Jozy Altidore: The big transfer that failed to live up to the hype.

On Valentine’s Day 2022, US soccer player Jozy Altidore moved from Toronto FC to New England Revolution on a free transfer as reported by MLS Soccer. The 32-year-old enjoyed a 7-season spell with the Canadian club in which he scored a respectable 79 goals in 173 appearances. Despite his success in the MLS, Altidore’s career path did not turn out the way many were predicting back in 2008.

Superstar in the making

At the time, the New Jersey-born player was in his third season at New York Red Bulls. He had made his professional debut aged just 16 and had been the youngest player to score in the Major League playoffs. He was tipped to become a superstar of the game, so it was no surprise when Spanish club Villarreal enquired about his services.

The club nicknamed ‘Yellow Submarine’ had just finished second behind Real Madrid in La Liga and were looking to add to their squad depth. However, with plenty of strikers already at the club including Robert Flores, Joseba Llorente, Nihat Kahveci, Guille Franco, Jon Dahl Tomasson and American-born Giuseppe Rossi, there were no guarantees that Altidore would be a starter. At the age of 18, he was willing to bide his time and admitted he would be prepared to go out on loan in a bid to adapt to the European game.

A $10 million deal was eventually struck, making the youngster the most expensive American player of all time. Sunderland had paid $5.7 million for Claudio Reyna seven years earlier, and Fulham paid $4 million for Clint Dempsey in 2006.

Premier League flop

Unfortunately, the next seven years did not go as planned for the American. He never established himself as a regular at Villarreal and a loan spell in the English Premier League with Hull City produced just one goal as the Tigers were relegated from the top division.

A two-year spell with AZ in the Netherlands, which yielded 54 goals and a Dutch Cup win, hinted at an exciting return to form. However, a move back to the Premier League with Sunderland proved ill-fated. After a bright start, his form dipped, and he was dropped to the Under 21s. After scoring just three goals in 52 appearances, he was sold to Toronto FC.

Comfort zone

His time in Canada was much more successful, resulting in Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup wins in 2017, three playoff appearances and a CONCACAF Champions League runners-up spot in 2018. He also regained his scoring touch hitting double figures in his first five seasons, peaking with 18 from 33 appearances in 2017.

He now joins the club that won the 2021 Supporters’ Shield and will be one of the favourites again in the 2022 MLS betting. Popular bookmakers including Marathonbet UK are already taking bets on the first round of games due to start on February 26. New England kick off with a tricky game away to Portland Timbers and are priced at 11/5 to grab the away win, while the home side are 57/50 (as of 16/02/2022).

Altidore’s story is one of an individual needing to be in the right environment at the right time to thrive. He outscored Jermain Defoe, the man he replaced at Toronto, as per this Independent UK report, in his first season. Yet, Defoe went to Sunderland at netted 37 times in just 93 games. It was clear that the Premier League suited Defoe better than the MLS and vice versa for Altidore. It was also a lesson in the burden of expectation that is sometimes heaped on younger players. The pressure to succeed in Europe proved too much but a return to his comfort zone allowed him to shine.