By all accounts, the United States isn’t one of the great powers in soccer. While other countries take pride in their “football” teams (that’s what this sport is called in the rest of the world), the MLS is one of the lesser-known sports leagues in the US, and the American national team doesn’t do that good at international competitions either. While its popularity doesn’t compare to that of the NFL or the NBA, Major League Soccer is still (as its name suggests) a major sports league, with 24 teams (and three more coming) and a dedicated following. And, it seems, a hunger for European soccer talent, as several major figures of international soccer have relocated to the US in the last few years – like the soccer stars below.
Despite his Slavic name, Zlatan Ibrahimović is a Swedish footballer – he was born in Malmö, Sweden, to a Bosnian migrant family. He began playing soccer at the age of six and signed his first professional contract with the local Malmö FF in 1999. His talent showed early, earning him the title of the most promising European footballer by the time he turned 19. During the next decade, he moved from team to team every couple of years, finally signing with Paris Saint Germain for a yearly salary of €14 million ($15.5 million). After four years in Paris, he left for England – he signed with Manchester United in 2016. During his time there, many started wondering what happened to Zlatan – his performance decreased – even if he captured the UEFA Europa League and two domestic trophies. His time in Manchester was short – after just one season with the Premier League team, he signed with MLS side LA Galaxy.
Wayne Mark Rooney spent the bulk of his soccer career with Manchester United – he played almost 400 league games for the team, scoring 183 goals. He is a prolific goalscorer: he still holds the record both for Manchester United and the England national team. He is one of the two English players who won a FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Europa League, a League Cup, a Champions League, an FA Cup, and a Premier League title.
Rooney joined Everton at the age of 9 and went professional at the age of 16. In 2017, after a 13-season stint with Manchester United, he returned to Everton for one more season. At the end of which he signed with MLS side D.C. United.
Nicknamed “El Guaje” (The Kid) for always playing soccer with older kids, David Villa Sánchez started his professional career with the Spanish second division team Sporting Gijón in 2000. In the decade to come, he worked his way up to the biggest Spanish soccer clubs, playing as a striker for Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona, and Atlético Madrid. In 2014, he decided to try his luck overseas – he signed with MLS side New York City where he played 124 league games and scored 80 times. He stayed with the team until last year – on December 1st, 2018, he signed with J1 side Vissel Kobe and moved to Japan.
German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger played 500 matches with Bayern Munich (342 league games) before moving to Manchester United in 2015. During this time, he amassed eight Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Champions League title, a FIFA Club World Cup title and a UEFA Super Cup title with the team. While in Manchester, coach José Mourinho demoted him so he hasn’t made a start for over a year. Ultimately, he left the club to play with Chicago Fire – he played in 79 league games with the team since then.