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Hey, Phil: Bring Marta to LA

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If I’m Marta — and I’m not, I hasten to add — I move right now to make sure that AEG pays top dollar.

If the outfit that owns the Galaxy can afford to pay a well-past-his-prime David Beckham $6.5 million a year for five years, then it can afford to pay the world’s finest female soccer player at least $1 million a year.

Anything less would be an insult.

No, it isn’t my money, it belongs to Phil Anschutz. But if the Denver billionaire is serious about advancing women’s soccer, then he needs to tell his underlings to do whatever it takes to bring the Brazilian to Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Marta was assigned to the as-yet unnamed L.A. Women’s Professional Soccer team when the new league, which launches in April, held its international draft of the world’s top foreign players. Earlier, it assigned the best of the Americans to the seven WPS teams.

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Marta Viera da Silva was the pick of the crop, the most exciting talent to come out of Brazil since Ronaldinho first laced up his cleats.

She has everything — speed, incredible dribbling ability, an on-field awareness that is unrivaled, the gift of being able to create scoring chances out of thin air, and, best of all, superb finishing ability.

Her skills are the envy of most male professional players, let alone her female counterparts.

She swivels, she spins, she cuts this way and that. She uses every bit of her foot, now the instep, now the outside, now the heel, now the sole. Containing her is a defender’s worst nightmare.

Unpredictable doesn’t begin to define her. She is, in short, well worth watching.

“I was born playing football,” Marta said during the Beijing Olympics. “I don’t know where I learned to play. I’ve been doing it since I was 7.”

If the International Olympic Committee handed out gold medals for individual performance rather than team achievement, Marta would have struck gold in 2004 and 2008. Instead, she has a pair of silver medals.

But she is still only 22 and Olympic Gold surely will come her way. In the meantime, she needs to secure her future by making certain she is paid what she is worth. That kind of gold is just as important.

No one will ever replace Mia Hamm in the hearts of American fans, but Marta could give her a good run for her money. If WPS wants to make an impact, getting her signature on a dotted line is a must.

Being drafted and being signed are not the same thing. There are negotiations ahead. But if AEG could land Beckham, it can land Marta.

The league will have other stars--Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Homare Sawa, Cristiane, Kelly Smith--but unless Marta is on the field when Los Angeles begins play in April, it won’t mean a thing.

The ball is in AEG’s court.

-- Grahame L. Jones


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