HORSHAM, Pa. – It’s no secret that 33-year-old Brazilian international José Kléberson is in the later stages of his career. But the Philadelphia Union’s newly acquired Designated Player believes he can offer two things any club could use.
“Not only am I going to bring my experience,” he said, “but I will bring that Brazilian football to help the Philadelphia Union.”
If that doesn’t excite Union fans enough, here’s something else: throughout his official introductory event and jersey presentation Wednesday night at na’Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse, Kléberson stressed there’s nowhere else he’d rather be playing.
In fact, the two-time World Cup veteran who was acquired on loan from the Brazilian club Bahia a week-and-a-half ago said that suiting up for a Major League Soccer club has often been on his mind.
“I’ve heard a lot about MLS over the years ever since [David] Beckham arrived,” Kléberson said through a translator. “I’m very interested in the league. I’ve always wanted to play here. The soccer is growing a lot and it’s a changing a lot, and that’s what interested me the most.”
That’s also one of the things that interested the Union most. According to Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz, it was important to make sure Kléberson wanted to be in Philly before pulling the trigger on the move that basically swapped the embattled Freddy Adu for the Brazilian standout.
“It’s always, always great to bring an international player who wants to be here,” Sakiewicz said. “And I can tell you this man wants to be here. And it’s really gratifying for me to see an international player that respects Major League Soccer, that respects the way we play and has a high regard for the league.”
How well Kléberson actually does in the league, of course, still remains to be seen.
According to Union manager John Hackworth, the Brazilian’s quality was “evident the minute he stepped on the field” for his first training session Tuesday and that “his touches are exceptional.” But Hackworth also noted that he’s still in the process of “adapting to our team, coaching style, teammates and cold weather in Philadelphia” – meaning it’s up in the air whether he makes his MLS debut for Philly’s game against Columbus on Saturday (5 pm ET, UniMas).
But whether or not he features this weekend, the midfielder who starred in the 2002 World Cup and once played for Manchester United appears committed to his new team – and league – for the long haul. And he believes more well-known players will continue to follow suit.
“In the near future,” he said, “all of the players around the world will want to play in MLS.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.