MLS chief says league not a retirement home after Neymar comments

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Dec 10, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber reads a book to students watching virtually at Children’s Book Bank. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

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Feb 24 (Reuters) - Major League Soccer (MLS) is shedding its image as a league for players on the verge of retirement, commissioner Don Garber said after Paris St Germain and Brazil striker Neymar expressed his desire to play in the United States before his career ends.

Neymar told the Fenomenos podcast this week that he would love to play in the United States for at least a season before joking "their season is shorter, so I'd get three months' vacation." read more

The 30-year-old is under contract at PSG until June 2025 and added that he was more likely to play in America than return to his home country before hanging up his boots.

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"We don't need to bring in a big-name player at the end of their career because they've decided they'd like to retire in the MLS," Garber told reporters.

Garber said he wanted the MLS story to be about young players choosing to come to the league at the earliest stages or the prime of their careers.

This year, Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne signed a pre-contract to join Toronto FC on a four-year deal after his contract with the Italian club expires in June.

Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri, who is also 30, joined Chicago Fire this season.

Garber said nobody suggested Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was heading into retirement when he left Los Angeles Galaxy for Italian side AC Milan in 2019 at the age of 38.

"Frankly I was insulted by that. Because if Zlatan came to us at the same age when he went back to Milan, it would've been a retirement move on his part," Garber said.

"He worked his tail off in MLS and he's worked his tail off in Serie A. So I'm not quite sure why we're viewed differently, but it is what it is."

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Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru

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