The on-then-off move of Juan Agudelo to Stoke City appears to have been revitalized, albeit with a couple of asterisks. Still, after a move to Europe looked in doubt after the former Revolution forward had his work permit application (and appeal) denied, tonight’s tweet from the 21-year-old is an undeniable step forward. Although he is destined to be sent out on loan, the U.S. Men’s National Team hopeful is officially on the Potters’ books.
According to Agudelo’s twitter account, the Colombian-born American signed his Stoke deal on Tuesday, ending hopes the 17-time U.S. international would return to Major League Soccer. Lauding the support the Potters have shown, Agudelo used the hashtags “#SignedToday” and “#Europeanfootballer” to break the news:[tweet https://twitter.com/JuanAgudelo/statuses/423177618234822657]
The news comes on the same day Stoke City completed the permanent acquisition of Steven Ireland while confirming John Guidetti’s loan from Manchester City. As of Tuesday night, the club had yet to confirm Agudelo’s tweet.
Presumably, the Potters have already worked out a loan deal, paving their way to finalize Agudelo’s contract. Since his work permit appeal was denied, speculation has linked Agudelo with a move to the Belgian Pro League, with residence in Belgium one of the more common paths non-European players use to obtain an EU passport. Belgium requires only three years of continuous residence to qualify for citizenship, with a pure business (as opposed to familial) relationship all that’s required in a country that supports dual citizens.
The big hope for Agudelo (and undoubtedly, Stoke) is that he can get to England in under three years, something that would require him becoming a regular with his national team. Although he is still a ways from obtaining that status, today’s news is a clear step in the right direction. Be it in Belgium, Scandinavia, or elsewhere, regular, productive playing time will put the Red Bulls product in position to be a factor at the beginning of the next cycle, getting his international career back on track. And on the club level, establishing himself in Europe will open doors to leagues like Portugal or Russia, should Stoke grow impatient waiting for a work permit to be approved.
In the short-term, Brazil 2014 may be too much to hope for, unless the U.S. experiences a number of injuries or dips in form. Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, and Aron Jóhansson seem strong bets to make the World Cup squad, with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann also favoring the likes of Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd. Add in Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan as forward options, and Agudelo may have slid too far down the depth chart to consider Brazil a realistic possibility.
Still only 21 years old, that shouldn’t be Agudelo’s focus. After bouncing from New York to Chivas USA to New England — after trying to jump to England only to end up in limbo — Agudelo should concentrate on playing. Talented but never truly consistent, this gives the U.S. hopeful a chance to embark on the next stage of his professional career. He needs to make it a productive one.