Commentary: Don't expect Millonarios to keep Montero

Fredy Montero kisses fist

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To better understand Fredy Montero’s apparent loan to Colombian club Millonarios, it’s probably helpful to think of it as more of a trial.

Millonarios, after all, play in Categoria Primera A, a league far better known for selling players than for buying them. Since Montero joined the Sounders in 2009 – kicking off a long run of Colombia-to-MLS transfers – virtually all the traffic has been going north.

But even though Millonarios reportedly have an option to extend the six-month loan to a full year and could ultimately purchase Montero for $4.5 million, there’s very little reason to think that’s the intended end game.

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While Millonarios are a club with a storied history and strong domestic support, they only recently emerged from serious financial straits. They’re probably not in any position to buy Montero.

More likely, this is a chance for Montero to show the world what he can do on a bigger stage and set himself up for a move to a bigger club somewhere else in South America, Mexico or Europe.

That stage comes in the form of Copa Libertadores, probably the most competitive club tournament outside of UEFA’s Champions League.

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Millonarios will be making their first Copa appearance since 1997, having already qualified for the group stage where they will be guaranteed at least six games against Brazil’s Corinthians, Mexico’s Club Tijuana and Bolivia’s San José. If they advance, the six-month loan could keep Montero with Millonarios at least through the quarterfinals. That’s as many as 10 matches against some of the best clubs in the Western Hemisphere.

For all Montero’s success during his four seasons in Seattle – 47 goals and 34 assists in league play and 60 goals in all competitions – he has not earned a Colombian national team cap since 2009 nor attracted any serious offers from bigger clubs for a permanent transfer. Like any ambitious player, Montero wants to play for club and country on the biggest stages. This might be his last best chance at making that happen.

Meanwhile, the Sounders have made no bones about the fact that they want more out of their highest-paid players than they’ve been getting. Chief among them is Montero, who has yet to score in 10 career playoff games and was pulled early from the last two. It would be unfair to judge him based entirely on those very limited samples, but the Sounders have clearly grown frustrated at times with their mercurial forward.

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Montero has shown himself to be one offensive threats in the league during the past four seasons. Whether he’s scoring goals from 35 yards out or setting up teammates from impossible angles, he has produced no shortage of jaw-dropping highlights. He’s scored important goals in MLS regular-season games, CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup, proof that he can produce in important games.

But the Sounders want more, and they seem to be gambling on the idea that this is the move that will unlock Montero’s full potential.

Maybe Montero returns to the Sounders as a more mature player with a better developed “killer instinct.” Maybe the Sounders use any transfer fee to buy an even better player. Either way, Seattle are hoping this gets them closer to their ultimate goal: winning MLS Cup.