[MY VIEW] The New York Cosmos' announcement that Eric Cantona was joining the prospective club as director of soccer
certainly had its effect. I was awoken early in the morning here in California to calls from French radio stations wanting to know what I thought about Cantona and the "nouveau Cosmos." I would have
sooner expected to hear Cantona -- an accomplished actor -- was headed to Broadway than he was hired to handle soccer for the Cosmos.
But other than the buzz that Cantona's signing generates, the move puzzles. Cantona has had no coaching or management role in soccer (other than beach soccer) since retiring from Manchester United in 1997.
The closest thing the Cantona signing reminds me of is the Los Angeles Galaxy's hiring of Ruud Gullit in 2008. Gullit was another celebrity signing -- assisted coincidentally by Cobi Jones on the sidelines as Cantona will be in the front office.
The other connection between Gullit and Cantona, of course, is David Beckham adviser Terry Byrne. It was Byrne who pushed the Galaxy to hire Gullit as coach, and he is one of three men -- along with Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley, the former Tottenham vice chairman, and ex-Liverpool CEO Rick Parry -- seeking to get the revived Cosmos off the ground as soon as 2013.
At least Gullit had the advantage of having previous coaching experience and a front-office backing him up to teach him the ways of MLS, but we all know how long Gullit's stint lasted. All of a half a season.
The Cosmos group, which still needs to line up big-money investors and build a stadium (probably in Queens), is several years away from joining MLS, if ever.
MLS spokesperson Dan Courtemanche told the Daily Telegraph Wednesday that "the 20th team is likely to be three to five years down the road," and Cantona will need all of that time to familiarize himself with the workings of MLS.
A revived Cosmos won't be like the Cosmos of the late 1970s, signing Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and virtually any other player it wanted. MLS rules don't allow it, and the transfer market of today wouldn't support it.
Only last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber praised the Cosmos for making a lot of smart moves.
Unfortunately, the Cantona signing isn't one of them.
It reinforces the notion that the Cosmos is a gimmick to revive a long-lost sports brand rather than a serious venture to tackle the realities of the sports marketplace.