Top 10 greatest MLS imports of all-time

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Major League Soccer (MLS) has splashed the cash on some of the biggest names in world football since its inception in 1997. The high-profile signings don't always live up to the hype, as the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard will attest.

Despite a few gambles which went bust, the league boasts a formidable list of foreign stars to grace the United States. The armchair experts at beIN SPORTS have come together to come up with our 10 which stand out from the rest.

10) Carlos Valderamma - Tampa Bay United / Colorado Rapids

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Colombia cult-hero Carlos Valderamma finished his decorated career in the MLS and was one of the league’s most recognisable stars from its inception in 1997 to his retirement in 2002.

Sporting his trademark blonde mop, Valderamma hit the ground running in the states, guiding Tampa Bay Mutiny to the Supporter’s Shield and picking up the league’s MVP award in the league’s inaugural season.

“El Pibe” tops the charts as the all-time assist king with 114, including 26 assists in 2000, a season-high record which still stands today.

9) Josef Martinez - Atlanta United 

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Atlanta United poached Venezuelan goal-machine Josef Martinez from Torino in 2017 in what proved to be a stunning coup for a striker entering his prime.

Martinez’s bagged 14 goals in 15 games in his debut season, before shattering the MLS goals record in a single season with 31 in 2018.

If Martinez can keep up this remarkable run, there’s every chance he could be at the top of this list by the time the 25 year-old hangs up the boots.

8) Ignacio Piatti - Montreal Impact

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Ignacio Piatti has been consistently up there with the league’s best since the Argentine joined Montreal Impact in 2014. The winger has been crowned the club’s most valuable player for the last three seasons and the club’s top goalscorer for the last two.

Piatti also tops the Impact’s all-time goals and assists charts and is widely regarded as the greatest player in the club’s history.

7) Wayne Rooney - DC United

Wayne Rooney may only be six months into his time in the MLS, but in that time the former Manchester United star has lead DC United from bottom, to fourth in the Eastern Conference with 12 goals and seven assists in 20 games.

If you thought Rooney was coming to the states for a holiday, think again. The 33 year-old has brought the same mix of guile and grit which made him a Premier League superstar.   

DC was knocked out of the playoffs by Columbus crew in penalties, but the turn-around by the new MLS franchise, after the arrival of Rooney was nothing short of remarkable.

6) Zlatan Ibrahimovic - LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to the MLS as the one of the most feared strikers in world football, but at 37 and coming off a serious injury, there were mumors the Big Swede could be a shadow of his former self.

Those doubts were put to rest six minutes into his debut, Zlatan scoring outrageous 40-yard strike before a stoppage time winner to give his side a 4-3 win over LAFC.

His response after his debut, “I head the crowd saying ‘we want Zlatan, we want Zlatan’ so I have them Zlatan.

He didn’t stop there, going on to register 22 goals and 10 assists in 2018, becoming just the third player in MLS history to exceed 20 goals and 10 assists in a season.

5) Robbie Keane - LA Galaxy

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Robbie Keane joined LA Galaxy ahead of the 2011 season, taking 21 minutes to get off the mark for his new club.

Keane formed a devastating partnership with David Beckham and helped Galaxy clinch Western Conference Supporters’ shield double in his debut season.

The 38 year-old scored 83 goals in 125 appearances picking up three MLS Cups and a supporters’ shield in five decorated season in Los Angeles.

4) Bradley Wright Phillips - New York Red Bulls

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Bradley Wright-Phillips is often overshadowed by the big household names in the MLS, but the two-time golden boot winner boasts 106 goals in 171 appearances for New York Red Bulls.

After the departure of Thierry Henry in 2014, Wright-Phillips cemented himself as New York Red Bulls main man, and he’s now on track to top the MLS all-time goalscorer list by the time he retires.

3) David Villa - NYCFC

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NYCFC pulled off a stunning coup when it signed Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer David Villa on a free transfer in 2014, naming the striker as club captain for its inaugural season.

The former Barcelona star has been one of the league’s most recognisable stars ever since, named MLS MVP in 2016 and featuring in the last four consecutive All-star teams.

Villa boasts 77 goals in 117 MLS appearances and is showing no signs of slowing down, despite approaching his 37th birthday.

2) David Beckham - LA Galaxy

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There’s no bigger name in world football than David Beckham, and the former Real Madrid star helped put MLS on the map when he signed for LA Galaxy in 2007.

Beckham wasn’t just a face for United States football to lend its brand to. The set piece specialist guided LA Galaxy to two MLS Cups and two Supporters’ shields in a five-year stint.

Becks is currently president and owner of Inter Miami FC, a franchise set to compete in the MLS in 2020.

1) Sebastian Giovinco - Toronto FC

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Sebastian Giovinco may not be the most recognisable name on this list, but the fleet-footed Italian earned top spot for dominating the league since joining Toronto FC in 2015.

A graduate of Juventus’s youth academy, Giovinco failed to realise his potential at the Old Lady, being shipped out on loan to Empoli and Parma before crossing the Atlantic in a bid to revive his career in Toronto.

In a dream debut season, the ‘Atomic Ant’ was crowned MVP and became the first player to finish a season leading the goals and assists chart.

Giovinco has since featured in four MLS All Star and three MLS best XI teams and at 31 years-young, looks set to grace the United States for a few more years to come.