KENYA BROWN - Monday, May 14, 2007
So the deadline has come and gone, and we all know now that Oguchi Onyewu is counting down his remaining days as a Magpie.
Of course, this move was questioned by a lot of us. I think in a few months time Gooch may even say that going to Newcastle United was a mistake, but one from which he will learn.
When you have a manager like Glenn Roeder who changes the backline like I change shirts during a July day in Beijing, you've got to be asking questions.
Could Gooch have been an established star at Newcastle? Yes, he could have been. Would it have helped if Roeder hadn't changed the back every match, so that he could work with the same guys? Maybe.
Would it have helped if Shay Given were not injured prior to his loan signing and helped him to organize the backline? It's possible. Would it have helped if Roeder and is staff took more time to get Gooch accustomed to the pace of English football? The answer is definitely.
So, as my colleague Mark Flannery says in his column, 'It's back to the old drawing board for Onyewu and where he next suits up is anyone's guess'.
Well, going back to Standard Liege is not an option and it would be a step back for him. He has nothing left to prove in Belgium and Les Rouches seem to have moved on as well. Staying in England does not seem a good idea at first glance.
So, where will he be come the start of the new season? While he didn't turn many heads in England, all is not lost for the towering defender from Maryland. I think there are clubs out there that would take a chance on Gooch because, let's face it: there are not that many defenders with his size and strength.
There are a host of clubs on the continent that could use him. Here are seven clubs that I think that could make a play for Onyewu.
The Amsterdammers, who just missed out on winning the Dutch league crown, will be looking to reinforce the squad if they can get through the playoffs and grab that precious second Champion's League spot.
A move to the Ajax would be a good one for Gooch because it would give him the chance to link up with a player who is almost identical to him in size and strength. Not that long ago, Jaap Stam was considered one of the best central defenders in Europe. His size alone intimidated even the best strikers in the world.
With a move to Ajax, Stam could take still a very young Gooch under his wing and bring out his true potential, which could turn him into one of the best defenders in Europe. That being said, they like their center backs to excel at moving the ball forward, so he probably would not be option one.
No fooling around, AC Milan is an aging squad. The backline is in definite need of younger players.
No one knows how long Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Cafu can last, but if Silvio Berlusconi and the Milan front office want to contend for the Scudetto and possibly the European Cup next season, signing Gooch would be a good start.
Like at Ajax, Gooch could get a great deal of mentoring, from Maldini, Nesta, recently retired assistant coach Billy Costacurta, and if he wants to go further back to other Milan greats, Franco Baresi.
Milan has always been known to have great players and if he were to go and establish himself there, he too could be a San Siro legend by the time he finishes his career.
The reigning French champions, who were schooled by AS Roma in the Champion's League, will most definitely be looking to reinforce the squad in order to avoid another embarrassing moment.
Les Gones have won six straight Ligue 1 crowns, but crave a European championship.
With some players looking to make moves to other leagues, Lyon easily could take advantage of the transfer money they receive by dipping into the market for a guy they considered in January.
One thing that is impressive about Lyon is that they have signed players who may not have been household names before arriving. I mean, how many of us can admit we knew much about Brazil international Juninho Pernambucano?
With the right training and guidance under Gerard Houllier, he could be one of the most sought after defenders - just ask Cris.
After winning the Dutch league on a single goal in difference and getting a free clinic from Liverpool, PSV also will look to strengthen their squad before next season's Champion's League.
Losing Brazilian defender Alex (will he finally move to Chelsea?) will be a big blow for them in the center of defense and the departure of Philip Cocu affects the entire squad. PSV showed mild interest in signing Gooch last year, so bringing him in would be a good move if they need to fill the void left by Alex.
With Ronald Koeman returning as coach next season, maybe the former Dutch defender can provide Onyewu with some of his expertise in order to improve his skills. The Dutch league may not be Serie A, the Premier League or La Liga, but it would be a step up from Belgium.
Juventus will be making their expected return to Serie A next season, and without a doubt will want to be competing for the Scudetto.
One advantage Juve has over the other promoted clubs is that they have more than enough money to go into the transfer market and make this team stronger. The other advantage for Juve is that they still have a good crop of players who stayed with the club when they were demoted to Serie B due to the match fixing controversy.
If Juve wants to challenge for the Scudetto, then signing Onyewu would be a good step in the right direction for them - and if a Newcastle reject like French international Alain Boumsong can make it at Juventus, then Gooch can certainly make it there.
A talented side who should not have ever been in a fight for survival this season, Hamburg will definitely be looking to make changes to its squad before the new season starts.
With a few other players heading out the door, Hamburg could strengthen their back line even more by signing Gooch. A center backline with Gooch and Belgian international Vincent Kompany could possibly be one of the strongest in the Bundesliga if they are given time to gel together.
Hamburg was also once the club of another former Standard Liege defender who was in a similar situation as Gooch. In January 2004, Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten was sent on loan to Manchester City.
By the end of the EPL season, his future was up in limbo. Rumors went around that he would sign a permanent contract with Citeh, move to Juventus or return to his contracted club Marseille. He eventually signed with Hamburg and things have been good for him ever since (he now plays for Bayern Munich).
Finally, Onyewu should have no problems adjusting to the city as fellow US international Benny Feilhaber (barring any loan moves) could show him around.
Although I have mentioned that a return to England may not be a good idea for Gooch, it could still happen, but it won't be Newcastle United who signs him permanently.
Martin O'Neil will be overhauling his squad at the end of this season in order to challenge for a place in Europe and one place he will be looking to strengthen is the defense.
Thanks to Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, O'Neil could use a small portion of his ample transfer money to sign Onyewu. O'Neil, unlike Roeder, would provide him with the proper coaching that could make one of the top center backs in the EPL.
The Newcastle experiment was a setback, but this does not spell the end of Gooch's career. During these five months in the Toon Army, he has learned what he needs to work on if he ever wants to play at English stadiums again.
We are always taught to learn from our mistakes and in this case he is certainly learning from his. There's no question that Gooch is a good defender and definitely one of the players the US National Team will be built around in the coming years.
But, if he wants to be a great defender then he is going to have to find the right club and the right manager who can mold him and have him realize his potential. No offense to Glenn Roeder, but he doesn't necessarily have the track record of producing quality players.
Also, Onyewu needs to listen less to the agents and do what's best for him when choosing his next club. None of us know for sure what was going on through his mind during those few weeks in January when club after club was clamoring to sign him, but he took a gamble on Newcastle and it didn't pay dividends.
Sometimes a soccer player can be blinded by the size of a club and not see the cracks. It was a mistake to go there and I am certain it is one mistake he will not make again in his career.
So as the Premier League winds down for the summer, Gooch will have to think long and hard about his next move. Hopefully, the decision he makes over the summer break will move his career forward.