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Professional athletes at large are overpaid and overpriced.  No athlete is worth $2 million dollars a year, $20 million dollars a year or $200 million dollars a year.  With the marketplace having such an influential role in sports nowadays, the possibilities are endless for professional athletes’ contracts.

You can tap into the contract of any athlete in any sport and make a case for the absurdity of the figures involved (i.e. David Beckham signed a contract with the LA Galaxy for $250 million dollars over 5 years). 

Ignoring the fact that the cheques these athletes are getting is disturbing, every now and then we come across a case where an athlete is being mis-treated and under-paid relative to the contracts of some of the other players involved.

I have been following the MLS team Toronto FC quite closely this season.  Watching this franchise game in and game out has unfortunately developed some frustrations rather than joys.  Aside from the fact that they were not strong enough to make the playoffs this year, there was one other thing that really bothered me: Julian De Guzman.

Julian de Guzman is a designated player.  A designated player is a player that can be signed outside of a teams salary cap and paid as much as the team is willing to pay.  The rule states that there can only be a certain amount of designated players on a team.  For Toronto FC, De Guzman is one of these athletes getting a healthy cheque.

Julian De Guzman had a brief stint in Spain playing in the La Liga (Division 1 soccer) for Deportivo La Coruna.  In an effort to attract attention and talent to Toronto, the franchise offered De Guzman a contract he couldn’t resist.  What has De Guzman offered in return on the field?  Little to nothing.  It seems as though his name is bigger than his game.

There is something to be said about a team who signs a defensive midfielder as a designated player, but we won’t go into that.  De Guzman has had very few assists, even fewer goals and an abundance of useless yellow cards.  His passes have been consistently off the mark, his creativity has been very low and his overall game has been sporadic at best. I understand his position and I understand his circumstances but facts are facts.  A player with his calibre and world experience should be able to put a team on their back and lead them — if not by skill then by communication.  Unfortunately, he has not been able to assume a role as a leader.  He has been struggling to find his game.

Then you have a player like Dwayne De Rosario who plays for Toronto FC.  “De-Ro”, as many Toronto fans refer to him as, has established himself as the best player on the team.  He has assumed the captains role, he has scored big goals in big games and has been a constant threat on the field.  He has scored approximately half of the teams goals all year.  Is De-Ro a designated player?  No.

De-Ro isn’t a designated player because he doesn’t have a resume like De Guzman might have. De-Ro has spent the majority of his soccer life playing in the MLS.  In a recent game vs San Jose, De-Ro scored a phenomenal goal and then celebrated with a “give me a pay raise” message:

Although I’ve never been an advocate of paying athletes more and more, I am an advocate of giving credit where credit is due.  Let’s not base our perspectives on resumes and names, lets base it on performance.  De-Ro is by far the best player on Toronto FC.  It can be argued that he’s the best player in the entire league, yet he’s not paid like it, note even close.  The staff of Toronto FC needs to send a message to the players in Toronto and all across the league: your performance here and now will distinguish what you’re worth, not a piece of paper saying where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

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