COMMENTARY | A deal that had been heavily rumored for over a week has been finalized. United States Men's National Team forward Jozy Altidore is returning to the English Premier League.
AZ Alkmaar announced via the club's official website on Tuesday afternoon ET that they had sold Altidore to EPL side Sunderland. The story, loosely translated, stated the following: "After AZ and Sunderland reached an agreement on the transfer of Jozy Altidore (this past Friday), the striker agreed on a contract with his new employer after the medical examination." Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated claimed via Twitter that Altidore was sold for $13 million, a deal that breaks Altidore's own US transfer fee record, and Sunderland have confirmed that the player put pen to paper on a four-year deal with his new club. Financial terms were not disclosed as of the posting of this piece.
Altidore broke the news of his impending move via his personal website over the July 4 holiday weekend. He had been linked with several teams throughout Europe, including Lazio, Fulham and Schalke. The 23-year old front man leaves AZ after having buried 31 goals across all competitions during the 2012-13 European season. Altidore's brilliant club form followed him to national team duty last month, when he netted four tallies, including one in each of the USMNT's three World Cup Qualifiers.
Altidore had a cup of coffee with Premier League side Hull City back in 2009-10, scoring just one goal in 28 appearances. With that pointed out, it would be ridiculous to assume that his stint at Hull would be any indication that the US international will not succeed in England this time around. In Altidore, Sunderland are getting a player who has improved tremendously in both the physical and mental aspects of his game, a confident striker who helped lead AZ to the Dutch Cup and one who has also become the lone front man in US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's system.
In Sunderland, Altidore joins a club that finished only three points clear of the relegation zone this past May, one that is in a rebuilding mode under manager Paolo Di Canio. Di Canio, who was appointed at the end of March and tasked with keeping the Black Cats in the EPL, was initially the shot in the arm Sunderland needed. That honeymoon ended rather quickly, however, but Sunderland remained safe thanks to Wigan being unable to once again capture that spring magic that had repeatedly enabled them to remain in England's top division.
Di Canio and company got good news last month when they learned that Steven Fletcher, the team's top scorer last season, should be ready for the start of the 2013-14 campaign (ankle surgery). All indications are that Di Canio is not yet done tweaking his current squad, and thus it is a bit premature to be hypothesizing about any future Sunderland staring lineups.
Altidore will once again have to prove himself, this time on a bigger stage, if he is to one day play in the major European competitions. He's more than ready for the challenge. While speaking with the striker near the end of June, Altidore told me the following on his mindset after another successful season at AZ: "I feel that nothing has changed for me, what I'm about and what I do. It's all part of the process of being a professional. You're going to have your ups and your downs. You're going to hear people talk and what not. But you have to stick with what you believe in and just try and get better."
Tuesday's confirmed deal shows that Altidore is hardly the only person who believes in his abilities.
For more: Most recent chat with Jozy
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jozy Altidore
- English Premier League
- Paolo Di Canio