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Is the ‘legend’ of New York Cosmos doing soccer in the United States more harm than good?

That was certainly the suspicion raised by Eric Cantona’s latest outpouring today about his role in the latest attempt to recreate the club which collapsed into a financial black hole along with the entire North American Soccer League in the long-gone 1980s.

Cosmos was a public relations coup constructed with the use a recording company money and the veteran status of Pele above all, supported by Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Co. Cantona was brought aboard an English-based revival bid in January last year as director of soccer.

The plan was to grow back up into an MLS expansion franchise but that has collapsed back into fantasyland after Paul Kemsley, who had led the 2010 resurrection as CEO and chairman, sold his majority holding to the Saudi Arabian sports marketing company Sela Sports.

Major League Soccer would like another New York franchise but Cosmos, under any guise at all, were not represented at meetings last year with commissioner Don Garber.

Judging by Cantona’s outpourings (in a gruesomely obsequious question-and-answer love-in at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona), the new Cosmos – whoever is running the show – will struggle to convince anyone of their credibility.

He said: “Cosmos is a legend which was created in the 1970s so it’s not just a football club and that’s what attracted me to go there. Obviously in time I might find myself in a different club but that club is really a great and different club because of its history.

“This is a club in a country in which football is just starting yet I’ve seen nine-year-old footballers there who are mini geniuses so, with all the necessary coaching and input I think that in the next 20 years this country is going to win a World Cup.

“Our aim is to train players and inculcate in them a particular identity and philosophy. At the beginning we are going to have buy in other players but in time we want to see American players in Premier League clubs.

“We want to do the sort of thing Johan Cruyff did in Barcelona 20 years ago: getting young kids together to play from the age of 13, training them in the love of the game, how to play in a certain way – and teaching them to win, of course.

“So there is a lot of work to be done but if the United States national team each a quarter-final or semi-final one day we will be able to be proud of that. It will show we’ve succeeded.”

One problem inherent in David Beckham’s venture at LA Galaxy was the presentation, to the world beyond the US, that the game there was still in need of missionary work.

But anyone who has been there, seeN the kids’ league, the grassroots explosion, knows that the game’s popularity below the media waterline is immense and growing all the time. This, it seems, has escaped not only many European observers but also Cantona himself.

He wants to see Americans in the Premier League. Perhaps he has forgotten Clint Dempsey & Co. Someone should remind him.

He wants to see the US reach the quarter or semi-finals of a World Cup. Perhaps he has forgotten 2002 and 2006. Someone should remind him.

Cosmos is history. Tempting to suggest it might be best staying there.

By Keir Radnedge

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