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O'Dea glad to have chosen Canada life over cold, hard cash

IT'S rare that a footballer is honest about the real attraction of money, but Darren O'Dea is a forthright speaker.

The Dubliner has admitted that if cash was the only motivation in his life, then his journey back to club football from Kazakhstan tomorrow would be much shorter.

He will be given permission to skip Tuesday's friendly with Oman because his new employers, Toronto FC, are in competitive action in midweek and require the services of their fresh acquisition.

But O'Dea could just as easily have been staying in the eastern part of Europe and returning to a club in Russia or Ukraine.

"I had about 4,000 agents ringing me over the summer," quipped the centre-half, who was declared a free agent by Celtic.

"There were loads of different things. Some concrete, some not. At times, you're chasing loose ends. Other things did happen, but weren't right for my family. Places like Russia and Ukraine, where the money is...it's big money, and tempting, but it's not for me.

"I nearly went out to the Ukraine, but it was purely to do with money and I've always sworn I wouldn't do that, so I didn't in the end. It was a team called Tavriya. Oleg Luzhny (ex-Arsenal) is the manager. I spoke to them quite a bit and it was tempting."

A Russian offer, with an unnamed suitor an hour and a half outside Moscow, was less attractive. It wasn't big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala. "I'd have lived there," he jokes. He spoke to Aiden McGeady about the club in question and the feedback wasn't great. "Aiden didn't recommend it, so that was that knocked on the head."

The lifestyle offered in Toronto swung it. He has one child, and wants more and believes the whole package in Canada fits the bill.

Besides, he knows he is well paid. In the MLS, there is a clear gap between the haves and the have-nots due to the salary cap. Each club is allowed to have three players over that cap. O'Dea sought out Robbie Keane to speak about it this week. Some players in the dressing-room are on comfortably less than £1,000 a week. Others are earning millions.

"I have to admit the money I'm earning is very good," he stresses (although it's not millions). "And the life I'm living is very good.

"I've a different contract to what a lot of other players would have. You've one lad who's on £40,000 a year and one on £3.5m a year, so it's big differences."

Is it awkward?

"I was speaking to Robbie about it on Monday and there's a lot of respect within the squad. You'll find the lads on lower money are younger lads. They've a good upbringing, so they've a lot of respect for the senior players. It's a well-run league.

"They'll build slowly. That league will be as big as any league in the world in a few years' time because of the facilities they have and the fanbase they have. Once that salary cap goes up you'll see a higher standard of player going out from different countries and it will be a top league."

Ambitious

It's a happier life for O'Dea than pottering around England looking for a contract. Toronto are a new franchise and he expects next winter to be busy. With the club working on ambitious plans, he wants to be an established part as it continues to grow.

Giovanni Trapattoni gave the move his approval, which was significant. The travel aspect for Irish outings will be difficult, with this fixture an extreme case, but O'Dea isn't going to whinge.

"I'd rather be doing this, seeing all different parts of the world and playing football, than sitting behind a desk nine to five, so I can't complain," he adds.

In his new guise, he can walk around the streets uninterrupted, and, last week, took a day trip to Niagara Falls.

"It's a different world out there," he explains. "People are more placid and it's a lot calmer."

Astana won't be as tranquil for Richard Dunne's replacement and the challenge now is to develop from a stand-in to a stand-out player.

Irish Independent