It happens all too often in football. A player will have a good tournament or season and suddenly teams with more money than sense are lining up to sign him. And more often than not it turns out he was just a one-hit wonder and becomes an expensive bust. We all know dozens of players who fit this bill, but when it comes to American Clint Dempsey, he just may be the real deal.
Dempsey’s been making waves back in America all season long due to his excellent showing in the English Premier League and it’s no wonder Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger supposedly has his eye on the 29-year-Fulham midfielder/forward. Dempsey, from Nacogdoches, Texas, has already been called the best American player ever by many football experts, and it’s getting harder to argue with them with each passing game.
Dempsey has 16 goals in 33 league games so far this season along with three each in the Europa League and FA Cup. He’s also added half a dozen more for the American national team, including the winner against Italy in February, giving him a total of 28 goals in his last 54 games overall. His impressive numbers and performances have several top English teams interested in him, not just the Gunners. Manchester United and Tottenham are also reportedly interested in the services of the 6-foot-1 Texan.
However, they may have to wait another year at least if they hope to get their hands on him since Dempsey is under contract to Fulham until the end of the 2012/13 season. Dempsey said he hasn’t really thought about his future too much, but admitted he’s been talking with Fulham about a contract extension. Fulham fans don’t want to see him go and manager Martin Jol is desperate to get the player’s autograph on a new deal.
Dempsey joined Fulham in 2007 from the New England Revolution of America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) for $4 million. He played 71 games for the MLS club and managed to score 25 goals for them. He’s played well in several positions including midfielder, striker and winger. But while it’s arguable that Dempsey’s the best American to ever play football, his statistics show he’s at least the best American to ever play in Europe.
The native of the Lone Star state became the first American to ever record a hat trick in the English Premier League when he hammered three goals past Newcastle keeper Tim Krul in a 5-2 win on Jan. 21. Just two weeks earlier he scored a hat trick against Charlton in Fulham’s 4-0 FA Cup win. Dempsey now has 49 league goals for Fulham since joining the club and 60 overall, which shatters the previous best for an American in Europe, which was 38 by Brian McBride, who played with Preston North End, Everton, and Fulham from 2003-08. That’s not a bad total at all for somebody who doesn’t always play up front.
Dempsey said he’s not trying to be the best American player out there; he’s just trying to be the best he can be and help Fulham as much as possible. The Americans also appreciate the effort he’s put in over the years and along with McBride and Landon Donovan they’re the only U.S players to have scored in two World Cups. Dempsey managed a goal in 2006 against Ghana and added one against England in 2010. He’s hoping to get the opportunity to make it three World Cups if the U.S. should qualify for the tournament in Brazil in 2014.
Dempsey said two of the things he’s never done as of yet in his football career is play in the Champions League and the Olympics. Well, he can forget about the Olympics this summer in London as the U.S. didn’t qualify, but a move to Arsenal or one of the other top teams, could see him achieve his goal of playing in a Champions League game.
If he does end up at Arsenal it’ll be interesting to see if Wenger views Dempsey as a forward or midfielder. Part of that decision may depend on whether Robin van Persie re-signs with the team and if Lukas Podolski actually has officially agreed to a move.
There are several other records and achievements in Dempsey’s scrapbook. He became the first American to play in a European final two years ago when Fulham lost to Atletico Madrid of Spain in the Europa League Final. His 16 league goals this season have broken Louis Saha’s old Fulham record of 13, which he set in 2004. Along with holding the record for most goals ever by an American in the Premier League, he’s also eclipsed McBride’s record for goals in a season and was voted Fulham’s player of the year last season
Dempsey’s also pretty durable as his current mark of 225 games for Fulham is the most on the club for active players. He’s the fourth-highest scorer in American national team history with 25 goals in 83 games. Dempsey has a tough and rugged style of play with excellent dribbling skills. He’s good at beating players one on one and puts in an excellent effort game in and game out.
Dempsey has a knack for scoring important goals too; he’s scored a winner against Liverpool this season, and equalizers against Chelsea, West Brom, and Stoke. Dempsey seems to be improving year after year and has proved he’s definitely not a flash in the pan. Seeing him in an Arsenal shirt in the next year or two would bring some much-needed experience and leadership to the young Gunners club.