CHICAGO — The Chicago Fire don’t have a Designated Player, but that isn’t because owner Andrew Hauptman isn’t willing to pay for one.
“Would we sign a striker at the price of Robbie Keane? The answer is yeah, of course we would,” Hauptman (above) said last week. “Would we have done that particular signing, I’m not entirely sure. … Would we [pay that price] for the right striker that fits what [head coach Frank Klopas] and the technical staff wants? Yes, of course.”
Rumors about European stars like Rio Ferdinand, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba joining the Fire swirled all winter, but Hauptman dismissed them all during a recent gathering with the media in Chicago.
The Fire have had mixed success with the three Designated Players in franchise history, including the two signed under Hauptman's watch since began in Sept. 2007.
The club added both Mexican midfielder Nery Castillo and former Arsenal and Seattle Sounders star Freddie Ljungberg within weeks of each other in July 2010, but neither helped lift the club to the postseason. In fact, Castillo flopped entirely, appearing in just eight games that season and failing to score a goal before he was sent on loan to Greek side Aris FC before the 2011 season.
Ljungberg was a bit more productive but didn't last long either, scoring two goals in 15 games before leaving the club in the offseason.
“At the end of the day,” Hauptman said, “if you’re signing a player of that caliber, you’ve better be pretty confident that that player is going to make a pretty significant difference.”
Mexican icon Cuauhtémoc Blanco joined the team before Hauptman took the reins in 2007 and thrived for the club for more than two seasons, but Hauptman knows an impact player like Blanco won't come cheaply. He insisted the pricing scale of star players has changed in recent years, with foreign markets driving up the price.
“There’s not many David Beckhams, there’s not many Cuauhtémoc Blancos,” Hauptman said. “It’s not as simple as it sounds. There’s been no hesitation.”
Hauptman emphasized that he has only recently become involved with any type of soccer decisions. He still leaves most of the decision-making to Klopas and the rest of the Fire’s technical staff.
“What I say to them always is: ‘Bring me one. Bring me an impact player that has the qualities that are going to help you succeed,’” Hauptman said. “That’s all I can do. Then it’s up to them to come up to me and say, ‘OK, we have one.’ I’ll say, ‘Go for it.’ There’s nothing more or less complicated about it than that.”