A year after Clint Dempsey forced Fulham to sell him to Spurs in his pursuit of European football, ESPN first reported that rumors of the 30-year-old U.S. captain making a shock return to MLS have gone from Twitter misunderstanding to nearly finalized deal. And on Saturday, Tottenham confirmed the move on their official website.
Dempsey, who was spotted at San Francisco International Airport on Thursday night sparking rampant speculation as Spurs prepare to play in Monaco on Saturday, was also rumored to be in talks with Everton, who played Juventus in San Francisco on Wednesday night. That possibility might seem to make more sense given Dempsey's previous aims and lack of maximum playing time with Spurs last season, but instead he's returning to MLS after seven years in the Premier League by joining Seattle.
The Seattle Sounders and Tottenham Hotspur are finalizing the transfer of U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey, who is expected to be introduced as the newest Sounder as early as Saturday, multiple sources told ESPNFC.com.
No other details –- including the transfer fee the Sounders paid Spurs to acquire the 30-year-old forward/midfielder’s rights -- were provided.
Between this and the ongoing drama with Gareth Bale and Real Madrid means Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has some very impressive multi-tasking skills.
NBC and Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus added their own confirmations of the deal with Straus suggesting that Dempsey will be unveiled in Seattle on Monday.
— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) August 2, 2013
Bringing back the USA's best player, who started his career with the New England Revolution before joining Fulham, is quite the "get" for MLS. It will be interesting to hear what changed for Dempsey in the last 12 months to bring him back to the league after seeming so focused on rising to new heights in Europe and if he plans on returning to Europe on short offseason loans like Landon Donovan has done with Everton in years past before needing to take an extended break from the game.
When the U.S. played Panama in Seattle in June, Dempsey was very impressed with the huge crowds and passion for the game in the city. From the News Tribune:
"I’m good friends with [Seattle striker] Eddie Johnson and he always tells me about what it’s like playing here in front of these fans. It’s an atmosphere that’s comparable to playing in Europe. It’s crazy to see because when I first started out in MLS, things weren’t like that, so it’s great to see that the game is building. People have so much passion for the game. I almost felt like I was in another country the other day when the Seattle Sounders game was on. I was walking to eat dinner, and just as I was walking past the bar, the TV was on and everybody was watching soccer. For me that was awesome."
Dempsey scored 23 goals in 46 appearances for Fulham across all competitions in 2011/12 and 12 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions for Spurs last season (though he had eight fewer Premier League appearances).
UPDATE: NBC helps clarify why Spurs would sell Dempsey to MLS and why he would want to go: record amounts of money for the league.
Multiple sources within Major League Soccer have informed NBC Sports’ ProSoccerTalk that Tottenham Hotspur will receive a $9 million transfer fee for the U.S. captain’s services – roughly 95 percent of the £6 million Spurs reportedly paid for Dempsey last summer. To complete the unexpected move, Seattle have guaranteed the 30-year-old attacker $32 million over the next four seasons, making him one of the most expensive players in league history.
Dempsey’s base salary will eclipse that of David Beckham and Thierry Henry, though other facets of Beckham’s contract gave him a percentage of the Galaxy’s revenue. The $32 million, however, is the largest base salary commitment a player has ever received from an MLS franchise.
Seattle already flexed their spending power by paying Obafemi Martins' $4 million Levante buyout clause in March, but the $9 million is a record price paid by an MLS club (Beckham was out of contract when he joined and Thierry Henry was let out of his). Of course, it's a long ways from the $150 million Real Madrid are reportedly ready to pay Spurs for Gareth Bale, but this is still a big step for the league.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Sign up today for Fantasy Premier League
• Inter's Hugo Campagnaro sent off for stepping on John Terry
• NBC's clever ads promote Premier League in the U.S.