FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For all the news surrounding his return to Major League Soccer, the impact of Clint Dempsey's departure for Fulham at the conclusion of the 2006 season still lingers in New England.
At the time, the deal made sense for all parties. Dempsey craved a move to the Premier League. Fulham tabled an acceptable offer. And the Revolution and MLS understood the realities of the pressing situation and the opportunities it might present in the future.
“It’s difficult,” Revolution general manager Michael Burns told MLSsoccer.com on Sunday night, a day after Dempsey was introduced as a member of the Seattle Sounders. “If you look back to [January 2007] when he was sold, he was in the third year of his deal. He made it very clear at the time that he had aspirations and dreams to play in Europe.
"Both the Revs and league felt that at the time the offer was substantial enough to move him prior to the end of his contract, which we did. That’s obviously the reason why we didn’t have the right of first refusal when he came back into the league this time.”
Although the Revs conceded any and all rights to Dempsey after confirming the switch, they did receive a significant portion of the transfer fee pursuant to league regulations. The sum did not come without encumbrances, though. MLS regulations dictate the reinvestment of the funds generated by a sale into the club or its playing staff. All of a sudden, the Revs found themselves with a significant chunk of money they needed to deploy to bolster their ranks.
They chose to use a portion of the Dempsey funds to start their youth academy setup. The choice allowed them to mine some of the talent in the area and pave the way for the likes of Scott Caldwell and Diego Fagundez to progress into the first team.
“I think it has paid huge dividends, and we expect to get even better over the next few years,” Burns said. “To be able to have a Diego and Scott Caldwell, I don’t want to attribute it exactly to [Dempsey’s transfer]. I don’t want to say we wouldn’t have done it otherwise, but the fact that we were able to fully fund the program for our kids and have these guys now come through and play for our first team is tremendous.”
It is exactly the sort of expenditure that keeps on giving. Dempsey may play for Seattle now, but his departure still reaps dividends for the Revs even now. Burns said he hopes the club can bring through more players over the next few years to ensure the impact of transfer persists for some time to come.
“I think there will probably be situations where we have a year or two where there’s a Scott or a Diego that makes sense, and we only want to sign guys that make sense,” Burns said. “We only want to sign guys that make sense and impact the first team. We think we’ve had two guys so far that have done that.”