MLS makes most significant personnel decision since Beckham signing

MLS makes most significant personnel decision since Beckham signing

Major League Soccer seems to have quietly made one of its biggest ever player moves in recent weeks.

It appears all 20 teams passed on signing longtime Chelsea and England defender John Terry to a Designated Player contract, figuring he simply wasn't worth the outlay. So now it's looking like the star center back will leverage his household name for top dollar in China or the Middle East instead.

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That, in a lot of ways, is the most significant personnel decision since David Beckham was brought in back in 2007.

Which isn't necessarily a knock on Terry. He will rightly be remembered as one of best defenders England ever produced. Globally, he might place among the best two dozen or so. It's just that he's 35 now, and while Terry is still largely effective, his wouldn't be the kind of megadeal that would age well stateside.

Consider, after all, the precedent set by his peers from England's golden generation in MLS. Beckham was mostly a success – it's easy to forget now that he spent a lot of his early Los Angeles Galaxy years injured or off on loan to AC Milan before he won championships at the end. Steven Gerrard has delivered a mixed bag since arriving in L.A. and is already talking about his return to Liverpool. Ashley Cole has tried hard with the Galaxy, but also managed to get sent off in the span of less than a minute. And Frank Lampard has been an utter catastrophe with New York City FC, barely playing and impressing even less when he has.

MLS has come full circle from its landmark signing of David Beckham in 2007. (Getty Images)
MLS has come full circle from its landmark signing of David Beckham in 2007. (Getty Images)

What does this have to do with Terry? Nothing per se. The success of aging European stars who stroll over here to get a few last runouts before they hang up their boots can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. Some are still enormously useful – Didier Drogba, David Villa, Beckham (when he felt like it), Kaka (when he's healthy). Others less so. The biggest and most decisive variable seems to be the player's attitude and health. So that alone shouldn't disqualify Terry, even though a defender's performance is more likely to suffer from his aging.

However, it's the premium paid for these players that must be considered carefully. For that kind of money, the $5 million to $8 million-a-year range, the expectation has traditionally been that the recipient deliver the goods off the field as well as on it. In their crowded sports markets, MLS teams need a face – somebody who can go on posters and feature in TV ads and drive revenue through commercial partnerships. But today, that needn't be someone who once graced video game covers over in Europe anymore.

And for that kind of money, you can also tempt a Sebastian Giovinco or Giovani Dos Santos over here. The former was the MVP in his first season with Toronto FC last year. The latter has hit his stride with the Galaxy, bagging five goals and three assists in his last four games. They are 29 and 27, respectively, in their prime and likely perennial MVP candidates for the next half-decade. They're true difference makers on the field and can do the promotional stuff just as ably. Gio and Gio, have, in effect, undercut the likes of Terry in the market. They offer more value for the investment.

Passing on Terry is an act of maturity. The league doesn't need to overpay for his like anymore. The Beckham signing, in that sense, has come full circle and achieved exactly what it was supposed to do – begin to make future Beckhams obsolete.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.