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March 10, 2007

Blanco linked to Chicago
By Luis Bueno and Andrea Canales

AEG might have set its sights on Mexico and Club America star Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
AEG might have set its sights on Mexico and Club America star Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Photo by Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CARSON, Calif. – When Anschutz Entertainment Group snagged David Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy were immediately thrust into the global spotlight.

With Beckham and his multimillion-dollar salary in tow, the Galaxy cannot afford to bring in any more high-salaried designated players.

But AEG can.

AEG executive Tim Leiweke told that the organization is actively looking to fill land a high-profile designated player for another one of its clubs.

“Actually we’re in the middle of negotiations right now. We’ll see where it goes in the next week,” Leiweke said. “But we put a formal offer on the table for a world-class player to join the Fire and we’re awaiting his answer.”

Beckham’s presence likely helped grease the wheels for the World Series of Football, a four-team tournament the Galaxy will host in July. The Galaxy will play Chelsea and Mexican side Tigres UANL in July with Korean side Suwon Bluewings also competing in doubleheaders on July 17 and 21 at Home Depot Center.

Leiweke played a role in helping the tournament come to fruition and could also spearhead the move for a big-name player. Rumors have swirled this week about Chicago’s interest in Mexico and Club America icon Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

But when Blanco’s name was brought up, Leiweke would not comment one way or the other on whether or not he was in the Fire’s crosshairs.

“Well, I’m not confirming it’s Blanco, and I’m not denying it’s Blanco, but we’re encouraging the Fire to go step it up and see if they can get an international player,” he said.

Blanco is as popular as any Mexican player over the last decade. Since bursting onto the scene at the 1998 World Cup, Blanco has been a key figure for El Tri prior to a fallout with then-coach Ricardo Lavolpe in 2005. In 2001, Blanco was all but responsible for helping Mexico reach the 2002 World Cup as he returned from a year-long injury and led Mexico to three wins and a draw in its last four qualifying matches.

His importance and possible impact in MLS is not lost on Leiweke.

“Certainly, if it was Blanco, that would be a huge signing,” he said. “He’s probably one of the most famous players today on the Mexican national team. We’re always admiring the particular passion he inspires within the fan base, not just in Southern California but there’s 800,000 people in Chicago who are from Mexico. It’s not lost on us how popular he is in that city as well.

But Blanco is not the only player on Chicago’s mind.

“We’ve given them the green light to add an international player,” Leiweke said. “We’re actually out there talking to a few players, so it has more to do with their decision-making process, but I’m hoping we can do this before their (the Fire’s) season begins in April.”

Chicago may very well land a star international player but the other AEG club likely will not. Houston, though, passed up a chance to add a name player to their championship club.

“They’re too good. They don’t need any international players,” Leiweke said. “They’re having a good run of it in the Champions Cup.”

Houston is in town preparing for the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the MLS 2007 season. Leiweke said Houston passed at the chance to pursue a world-renowned player.

“They’re got a great team and their coach is doing a great job. Quite frankly, we told them that we would give them the financial ability to do that (sign a DP) because we’re working on a new stadium down there but they’ve been pretty adamant that they like the cards that they’ve been dealt,” Leiweke said. “They’re going to stick with that team and that team is proving in this latest competition that it’s a good decision. So we don’t worry about the Dynamo.”
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