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|Ricky Rubio ››|
The Texas Rangers just spent over $100 million to land pitcher Yu Darvish, first winning a bidding war and then signing him to a six-year contract. They're investing a good chunk of the franchise's future on the Japanese superstar, who will be asked to make up for the loss of former ace C.J. Wilson to divisional rival Angels.
Darvish is just the most hyped recent import in American sports. While the NFL is still completely dominated by U.S. athletes, other American pro leagues have been globetrotting to poach the best players from other countries, beginning as early as the 1970s, when Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff were lured to play in the now defunct-North American Soccer League.
While those soccer legends came to America at the end of their careers, in the past decade or so the imports tend to be in their prime, or even just as they enter their prime. Baseball has raided the Japan League, hockey a vast number of European players and basketball the world over, from China to Spain to the republics in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
All these players arrived with tremendous hype and huge contracts. Some lived up to them and while others not. A number of those players are still active, including Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who's just getting started. We made the distinction of only choosing athletes who have previously starred in foreign leagues, so baseball's numerous Latin players are not included on this list, since nearly all of them came up through MLB teams' academy programs. And for the NHL, only players not from North America are considered.
Here are our Top 10 Most Hyped Foreign Players -
|Ricky Rubio ››|