Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview: Alexei Lalas

Interview with Alexei Lalas.
LA Galaxy are heading to Asia at the beginning of March for a tour that will include stops in Seoul and Shanghai.

Soccerphile.com had a chance to exchange a few e-mails with the owner of the California club -Alexei Lalas.

Lalas, who played 96 times for the US National Team, was, of course, the man behind the David Beckham transfer.

Is Asia important to LA Galaxy’s plans to become a seriously big club?

You can't be in business and ignore the Asia markets. Asia holds huge potential for clubs hoping to expand their brand and business. There is incredible interests in the sport, the teams and the players. Our hope is that when someone in places like Korea, Japan or China thinks about American soccer, they think about the Galaxy. Right now we have the unique opportunity to expose the Galaxy brand to million of potential fans and ultimately customers, and we're not going to waste it.

How can Galaxy maintain the same sort of profile when Beckham retires/leaves?

David is completely unique. His ability to produce on the field, create interest and and generate business off it, is hard to find.

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But we're thinking of our next big move. We've set the bar pretty high with David but there will be other stars.

Can Beckham ever repay the investment made in him?

He already has. Some of it is quantifiable and some of it isn't. But there is definitely a method to any perceived madness when it comes to the amount we have invested.

You will play FC Seoul in March...

We're excited to come back to Seoul, Korea. The Galaxy played there in 2003 and it was a great experience on and off the field. It will be the first trip to Seoul of many of our players, including David Beckham, and they are looking forward to experiencing the wonderful football and culture of the country.

What about Beckham is different that the public’s preconceptions? What about him surprised you?

Apart from his family, soccer is really what he cares about the most. He understands the machine that swirls around him and he recognizes the responsibility that comes with it. Class player, class guy.

At first glance, the MLS has many similarities to the Korean league –same number of teams, similar attendances and no promotion/relegation. The last point is the subject of debate in Korea. How about the US? Can a league be strong without promotion and relegation?

There will not be promotion and relegation in MLS anytime soon. We are in sport that is still striving to succeed and our investors have enough to worry about without having to worry about their team not even playing in the highest division.

What is the next step for the MLS to continue its development?

Expansion and more stadiums. At some point we also are going to have to figure out a way to play mid-week games. Our TV rating must increase. I think all of this comes over time, but we need to be pushing at an accelerated rate in order to continue to attract business. We cannot continually rely on being the sport of tomorrow, eventually we have to transition into the sport of today.

What is one (or more) thing that you think the MLS could teach other leagues?

A realistic business plan and a willingness to stick to it are crucial. At times it's painful but it enables you to survive long enough to thrive.

There are few (if any) US players playing professionally in Asia? Is there a reason for this?

I don't think that the Asian leagues look at American players as quality.

LA Galaxy will take part in a pan-pacific tournament with J-League and A-League teams. What is the purpose of this and why those leagues?

It's a league initiative but I think it's wonderful to bring teams from all the regions together. The more integration and competition we can have the better for all league. We love playing against teams from other countries and leagues. It's a great way to advertise your sport a

The J-League started at around the same time as MLS and has become a real success story. Are there lessons that the MLS, or Galaxy, has learned from Japan?

It doesn't happen overnight and you can't build a league with old players looking for a vacation and a big paycheck.

LA Galaxy recently played in Australia and New Zealand – was that a successful trip?

Great trip. We had a wonderful time in both countries and we may return in the near future.

Are there any plans to forge links with any clubs in Asia?

We're always looking for potential partnerships with quality clubs around the world. It has to be the right club at the right time.

There is a large Asian, especially Korean, population in LA. Are there any plans to sign some Asian? Korean players?


Good Asian players are very expensive, but if there was the right player we'd definitely look to sign him. But we still haven't come across the right player.

Why did you appoint Ruud Gullit?

He has experience and he welcomes the pressure of being the coach of the LA Galaxy.

Do you get annoyed with European arrogance towards US football?

Because of our structure, MLS is the most competitive league in the world. It may not be the most beautiful or exciting, but it is the most competitive. There is horrible soccer being played all over the world, and much of it is coming from what many perceive to be the elite leagues of the world. There's no accounting for bad taste.

Copyright: John Duerden and Soccerphile.com



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