Jozy Altidore desperately needs to get away from Sunderland and the club are willing to let him go, but despite reported interest from Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Eredivisie clubs, Altidore is apparently talking about leaving Europe and returning to MLS.
Multiple sources tell me Jozy Altidore and @MLS are in discussions about his return this winter with 3 teams applying. #TFC #RBNY #POR— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) January 7, 2015
Altidore came up with the New York Red Bulls in 2006 and played two-and-a-half seasons with the club as a teenager. It was while with the Red Bulls that he put himself on the American soccer map and got his first cap. He also caught the attention of European clubs, with Villarreal swooping in for a then-MLS record transfer fee of $10 million in 2008.
Altidore's European career has been up and down. He never established himself at Villarreal and had disappointing stints with Xerez, Hull City and Bursapor, before finally landing at AZ Alkmaar. He was excellent there, scoring 51 goals for the club to earn a move to Sunderland in the summer of 2013. But his stay at Sunderland has been a disaster, with him managing just two goals last season and only one this season. He has been on a bad team and played terribly himself, landing himself on the bench and making it necessary that he leave.
While the striker could try to find a home in Europe, that would mean settling in somewhere new again, maybe in a new country and with no guarantee of regular playing time. If he moves to MLS, he has no cultural issues, is comfortable and will almost certainly be the best striker on whatever team he lands with.
It is unlikely that Altidore will be subject to the allocation order if he signs with MLS. He will be designated a player of "a certain threshold," meaning that MLS can send him wherever they would like or, more likely, wherever Altidore wants to go. That means teams bidding to pay him the most money or selling him on why he should want to play there.
Most people will want to see Altidore back at the Red Bulls, where he started his career. They need a striker after the retirement of Thierry Henry and Altidore would team with Bradley Wright-Phillips for an excellent striker partnership, but Toronto FC has shown they will spend money and the Portland Timbers have incredible support as well as money to burn. It doesn't look like there will be any bad options for Altidore, even if New York is the sentimental one.
MLS still has to agree to a contract with Altidore, so it is not like he is returning to the league yet. Jurgen Klinsmann probably won't be happy with the move, if it happens, as he values players challenging themselves in Europe, but Altidore would benefit from increased playing time in MLS and he's the one cashing the checks.
The United States desperately needs Altidore to begin playing and playing well. We saw at the World Cup how lost the U.S. attack is without him and, while there are some other young American strikers out there, none are ready yet. Altidore is only 25 years old and figures to be central to the American attack in 2018, but he needs playing time and form for that. MLS is giving him a chance at that.