only make the move more exciting for the Seattle native.
But, in an actual football sense, this move is going to help develop Yedlin as a player more than he could possibly develop in Seattle. Spurs have some of the best training facilities in England, and the coaching staff is top notch. Pochettino has shown an innate ability to develop young players in his time at Southampton and his early days at Tottenham. Yedlin will get the opportunity to learn from a good, young coach who is known for an aggressive, pressing style of football, which Yedlin can excel in with his pace and desire to attack.
This move also looks a brilliant one for Spurs, who get a whole host of benefits from having Yedlin. On the field, they’ll get a young prospect who is a like-for-like backup for 24-year-old Kyle Walker and who should, in theory, learn from Walker over the next few years. Yedlin shows a heck of a lot more promise than Walker’s current backup, Kyle Naughton, and is a far better outside back than 20-year-old Eric Dier, a centerback by trade who started eight Premier League games at right back — notably scoring the winner at outside back in the season’s opening game after shifting over following a red card to Naughton — while both Kyles were unavailable.
Plus, there are the obvious benefits for Tottenham financially. They spent just $4 million on Yedlin, and the potential monetary gain of bringing in one of America’s top prospects is huge. As a Seattle resident and Spurs supporter, I’ve already seen the result, with new fans deciding to follow Tottenham to stick with Yedlin in the form of a lot more Spurs shirts than I had seen before (though the friendly in Seattle may have contributed to that too). The added exposure and possible extra television appearances in a country that’s really starting to take to the Prem probably didn’t hurt Tottenham’s interest, and will only serve as a positive as well.
For the Sounders, the benefits of this move are a little harder to spot, but they definitely exist. Seattle fans aren’t thrilled with losing their best young player, a homegrown one no less, but, in reality, getting $4 million for a player who they didn’t have to pay anything for originally is obviously a win. Eventually, if he kept improving, Yedlin was going to make the move to Europe. The Sounders and general manager Adrian Hanauer realized this, and Hanauer acted at the time when Yedlin’s value was highest, after his World Cup success, to get the best possible deal for his club.
The development and eventual sale of a talent like Yedlin also looks great for Seattle’s academy, which can now count Yedlin among its graduates. It’s quite the feather in the cap for the Sounders’ coaching staff, especially the youth coaches, who can now say they helped nurture the best young player to come out of the MLS in years.
An additional benefit for MLS teams of selling homegrown players is allocation money, which can be used for almost anything the club desires. Selling Yedlin gave the Sounders around $650,000 in extra allocation money, which basically lets them spend more than the cap would normally allow. In this regard, the Sounders gain a leg up on many of their rivals with this extra chunk of change.
Lastly, the positives of Yedlin’s move are very simple and obvious from a USMNT point of view. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann, himself a former Tottenham man, has said he wants to see America’s brightest young talents moving abroad and testing themselves against the world’s best. A move to the Premier League guarantees that Yedlin will be up against the stiffest competition out there in the coming years, which will allow him to develop into a better player. The hope for Klinsmann is that this is simply the beginning, that Yedlin will be successful and more high-profile teams will take chances on young, eager Americans who want to prove themselves on a bigger stage. Klinsmann will be absolutely thrilled with this move and what he — and the American soccer-following public in general — see as a positive step for the future of the USMNT.
Let’s take a quick step back for a second, though, and realize that Yedlin is not going to become a Spurs star overnight. Yes, he will have an opportunity to prove himself, but that may not come right away. Yedlin could be loaned to a smaller Premier League side or a Championship one as he begins to gain traction in England, but even if he doesn’t, he’s not going to waltz into North London and start for Spurs. The most likely scenario for Yedlin this year is that he’ll have time to settle, work with Pochettino, and learn his system while staying at Tottenham but not playing too much for the senior side, hopefully working himself onto the fringes of the first team by the time the 2015-16 Premier League season starts.
If that happens, fantastic. If it takes him a little more time to get ready for the Prem, so be it. Either way, Yedlin will have his chance to succeed at Spurs, and if he does, it’ll be wonderful to watch.