The Xavi-to-New York City rumor express picked up speed tonight, as MLS super-agent Ron Waxman became the latest person to state the Barcelona legend would be joining the team in the summer.
So, time to get excited, right? I mean, Lampard, Xavi and David Villa on the same team — that's just fantastic!
Not so fast. This is a bad idea, on multiple levels.
First, let's look at the obvious marker here. If Xavi joins New York City in the summer, as Waxman and others have stated, all three of New York City's marquee players will be on the wrong side of 30: Villa would be the youngest at 33, Xavi would be 35, and Lampard 37. Furthermore, you've got two players in Lampard and Xavi joining the team mid-season. Historically, European players have struggled mightily when doing that, as they struggle to accustom themselves to the reality of intercontinental travel in a fast, ruggedly physical league. None of these are things that you'd associate with La Liga.
Yes, but it's Xavi, man! Fine, but this ain't FIFA, man. You can't just expect that you're going to plug and play players from one league into another, willy-nilly, and expect the same level of results.
That brings me to my next point: Xavi is a fantastic player. He's also a product of a system that's been carefully built to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. It's foolish to think that someone like Xavi would have the same kind of results playing in a different system that he's unfamiliar with, with different teammates that he's unaccustomed to — aside from David Villa.
Put it another way: Xavi's claim to being one of the best central midfielders of our generation is based largely on his ability to find and exploit space. As he put it himself: "That's what I do: look for spaces. All day. I'm always looking". As he found space, he would move the ball on to a teammate, before getting it back and moving it onward.
That, however, is dependent on Xavi's teammates being able to see the same spaces that he sees, and them having the same timing he has. Let's be blunt: I don't think his teammates have that capacity. It's great to have Xavi on board, but at the end of the day, he's still passing the ball to Mehdi Ballouchy and Patrick Mullins.
Here's the last thing: Xavi's a central midfielder. You know who else is a central midfielder? Frank Lampard. Also, Andrew Jacobson. Let's assume that Jacobson keeps playing as Jason Kreis' "number 6" midfielder; where does that put Lampard and Xavi? Does he slot in Xavi at 8 — a position that, given his age, his dislike of physical contact, and his lack of speed, he's unsuited for? Or does Kreis slot Xavi in at 10 — a position he's never played, and which ignores two young potential studs in favor of playing a star? Similarly, if Xavi is an 8, does Lampard play at 10 — which, again, he's never really done?
In short: you don't sign players like Xavi and Lampard in order to platoon them. You sign them as the backbone of your team. Given that Lampard and Xavi play the same position — although in different ways — I can't see his potential signing as being a boon to New York City; at best, it's going to be a waste of money that could go towards addressing an actual need.
If New York City actually wanted to address one of those needs, they could sign someone like Daniele De Rossi, or Wesley Sneijder. Signing either would strengthen the team, and give New York City a formidable spine in the process, whether at the base (with De Rossi as your number 6) or at the top (with Sneijder as your number 10).
Here's hoping that Xavi-to-New York City remains just a rumor, and the team decides to go in another direction.