After a spell with Colombia’s Millionarios that saw him score 10 goals in 29 games, Seattle’s Fredy Montero has earned a ticket to Europe, albeit not the one he and his club may have originally hoped for. Montero’s on his way to Sporting Club of Portugal on loan, with an option to buy seeing the Sounders’ all-time leading scorer potentially move for a reported $3.3 million.
The club confirmed the move Monday, one which had been rumored for some time, though most anticipated the transfer would be a permanent one from the get start. But while a loan does get Montero to Portgual, it also makes his initial spell with Sporting a try-out. If he doesn’t perform well this fall, the club can walk away, leaving him to return to Seattle.
This isn’t exactly what many anticipated when Montero left Seattle this winter. When the Sounders let Montero return home, the player’s professed (but thin) explanation was to increase his chances to get into the Colombian national team. Others saw a Copa Libertadores campaign as a potential springboard to European transfer. After decent results (eight goals in 22 league games, no goals in five Copa matches), the full transfer didn’t come, though Montero has earned a look from one of Portugal’s three biggest clubs.
But with that look being only a loan, it’s worth considering whether this process has been worth it for Seattle. Or the player. Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson, and Sigi Schmid made the decision to move away from Montero this winter, a choice portended by Schmid’s use of the player at the end of last year’s playoffs (removing him from his final game). Combined with Montero’s desire to move, the loan to Millionarios seemed like a win-win situation for both parties. Montero gets his springboard, and Seattle gets to remake a club they felt needed to be tweaked in order to advance farther in the playoffs.
But with Seattle struggling in the standings and Montero failing to land a permanent move, both sides seem worse off for the gambit. Had Montero stayed, it’s likely he would have continued producing at the same levels that made him one of the league’s best attackers. Seattle, retaining their most creative player, could be playing more like last year’s team than the one that’s slumped to seventh in the Western Conference. Granted, we’d still be having the same trite debates about Montero’s big game performances and effort, but on the field, both the Sounders and the player may be better off.
Now comes Montero’s chance to establish himself in Europe, which won’t be easy. His failure to light up the Colombian league meant Sporting were reluctant to pay the $3 million-plus fee Seattle was said to be asking, leaving Seattle willing to accept a chance at recouping that money in the future. If that can’t — if Montero can’t do more to justify the fee than he did in Colombia — Seattle and their franchise’s best player may be set of an awkward reunion at the end of the loan.