Boo this man. Image by Robin Parker, from picapp.com, all rights reserved.
Everybody who writes about this non-story has the good sense to start it the same way. There's no indication Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves is going to sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps just because he's currently training in Burnaby. Yes, Bob Lenarduzzi made some idle comments about maybe signing Hargreaves someday being a cool thing to do, but Lenarduzzi isn't in charge of player acquisitions and in any case, he also stated the club hadn't talked contract to Hargreaves at all.
Indications are that Hargreaves is still in Manchester United's plans: at the beginning of the month manager Sir Alex Ferguson included Hargreaves in his 25-man Premier League squad and Hargreaves's surgeon, Dr. Richard Steadman, is expecting the 29-year-old Hargreaves to be match fit sooner rather than later. Hargreaves's contract expires in May 2011, meaning he could theoretically sign for the MLS roster, but Hargreaves has months to prove he's match fit and if he is, he will get a contract from Ferguson or another Premier League manager looking for a reclamation project. Obviously, the Whitecaps won't be able to win that bidding war even if they tried.
In no sense would signing Hargreaves be worthwhile. They'd be giving a large designated player contract to a midfielder who, in his physical prime, was a star Premier League defensive midfielder before his knees failed him. Of course Hargreaves would be an upgrade over Terry Dunfield, but defensive midfielders have tended to have difficulty adjusting to MLS. I look to Julian de Guzman and Toronto FC; the designated player with the big contract and the big reputation trying to be the straw that stirs the drink even though that's not the style of play he's best at. Vancouver won't need an elite player who can tackle and hold the ball up, because they won't have a team at the calibre to take advantage of that. That's assuming Hargreaves is even healthy and has any chance of playing enough to live up to his contract, which is an awfully big assumption.
Also, lest we forget, Hargreaves is an unrepentant scumbag who stabbed his country in the back and looked out only for himself out of preening, self-serving resentment because he was cut from a national team he wasn't qualified for. I wouldn't want somebody with that proven a record of blatant selfishness in my dressing room. Or in my team's dressing room: any team Owen Hargreaves played for is a team I wouldn't cheer for.
A quick recap for the one person in a million who doesn't already know the story: Owen Hargreaves was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. One day, a 15-year-old Owen Hargreaves tried out for the Canadian national U-17 team. Despite being a 15-year-old trying out for the U-17 team, young Owen was a star player for the Calgary Foothills youth academy and figured he was sure to be chosen. Instead he was cut, and a hurt Hargreaves never pulled on the red and white of his home and native land again. Nursing this fit of pique through his teenage years, Hargreaves moved to Germany at age sixteen to join the Bayern Munich organization and eventually strung along the Welsh and Canadian national teams, making them compete for his holy favour until the English team came calling. When Hargreaves joined England, debuting for their U-21 team in 2000, it was six months after Canada won the 2000 Gold Cup and England hadn't won a tournament of any stripe since 1966, so clearly this was a young man concerned about winning.
Luckily for us fans of karma, England still hasn't won a tournament since 1966. Unfortunately for us Canadians, Canada hasn't won anything since 2000, partially because many of our best native sons have since followed Hargreaves's example. Hargreaves, meanwhile, has happily reaped the benefits of being Canadian, coming here for rehabilitation and posing for photo opportunities with our Prime Minister and so forth, but hasn't troubled himself to say "yeah, sorry for stabbing you in the back, my home and native land" or expressed the thought that maybe being cut from a youth team he was two years below the ceiling for is a really stupid reason to hold a grudge against your country.
Frankly, given that Bob Lenarduzzi represented his country forty-four times without turning the fact that he got cut once into an international incident and was manager of the Canadian national team when the Hargreaves saga was just starting to unfold, you'd think he of all people would know better than to chase the likes of Hargreaves. Playing in Major League Soccer involves playing with a large roster of men making a pretty average worker's salary alongside two or three stars who are getting rich. As David Beckham's teammates in the Los Angeles Galaxy could explain, that's an extremely delicate atmosphere and one that the wrong personality can easily upset. Somebody with a long track record of selfishness and betrayal pretty clearly qualifies as "the wrong personality". Giving Hargreaves a designated player contract... putting him in the same room as, say, Terry Dunfield, who sacrificed his English club career to have a chance at better serving his country, and giving Hargreaves the leader's contract, would be... astonishingly backwards.
I expect to hear, as I always do when I bring these things up, how Hargreaves was just doing "what he wanted to do". I'm not sure that actually helps his cause. If you genuinely want to abandon the country that you were born and have spent most of your life in so you can represent a country you've never even been to, not because you have a better chance of winning anything (because as history has shown England's not going to win jack in our lifetimes), nor because of financial reasons, but because it'll make you more famous, that would make you a complete jackass. Hargreaves certainly has the right to be a soccer sociopath and did what the rules entitled him to do. Luckily, I also have the right to try and crap on his memory for it.