If, as an American sports fan, you think NBA and MLB offseason player movement is full of drama and intrigue, you should know that our leagues have nothing on international soccer. This summer’s bidding war for the services of Carmelo Anthony will look like a middle-of-the-night fantasy basketball transaction compared to the active marketplace for some of the world’s top soccer stars.
All 30 NBA teams can go after Carmelo when he becomes a free agent in July, but in reality, there are only four or five teams with a legitimate shot. But imagine if there were five pro basketball leagues as rich and prestigious as the NBA … and none of the leagues had a salary cap, and all of their teams are battling not only to win a championship but also to avoid being relegated to the minor leagues. On top of that, all of the teams can skip the waiting period for a player to become a free agent and just buy his current contract if the money is right.
And if you think the New York Knicks would be quick to part ways with a talented player who has been valuable to the franchise for the right price, soccer clubs are even quicker to say goodbye.
Which brings us to Karim Benzema, the Muslim striker from France who just last week helped Real Madrid win Spain’s coveted Copa del Rey tournament. Benzema, 26, helped set up a goal in the final and scored two goals himself in earlier tourney games.
This week, reports say Madrid is ready to sell Benzema to make room (financially) for Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, who plays for Liverpool of the English Premier League. Two clubs believed to be interested in Benzema are Arsenal (EPL) and Juventus (Italy).
Should he end up with Arsenal, Benzema would join fellow Muslims Mesut Ozil, Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby and Bacary Sagna. Juventus’ roster features star Muslim midfielder Paul Pogba, also from France, but reports indicate that the two-time defending Serie A champions could only afford Benzema if they sell Pogba.
Benzema’s contract with Real Madrid runs out in 2015.