Tuesday, August 16, 2022
SportHeartsEx-Hearts favourite Jose Goncalves tells Steven Naismith he would miss 'intensity' of...

Ex-Hearts favourite Jose Goncalves tells Steven Naismith he would miss ‘intensity’ of life in Premiership – but is adamant move to Major League Soccer would not sabotage Scotland Euro 2020 dream

JOSE GONCALVES has warned Steven Naismith he would miss the passion and pressure of life in the goldfish bowl of Scottish football if he calls time on his Hearts career to pursue an American dream.

However, the former Hearts defender is adamant it would be madness to write off Naismith’s international aspirations if he does make the switch to the States.

Goncalves, who enjoyed two campaigns in Gorgie, is well placed to assess the dilemma facing the 32-year-old after his own four-year spell in the U.S. with New England Revolution.

Goncalves enjoyed a hugely successful stint in the States (Pic: Ryan Byrne)

Naismith stated on Tuesday that the decision regarding his destination when his contract with Norwich expires in the summer is his toughest yet, with the player known to be amenable to the lifestyle and challenge afforded by the MLS but also appreciative of his role at Hearts.

Goncalves has cautioned that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the pond, conceding that he missed the intense, high-stakes nature of the game in Scotland.

“The atmosphere created by the fans and people around the club at Hearts was just unbelievable. You will not get that passion in the U.S.,” explained Goncalves. “That is one major thing you must think about.

“Supporters come to the games in Scotland and you can feel their intensity on the pitch.

“It was not comparable in America. Everything is different. People go to the stadium to have a nice time with their family, have a barbeque in front of the stadium and the kids all play together. Of course, this is not a bad thing but it is a different mentality.

“I realised year-after-year in MLS that I missed the emotion, the support and the feeling of being in a city that lives for football.

“In Edinburgh, they go to support their team, show passion; be loud, be crazy. That has been passed down through generations.

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“Every time I went to a cafe or the shops, people wanted to talk to me about football. It was 20,000 [at Tynecastle] but it always felt like 50,000 because the people love football so much.

“If you love football then it is important to think carefully before giving that up and leaving. You will miss it.”

Nevertheless, Goncalves, currently taking his first steps into coaching with FC Zurich, can see the attraction for Naismith.

During his time in the sports-mad city of Boston, Goncalves soaked up the lifestyle, embraced some of the picture-perfect away days in California, Orlando and New York and lined up against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.

The league has further improved since he departed in 2017 and is now even exporting marquee talent, with Miguel Almiron joining Newcastle from MLS champions Atlanta United in January for a league record fee of £20 million.

“America is very attractive for football players, everyone wants to go to Los Angeles, Miami, New York,” he acknowledged. “It is a great lifestyle and everyone can see how strong their brand is on television and social media.

“You visit amazing places and play against some of the best names in the world like Zlatan [Ibrahimovic]. That is why footballers from all over the world are thinking ‘maybe I would like to go to the U.S.’.

“The intensity is less high than you would get in the Scottish Premiership or the English Premier League but it is a growing league, many more players for Europe are going there and it is getting better.”

Naismith could find himself lining up against LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Pic: Soccer.ru)

Goncalves has also railed against the notion that Naismith could be jeopardising his Scotland spot with a move to MLS, as tacitly suggested by Hearts boss Craig Levein when news of the interest broke last week.

He reckons standout talents such as Sebastian Giovinco, a talisman for Toronto for four years, and David Villa, who earned a Spain recall by banging in the goals for New York City FC, make a mockery of the suggestion.

“You need to judge the situation based on the player and what kind of shape they are in,” added Goncalves. “I am 100 per cent sure that if Steven Naismith is playing in MLS then he can still play at a high level in Europe.

“It would be crazy to ignore a player in form, regardless of where they are. People might say ‘he has gone to America, he will enjoy himself, he has nothing more for the Scottish squad’ but you cannot say that.

“You look at other players like [Sebastian] Giovinco and [David] Villa, who got called up for Italy and Spain and, with all the respect, they have more quality than Scotland. Many players in MLS play very well for their national team.”

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