I want to try to convey broad thoughts on what the hell just happened on Monday when MLSers and Americans were a big part of the biannual madness that is the deadline in (most) Europe.
I want to try to get bigger points across, and maybe get you to believe that I am smarter than with a few well-placed polysyllabic words. But my stupid little brain keeps coming back to the completely overused gif of Ron Burgundy.
(Shhh. Nobody tells Doyle that I put a GIF in something I wrote. That’s his tact. I owe him compensation if he finds out.)
Seemingly out of nowhere, there were two handfuls of MLSers and Americans overseas taking potential moves on the deadline. Twitter was insane. In total, we have four confirmed plus one registered MLS player on the move and two other teams switching MLS Academy’s products.
North American flair until the European deadline
Three years ago we only dealt with one of those MLS that went to Europe on the cut-off date. Three years ago we had only dealt with Jordan Morris’s loan, which was sealed in the last week of the window. Or just Brenden Aaronson’s move to RB Salzburg. Or just Mark McKenzie’s move to Genk.
Maybe it was just a handful of deals didn’t close earlier, but there was a huge impact from MLS and Americans on the European cutoff date.
We have a total of seven confirmed deals as well as declined moves by many others, notably Diego Rossi and Aaron Long. Such movements and offers have been widespread in these areas for the past 18 months but do not allow the regularity to detract from their effects. This is both wild and natural at the same time.
An incredible amount of money and time has been invested in the MLS academy system for years. The league has been going through a natural evolution towards development and sales lately. American and MLS exports are excellent in the world’s largest competitions. Smart European clubs have found that there is still some market inefficiency in hiring MLS talent.
(Hopefully) the days of some free offers or cheap transfers are over. Even take Reynolds’ move to Roma. There is agreement that Dallas will get an incredible fee for a player who has only made 15 MLS starts, but the Roma saw Alphonso Davies explode at Bayern Munich. If Reynolds is as good as they (and a host of other big European clubs think) then they are still a wise investment.
The MLS Academy products Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin and many others paved this path. As more and more of these players succeed, the price for the next export increases. They are data points in negotiation to show that this is becoming a proven market and as such a premium must be paid.
Reynolds deals with months
It ended up going to the deadline, but Reynolds’ historic transfer from FC Dallas to AS Roma was months in the making.
The people in Dallas had been optimistic about Reynolds’ great potential for a while, knowing he would be ready for more minutes for the eventual transfer from Cannon, which was in the works in August. His age, physical characteristics and natural attacking skills – he was a winger throughout his youth career before moving to the full-back – were a perfect invention for the modern full-back.
They knew that when he hit the ground, he would attract the attention of European clubs. But even they didn’t expect how quickly that would happen.
“I value you all so much and I love you all.”
– FC Dallas (@FCDallas) February 1, 2021
The club’s chairman and CEO, Clark Hunt, admitted that the “bidding war between Champions League clubs” was a new (and welcome) development for them. Roma, Juventus, Club Brugge and countless others hoped for his signature for months. It was not long before interest turned to serious discussions, and those serious discussions led to a move that was becoming increasingly inevitable.
Juventus was on the inside for a while. The first talks with the Roma did not go smoothly and were then interrupted for about a week at the end of December until they had a new GM on January 1st. Neither Juventus nor Bruges sealed a deal before the Roma revived talks.
The combination of an open spot outside the European Union (meaning he could go straight to Roma instead of borrowing elsewhere in Italy), a lucrative financial package for Dallas, and a plan for Reynolds made the overall package too attractive to be rejected will. And while it may have been until the deadline, they finally closed the deal.
Not just emerging talent, but top notch players on the move too
With all the talk about academies and emerging talent, it wasn’t just teenagers who made big transfers to Europe this January. Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris, both on loan to Swansea, were identified and purchased as pieces to turn their promotional dreams into a reality.
Swansea entered the midweek second in the championship, one of the most chaotic and competitive leagues in the world (yes, that comes from someone who makes a living from the chaos of Major League Soccer). The second place is the last automatic advertising place. They desperately hope to get a place in the top two and thus avoid the promotion playoffs. Arriola and Morris will be key pieces.
Flyin ‘high‼ ️
ICYMI: Paul Arriola joins them @ SwansOfficial Loan for the remainder of the EFL championship season, which is slated to return to DC in May.
>> https://t.co/SLcVxV8JdI pic.twitter.com/oxOb2aqQDI
– dcunited (@dcunited) February 2, 2021
It’s a less sexy headline than emerging talent heading to Europe with world-class potential, but it’s another major development nonetheless. As more talents keep coming, expect more deals like this in the future when some late bloomers or overlooked players step up.
What’s next for Rodriguez, LAFC?
Rodriguez was public in his desire to travel to Europe at some point. LAFC has never escaped the fact that their model involves transferring some of their best talent to make way for the next crop.
While Diego Rossi was linked to a move to Reading (which MLSsoccer.com reported was never that close), it was Rodriguez who got a move to Spanish second division UD Almeria on the deadline. The move is a loan with a purchase clause that is triggered when certain incentives are met.
Rodriguez gets his wish to join a club that is pushing for promotion. Depending on the incentives and the purchase clause, LAFC could get a lot and would open another spot for designated players alongside Rossi and Carlos Vela.
They have already traded winger Corey Baird so they are well protected in this area of the field. Plus, it was always a bit uncomfortable to have Rodriguez as the third DP alongside Rossi and Vela. All three are best on the wing. Having all three on the field at the same time meant putting one out of position. Vela played some false nine and Rossi played some as a direct center forward, but LAFC did best with this pair in their best positions.
Plus, Rodriguez didn’t start any of LAFC’s three Concacaf Champions League games in December as the team was painfully close to becoming the first MLS club to bring home the trophy.
If a DP spot is open long term, where will they use it? And how much more devastating can they be?