What Sergio Ramos would bring to MLS amid San Diego FC links despite philosophy clash

Ryan Baldi
Sergio Ramos to San Diego FC analysed

What impact could Sergio Ramos have on MLS?

After the arrival of arguably the greatest player of all time last summer, MLS could be about to add one of the most decorated defenders in football history to its array of ageing icons.

According to The Athletic, Sergio Ramos is in talks with San Diego FC over a move to the United States when his contract with Sevilla expires after the 2023-24 La Liga season.

The 38-year-old centre-back signed a one-year deal with his boyhood club last summer after two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain in which he won back-to-back Ligue 1 titles and was a team-mate of Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi.

Before that, Ramos won four Champions Leagues and five La Liga titles in 16 glory-filled years with Real Madrid. He also accumulated 180 senior international caps for Spain, winning a World Cup and two European Championships.

A tub-thumping on-field leader with a chequered disciplinary record, Ramos would be a big-name, big-character addition to MLS, one sure to draw further global attention to the league.

But Ramos’ potential landing spot is a curious one. And not only for the fact that San Diego FC are not yet part of MLS.

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The expansion side from southern California will join the league for the 2025 season, playing their home matches at Snapdragon Stadium, located on the campus of San Diego State University.

What is most interesting about San Diego FC, and what makes them an unusual suitor for Ramos, is that they are owned and operated by an academy.

In a reversal of the usual dynamic in which clubs operate a youth system as a secondary concern that feeds into the first team, the Right to Dream academy – which also owns Danish top-flight side FC Nordsjaelland – has paid a reported $500 million for MLS expansion rights in order to provide a pathway to senior football for its young players.

What is the Right to Dream academy?

Founded in Ghana in 1999 by a former Manchester United scout, RTD has produced dozens of international footballers – including West Ham star Mohammed Kudus, Southampton’s Kamaldeen Sulemana and Brentford’s Mikkel Damsgaard – while also providing a robust educational provision for its students, with many achieving scholarships at major US universities.

“At Right to Dream, we deliberately admit kids who we think are good enough to play in the Ivy League, and then kids who are good enough to play in the Champions League – two different profiles,” founder and former CEO Tom Vernon told The Guardian. “Our contribution to developing the communities that we’re in is to unlock that super-bright kid alongside that super-super talent as well.”

RTD bought Nordsjaelland in 2019 and the club have since set several records relating to the youth of their line-ups. For example, April 2021 they set an all-time Danish record by fielding a team with an average age of just 20 years and 20 days. And 13 of the 16 players in the first-team squad that day were graduates of Right to Dream academies in either Denmark or Ghana.

Backed by British-Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour, RTD have moved into US soccer with the aim of, according to San Diego FC CEO Tom Penn, becoming “the Ajax of North America” due to their plans for developing local and international talent. A major part of the project is to be the construction of a $150 million academy in the city.

How would Ramos fit in?

It is strange, then, that with a business model built around youth development, that of all the star-hungry clubs in MLS it is San Diego who are pursuing Ramos, who will turn 39 within weeks of the team’s debut.

All the honours Sergio Ramos has won

Mexican winger Hirving Lozano is another big-name Europe-based player reportedly close to signing for San Diego. But, given how FIFA rules will permit the club to extend their youth-recruitment net across the border into Mexico, the addition of the PSV player, who is a decade younger than Ramos, makes sense. They have also already agreed deals to sign veteran Danish duo Jeppe Tverskov and Marcus Ingvartsen from sister club Nordsjaelland.

Ramos’ likely role if he is to sign what will surely be a lucrative Designated Player deal at Snapdragon Stadium, then, is one of a mentor to the upstart team’s academy-bred hopefuls.

Having captained Real Madrid and Spain through spells of enormous success, Ramos certainly has the leadership qualities to thrive in such a position. And his single season back with Sevilla will serve as solid preparation, with the iconic centre-back having played alongside 22-year-old Kike Salas and 20-year-old Juanlu Sanchez, two academy-raised defenders.

So while Ramos’ potential move to MLS looks like just another in a long line of Stateside switches for ageing superstars from Europe, it would also present a fresh kind of challenge for a player who has seen and done it all.

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