Sometime after the third hour of the afternoon during the January 18th MLS SuperDraft, the New England Revolution took a gamble. After selecting Rob Valentino with its first pick, the club then proceeded to use their next pick - a valuable second round slot - on the much-heralded Videira, a senior midfielder from Duke University. A two-time Hermann Trophy finalist (2005 and 2006), Videira was listed as the top-rated midfielder by SuperDraft guru Buzz Carrick. An absolute steal for the Revs at number 18, right?
Well, here’s the catch: Videira may never play a game in MLS.
Videira, a native of nearby Milford, MA, holds a Portuguese passport and has stated his desire to play in Europe in 2008 rather than MLS. His collegiate performance has reportedly attracted the attention of enough Euro-based sides, to embolden him to test the international market in an attempt to secure an overseas deal.
A circumstance like this - one in which a draftee is determined to bypass MLS altogether and play for a European club - begs the question as to whether the Revs should align itself with European club, much like Los Angeles has done with Chelsea and/or the one Colorado has in place with Arsenal.
For a brief moment, using the Videira case as a guinea pig, let's propose the following hypothetical: Videira signs with a Portuguese outfit - let's say, SL Benfica - and from there, he plays for As Águias while his MLS rights are owned by the Revolution.
Now, let's take it step further: let’s suggest that the Revs enter into a developmental/working relationship with Benfica. Under this scenario, the two clubs could exchange information on not only Videira, but each other’s players as well. Revolution players (first teamers and/or reserve players) could train with Benfica during the winter, and Benfica players could train with the Revs during the summer. The rewards would be tremendous for both sides – even more so for the Revolution, as its younger players acquire invaluable training time in the higher stakes conditions of European football.
Of course, this arrangement would involve an investment on both sides. The Revs would have to find places to house of the Benfica players, and provide interpreters, if necessary. A European side would also have to follow suit and provide the same amenities as well. However, the infusion of European players - even if they simply train with the club - would greatly benefit the American side in ways that could easily translate into better performances on the pitch come matchtime.
Aside from the on-field personnel benefits, the added bonus of having an affiliation with a large Portuguese club would surely attract the attention of the dense Portuguese population that resides in southeastern New England. You think a partnership between the Revolution and a Portuguese side would go unnoticed?
Sure, the impact may not be same as Luis Figo himself stepping out onto the Foxboro FieldTurf wearing Revolution navy blue. Yet, the connection would surely bring in more interest from the Portuguese community for the Local XI.
On paper, it's a win-win situation for both clubs. Benfica, or any other European side, would establish stronger roots within the region, have its reserves see regular action (allocating them to the Revs reserves), and form a healthy relationship with an Americna club that has produced considerable talent in recent years. The Revolution, on their end, would have its own players acquire experience abroad by training in a formidable league like the BWIN Liga, and in doing so, the club would also extend its brand name to Europe.
Granted, in this scenario, not every Revolution draftee looking to jump overseas will sign a deal with the club New England is associated with. But the possibility of signing a Euro-minded player to a lucrative deal (perhaps containing a clause in which he plays a fixed amount of matches in MLS while also under a European contract) with a European partnership in place might- just might - help smoothen a potential situation like the one the Revolution currently find themselves in with Videira.