According to a popular legend, when elephants reach an old age, they move away from their herd looking for a place to die. This is called an ‘elephants’ graveyard’. Have you seen ‘The Lion King’? Do you remember when Simba and Nala are attacked by hyenas for the first time? Well, that was an elephants’ graveyard.
American Major League Soccer is the football equivalent to that. A place where famous players with their best years behind their backs go to spend the final seasons of their careers.
Take for instance English players. As we already discussed on this blog, you won’t see many of them playing at major European leagues, but there are quite a few in the United States. In fact, they are the second most popular nationality among foreign players, just after Argentina. Among these 18 Englishmen you can find some big names, like Steven Gerrard, who is playing for Los Angeles Galaxy, or Frank Lampard, who plays for New York City FC. They both had very successful careers and they moved to the US in their mid or late 30s.
The chart below tries to visualise this trend: mature players from all over the world moving to the MLS at the end of the careers. The graph shows the difference between their current market value, and what they reached at the peak of their careers. I took the data from Transfermarkt, a very popular German website that publishes regular estimates of the market value of players in most leagues.
The players shown on the graph are those who suffered the highest losses in their market value. How many names can you recognise? Probably most of them, as these players had really successful careers in European football. Kaká shined at AC Milan and was sold to Real Madrid for a whopping figure. Steven Gerrard was a local hero at Liverpool for many years. David Villa was a key player in the most successful Spanish national team in history. Frank Lampard is the all-time leading goalscorer for Chelsea. Andrea Pirlo is a symbol of Italian football all over the world. Now they are all waiting for retirement in the USA.
Are there any other competitions that have became elephants’ graveyards? Let us know!