Javier Morales is the ideal, but with the Argentine’s success at Real Salt Lake has come a series of South American playmakers: Federico Higuaín with Columbus; Felipe Martins in Montréal; the Timbers’ Diego Valeri; even younger versions, like FC Dallas’s Mauro Díaz. And those are just the ones who’ve worked out. Though the league’s tradition of relying on South American maestros dates back to Carlos Valderrama, recent expansion and the league’s economic health has led a series of CONMEBOL’s talents to look for new CONCACAF options.
The next player to join that list appears to be Argentine Matías Pérez García; at least, if reports from ESPN Deportes pan out. According to last night’s report, the 30-year-old midfielder is “virtually” set to make a move to San Jose, ending two seasons with Tigre of the Argentine Primera Division.
One Deportes source claims the deal involves two million dollar, though it was unclear whether that was a transfer fee or the player’s compensation. Given the salaries for the likes of Morales and Valeri ($300,000, $500,000), the quoted amount is likely going to Tigre, who become the latest club to benefit from MLS’s continued mining of Argentine talent.
From this distance, it’s unclear whether the player justifies the expenditure. Since moving to Tigre in the summer of 2012, Pérez García’s scored 13 times in 63 league appearances, playing primary behind a single striker. Though he’s been Tigre’s leading scorer during that time, he’s also 30 and has never had success beyond Argentina (in France or Chile).
In that way, he profiles like Valeri, with the two sharing a connection to Lanus. But when Valeri moved to Portland, he was 26 years old, and while his transfer fee was over $2 million (reportedly, closer to $3 million), the nature of his move meant the Timbers had a chance to test the fit before MLS paid the full fee.
Though you never want to accept one web site’s word as gospel, there seems to be reasons why Transfermarkt’s evaluation isn’t close to $2 million. Perhaps the actual fee will turn out to me lower, but if Deportes’ source is correct, Major League Soccer appears to be over-paying.
And that’s the other part of this transaction to consider. Whatever the fee ends up being, it’s likely coming from the league’s collective coffers. From a San Jose fan’s point of view, that makes the price a lot more tolerable. For an MLS fan, though, is a 30-year-old playmaker the best use of the league’s transfer budget?
This is part of the problem with paying for teams’ transfer fees. If Pérez García becomes available and Earthquakes general manager John Doyle wants him, how can Major League Soccer say “no” after paying fees for players like Valeri and Matías Laba (not to mention higher price points like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley)? Unless the request is egregious, a precedent has been set. Why can’t San Jose be part of the club?
All of which gets us pretty far away from the field. For a San Jose team that’s found itself at the bottom of the Western Conference, there are more pressing issues; specifically, can García turn help Mark Watson turn this around? While the odds are stacked against making the playoffs this season, the team needs to build for next year, when it will be opening its new venue. By then, the Earthquakes need to have moved away from the blunt style which, at one time successful, has proved a hinderance over the last year-and-a-half. When they’re winning, it’s fine, but we San Jose’s results fall off, the team’s approach makes it difficult to justify the product.
With a player like Yannick Djaló, San Jose’s moving in a different direction, but even when healthy, the Portuguese attacker hasn’t been a game-changer. García, whether it’s by position or price, will be expected to serve that purpose. If he’s not a game-changer, he a least needs to be a style-changer.
That’s assuming the move happens, of course. Right now, it’s just a rumor – a very detailed, consistent, sensible rumor, one which hints a San Jose is moving in a different direction. The team that’s been forced to live a modest existence may be ready to add some extravagance to its roster.