The arrival of a major league sports team is a huge deal, but the addition of a club alone is not enough to guarantee a sold out stadium throughout the year.
For casual sports fans in Austin, they’re going to want to see a familiar international player with some star power. Now, obviously Austin FC isn’t going to be able to reel in Neymar or Messi, but there are a few players who are either superstars past their prime or above average European players rumored to have an interest in the MLS that Austin could sign.
Let’s get the least realistic option out of the way first. Özil is a German superstar, one of the world’s best players. Here’s the thing – he’s fallen out of favor with his club, Arsenal, and his underwhelming performance for Germany in the World Cup has some questioning whether his best days are behind him. The attacking midfielder is in his 30s, and much like in NFL football, 30 generally is the age where we see a moderate drop in skill and a significant drop in demand for otherwise elite players.
Arsenal won’t give up on Özil yet, but perhaps after another season (the English Premier League season runs from August to May) where we see a slight decline in his effectiveness at the world’s biggest stage, maybe Arsenal will look to move on from him.
The most likely scenario, however, is Özil stays with Arsenal until his contract expires in 2021 – the same year Austin will begin play in their brand new, state of the art stadium. Özil will be 32 years old in the spring of that year, and maybe he’ll be tempted to join a club in one of the world’s greatest cities and become the face of the franchise.
LUUK DE JONG
Luuk de Jong is what Dirk Nowitzki would be if he never left Germany. A legend in his own country of The Netherlands, de Jong could become a Hall of Fame caliber player in the United States, just like Dirk.
The problem with de Jong is that he didn’t seem to want to leave the comforts of Dutch club PSV, for which he’s made 125 appearances and drilled home 66 goals. He’s coming off a season where he led PSV to a Dutch League Championship, his third since he joined the club in 2014.
I think it’s safe to say he’s accomplished all he wanted to in The Netherlands. In his prime, de Jong could become the face of the Austin franchise for the better part of a decade. He’s an extremely skilled attacker and his technical ability would rank among the MLS’ very best.
The striker was very close to moving to the Western Hemisphere last year, having met with Mexican team Club América. The deal didn’t pan out, but it did reveal de Jong is not opposed to making a move. Unfortunately for Austin FC, in 2019 he signed a four-year contract with Spanish club Sevilla.
The Brazilian midfielder has had a rough couple of months. He severely underperformed at the World Cup and on top of that, was subjected to racial slurs from fans. Death threats piled up after he scored an own goal vs. Belgium, which ended up being the difference in a 2-1 loss that sent the Samba Boys home.
Sometimes the best remedy in life is a change of scenery, and Fernandinho would be welcomed with open arms in Austin. While the census doesn’t measure the number of Brazilians in the city, there’s a sizeable number of residents who represent the country and would love to see one of the nation’s best players kicking it around at McKalla Place.
He may be past his prime at 34 years old, but that only increases Austin’s chances of landing him. He’s scored 17 goals for Manchester City since 2013 as a defensive midfielder – a highly impressive statistic. He’s underachieved recently for Manchester City and now may be the best time to re-energize his career by moving to the MLS’ newest team.
Zach Mason is the managing editor of Capital City Soccer and a native Austinite. He’s spent most of his life pretending to care about the teams he covers, but found solace in the city’s first major league sports club. Follow Zach on Twitter.