COMMENTARY | The amount of clubs that are reportedly in for United States Men's National Team forward Jozy Altidore changes with every day depending on the latest story you have read regarding his future. While just about anything is possible during the so-called silly season, there's one rumor in particular that, on the surface, seems more like a move one may see on Career Mode in FIFA '13 than in real life.
Both the Major League Soccer and NBC Sports websites reported on Thursday that Italian side Lazio could be prepared to offer somewhere in the ballpark of $5 million for the US international. The 23-year old is coming off the best season of his professional career, having found the back of the net 31 times across all competitions for Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar. AZ finished the campaign tenth in the league table and an incredible 37 points behind champions Ajax, but they did earn a Europa League playoff spot thanks to winning the KNVB Cup.
Altidore has in the past spoken about his desire to play European football, something a team such as Lazio would provide. Lazio, like AZ, earned the opportunity to compete for Europa League glory after winning a cup competition. The Italian outfit finished seventh in the Serie A table, 11 points off of third place AC Milan and a Champions League spot.
What Lazio also have, however, is a long history of racism among the team's supporters. The club was forced to play two home matches, including a Europa League quarterfinal, behind closed doors this past spring after what was the fourth reported occurrence of racism among Lazio fans at matches during the 2012-13 season alone. Last fall, a group of Tottenham Hotspur supporters were attacked in Italy by what was believed to be a group of Ultras who shouted anti-Semitic slurs at the Spurs fans as the assault occurred. Tottenham fans, Jewish and non-Jewish, refer to themselves as being members of the "Yid Army." There have even been reports of Lazio fans racially abusing the club's players.
Altidore is no stranger to such incidents. This past January, he was the target of "monkey chants" and other abuse when AZ were away to FC Den Bosch. Altidore said the following about that day's events after his team's impressive 5-0 victory: "It's a bit disappointing that these things still happen in this time that we're in, but what are you going to do? Just have to hope that these people can find a way to improve themselves, and you can only pray for them. I feel like I have an obligation as a football player and to my club and to my family, as well, to not react to things like this."
It would be quite the understatement to suggest that Altidore has outgrown his club and probably even the top-flight Dutch league. I also don't blame him for wanting to play on the biggest stage possible, which, according to some Altidore transfer rumors that are floating about these days, could even be Champions League. There's a lot that all parties will need to consider outside of paychecks and possible Tuesday or Thursday night journeys around the continent before pen is put to paper.
Altidore has earned the right to play in front of home fans who truly deserve him.
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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