European transfer deadline looms with Columbus Crew still uncertain over Giancarlo Gonzalez's future

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Despite the rapidly approaching Aug. 31 close of the FIFA transfer window, the Columbus Crew are still unsure about the future of defender Giancarlo Gonzalez.

The Costa Rican has been the subject of consistent transfer rumors since his stellar World Cup performance for the Ticos, and Crew head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter has even confirmed a declined bid from Fulham FC and interest from other clubs.

After Thursday’s training session, Berhalter again noted the end of the month as the deadline, and said there’s “always interest and there’s always communication” about the player.

“Until that date, it’s always going to be an open-ended question,” he said. “[Clubs] could come in any time. They could come today.”

Complicating matters is the complex way that MLS ownership of a player works. Rather than dealing team-to-team with other organizations, Berhalter runs his dealings through the league. He said it doesn’t necessarily make the process harder, but certainly affects the dealings.

“The league gets a certain percentage, and we can use a certain percentage for allocation and we can use a certain percentage for other soccer operation-related things,” he said. “It’s not as simple as, ‘The fee is what we get.’ It is distributed.”

Berhalter also confirmed that Gonzalez’s last club, Norwegian side Vålerenga, would get “a small percentage” of the transfer fee as well. The dispersion of funds, he said, “makes us have to get a higher number to make it worthwhile.”

And while MLS operates much differently than other leagues, European clubs aren't in the dark when it comes to how transfers work on this side of the pond.

“You just explain to them, ‘Listen, here’s the policy: the league technically owns all the players. They get a share of it,’” he said.

Gonzalez and Berhalter have an open dialogue about the situation, and the Crew boss said the Costa Rican is interested in the possibilities, but isn’t itching for a move. But how will Berhalter handle it if Gonzalez tells him he’d like to leave?

“Like you would if any other player came to you,” he said. “You’d say, ‘What has been the communication with the other club? What are we talking about? What have they offered us, basically?’ That’s the first question that needs to be answered.”

From the beginning of the Gonzalez conversation, Berhalter made it clear that his backline stalwart won’t come cheap. And while the Crew may have found a bargain by signing him before his breakout World Cup, they’ll still need to recoup their investment.

“We have to pay back the fee that we had to pay for him, don’t forget about that,” he said. “That cuts away from the number as well. So we want to make sure it’s the right number and the right situation before we act – if we act.”