Diego Valeri became Portland Timbers property on Tuesday, as the club shelled out the cash to buy his contract from Club Atlético Lanús in Argentina and sign him to a multiyear deal. He will be a Designated Player the whole time, unless his contract is renegotiated at some point to buy him down.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported on Twitter that the transfer fee was a little less than $3 million.
In just half a season in Major League Soccer, Valeri has been one of the main figureheads in Portland’s attack, alongside Akron wunderkind Darlington Nagbe and veteran Ryan Johnson. Under head coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers are in the hunt for the 2013 Supporters’ Shield after contending for the Red Lantern in their first two years.
Valeri’s four goals and eight assists make him the top scorer for the club right now, from his position in the classic No. 10 playmaking spot. He drifts all over the field from that central perch, finding gaps and picking passes to the wingers and target man.
An MLS All-Star in his first year, Valeri’s three multi-assist matches are tops in the league. He also finds plenty of his own opportunities, as he leads the team with 53 total shots.
When end-of-season voting comes around, his name should be on the ballot for Newcomer of the Year. While he may not be the most creative player on the team (that’s Nagbe) or the most vocal leader (that’s Will Johnson), Valeri has carved out a spot for himself as a central figure who leads by example.
By locking him up, the Timbers ensured that Valeri’s steady presence would be colored green and red for the foreseeable future, securing a major creative force in their attack in the process.