Say what you want about New York City FC, but they aren't afraid to splash the cash.
The MLS expansion club with seemingly bottomless pockets announced Monday that it has added Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo to a roster that already includes fellow World Cup winner David Villa, U.S. national team regular Mix Diskerud and English icon Frank Lampard (who, like Pirlo, will debut this month). It means that just four months into its debut season, NYCFC likely boasts the most expensive squad in the league's 20-year history.
A source told ESPN FC that the former Juventus star will make $8 million, the highest salary in MLS.
It turns out that dollar bills, if there are enough of them, can easily paper over a lack of history, questionable branding or the fact that the club realistically is still years from being able to show off its haul of exotic footballers in a stadium all its own.
That's because superstars, more than shiny soccer-specific venues -- maybe even more than winning games -- sell tickets like nothing else.
NYCFC has already proven that even without Lampard in the lineup, fans in New York will flock to Yankee Stadium to watch Villa battle MLS defenders, even from a seat obstructed by a foul pole. With an average home attendance of almost 29,000, the first-year franchise is already the third-best supported team on the circuit this season, behind only Seattle and fellow expansion side Orlando City.
Pirlo will fill seats, all right. He's arguably NYCFC's shiniest addition yet. The 36-year-old appears to be a perfect fit for New York City, with a combination of pedigree, no-nonsense competitiveness, and "What? Me, worry?" charisma that resonates particularly with those who call the Big Apple home.
He still offers plenty on the field, too.
While Pirlo might not be the player he was three years ago, when he led Italy to the Euro 2012 final against Spain, he did help Juve reach last month's Champions League finale and was still one of the world's genuinely special talents as recently as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
If he, Lampard and Villa are able to strike up a quick understanding, it might just be enough to push NYCFC, currently seventh in the 10-team Eastern Conference, up three spots and into a playoff position.
Whether he's the ideal on-pitch addition is another matter entirely. Hard as it is to criticize an acquisition this bold, it's fair to wonder if it's the one coach Jason Kreis' team needs the most. It's obviously not one for the future.
Kreis himself stated in March that his preference would be for a younger man to fill the club's third and final designated player spot, leading to questions about whether the coach, who was lured away from perennial MLS Cup contender Real Salt Lake in 2013 in part because of his proven team-building ability, is being listened to by the club's overlords in Manchester and Abu Dhabi in personnel decisions.
The deal also leaves the center of the midfield crowded. If Lampard's long-awaited arrival wasn't already going to push Diskerud out to the wing, then Pirlo's certainly will. And while Pirlo should slot in nicely behind Lampard in a deep-lying, playmaking role, nobody will expect him to chase down loose balls. That will mean more running for defensive midfielder Andrew Jacobson and others, whose extra defensive responsibilities could affect the balance of the team.
Clearly that's an afterthought, if it's a thought at all. Pirlo's signing proves that NYCFC is going to spend now and ask questions later, banking that star power above all else will keep it competitive and relevant in its maiden campaign. And with MLS about to allow the league's richest teams even more leeway in attracting big names, who knows? It might not even be its last.