The news that Jack Wilshere has been let loose from his West Ham United contract, combined with his subsequent remarks welcoming stateside interest, may have some of you out there wondering if he might be the next big name string-puller to land in MLS.
Luring Wilshere may seem like a long shot at this time, but maybe it's not as far-fetched as some will surely charge. The 28-year-old is free to sign (though his wage request will surely be hefty), and exhibiting an open mind about his playing future.
"I don't think I'm too young for the MLS," he told Sky Sports earlier this week. "I think there's been a big improvement in that league. If the right opportunity came up I'd be open to it."
Now, do I personally believe that snaring Wilshere at this particular time might be so pricey that it would be cost prohibitive for most teams? I'll let the late great Patrice O'Neal handle that one for me...
But that question isn't a part of this exercise. What we're here to ruminate over are the best possible MLS fits for Wilshere should he agree to hop the pond this winter. Of course to identify those boss landing spots, we'll need to first use (an occasionally loose) process of elimination to usher aside certain categories of clubs.
There are those who don't have (or can't by reasonable means gain) the Designated Player slot it would presumably take. They're easy outs. Wilshere hasn't actually won much silverware over his career (two FA Cups, and he only played 27 minutes between those two finals), so it feels like he'd most eager to go to a team that routinely shoots for titles.
Naturally, we'll also factor out clubs that tend not to make big money splashes on one player. That means a respectful sorry to fans in places like Colorado, San Jose and Vancouver. As much as your teams could use a player like Wilshere, spending patterns indicate he's not heading your way.
With so many circumstantial restrictions, in the end, Wilshere's most ideal MLS options almost pick themselves.
While the Five Stripes do currently have three DP's, swirling transfer speculation is essentially a feature that comes with Ezequiel Barco. He could be bought away during any transfer window, and I would not be surprised. So that's how they skipped past that "requirement" for inclusion.
Now that we've settled that, the main Wilshere lure is that he could restore the organizational thrust from the middle third of the field to the final third Atlanta have lost since winning MLS Cup 2018. Though he's closer to a Darlington Nagbe than he is to a Miguel Almiron, the midfielder's skill base is a blend of the two former Atlanta heroes.
We've arrived at the exception-to-the-rule pick. The Black-and-Red aren't usually big spenders... but they did recently splash on Wayne Rooney and even Ola Kamara didn't come cheap. By the same "waaait a minute" token, nobody would confuse D.C. with consistent contenders.
That's where Wilshere could come in, as his brand of traffic direction out of midfield could help all those disappointing recent catches re-discover top form. With the former England international putting guys like Yamil Asad, Edison Flores, Julian Gressel and Kamara in positions to succeed, D.C. United would suddenly look a lot more threatening.
Sure, they have three DP's at the moment, but the tea leaves seem to be hinting that at least one of those won't be back next year. And Stevie G notwithstanding, the Galaxy had plenty of success (or at least wild excitement) from bringing over Premier League-tested veterans over the last decade and change.
Wilshere might seem redundant with Jonathan dos Santos around, but I actually think pairing the two with Sebastian Lletget would make for a whooooole lot of game control. It would instantly be one of the best midfield command center crews in the league.