VILNIUS – When Jozy Altidore left Manchester United he was heralded as one of the nation’s greatest to ply his trade in Europe’s biggest league. The son of a Kenyan immigrant who played professional soccer in the United States, he had been a top youth talent for several years but was still only 15 when he arrived at United.
He made his debut under Sir Alex Ferguson in the Premier League, scoring one goal in the club’s victory at Arsenal, and made a few more appearances during the 2005-06 season. In summer 2006 he was bought by Villarreal in Spain in a package worth $40 million. He scored 22 goals in 43 appearances for the club, settling in as a more prominent player in Villarreal’s team, which finished fourth that season.
Shortly after the close of that season, United made his loan back to Villarreal permanent.
Altidore stayed there until last summer, but struggled to hold down a regular place in the side. For much of the season he had been training with the MLS team that competed in the CONCACAF Champions League, D.C. United. And after the summer transfer window closed in the U.S., he signed for Villarreal’s B team to gain game time.
Now Altidore, 24, is a key player in the competition between Villarreal and Valencia in Spain, on the front line for the former’s second string. He scored a goal last week and is expected to get more action in Valencia in this game.
“I think I’m in a better state now physically,” he told reporters after the game against Boca Juniors in Argentina. “I still feel sharp, I still have power left, I still have speed.
“But most importantly now I feel stable mentally. I know that in the past there have been situations where I had been unfit and I would not be able to compete with the opposition. Now I’m feeling very comfortable out there.”
Altidore has lived with his mother in Europe, so he is familiar with the culture there.
“I’m playing in Spain and in France right now and I really like it. I’m in a good place right now mentally and physically and I’m just trying to get better every day.”