Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Jozy Altidore's club career since heading over to Europe has not gone as well as he would have liked, and that might explain why Altidore was full of smiles when he announced the next phase in his career.
In front of a handful of media members on a hot Friday morning, Altidore officially announced his move from Villarreal to Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. The deal has not been officially signed as of yet, but terms have been agreed upon, with Altidore agreeing to a four-year deal.
"It's a deal, a permanent transfer, so I'm excited," said Altidore, who made the announcement as kids in his youth sports soccer camp practiced behind him. "Kind of a fresh start for me, and I'm at a good age. I feel like I'm still very young and at an age where I can still impact the game on the world stage."
Alkmaar finished in fourth place in the Eredivisie last season, and its roster boasts international talents such as Danish midfielder Simon Poulsen and Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero. But those aspects weren't what ultimately lured Altidore to sign with the club. Instead, it was AZ's unmatched drive that convinced the 21-year-old U.S. men's national team striker.
"I just felt the interest there was a different class and in a different category of its own," Altidore said. "What the club presented me was fantastic. I just wanted to go to a place where – anybody wants to go to a place where they feel wanted and feel like you're needed, so I'm going there to help the team out, and play in some good competitions and I'm excited."
One of the key figures in making the deal happen was AZ Alkmaar technical director Earnie Stewart, who earned 101 caps with the U.S. national team during his time as a player.
"I spoke to Earnie quite a bit actually. Obviously Earnie is a big influence on the whole thing, but he's a great guy and he's been very honest and I think that's been very helpful for me and my family," said Altidore, who added he could join the club as soon as next week.
When Altidore does put pen to paper to make the deal official, he'll end a three-year stint with Villarreal in which he made just nine appearances and scored one goal in league play.
Having been loaned out on three separate occasions during his time with the Spanish club, Altidore is aware of how important it is to find a stable situation. But he also admits that his time with the Yellow Submarine was far from easy and something he may not have been well-equipped to handle when he signed with the club in the summer of 2008.
"It was tough," Altidore said. "But I have to thank the organization. They were very great to me. It was tough. I never really got the run of games that you look for as a player to kind of get in the team.
"It happens, and I think I was at a time, too, when I was kind of still young and maybe it was a little much for me at 18. But it is what it is, it's behind me now and you just take up those experiences and try to make it better."
Altidore sounds eager to prove his worth as he embarks in the next chapter of his career, a chapter that will take him to a league known for developing attacking talent and one that he appears to rate highly.
"The Dutch League is like a school of soccer," Altidore said. "They teach the game very well, and they have that history of developing great players, so I'm hoping I can be one of those developments."
What do you think of Altidore's move to Alkmaar? Happy to know the deal is a full transfer and not a loan? How will you look back on his time with Villarreal?
Share your thoughts below.