KANSAS CITY, Mo. – George John’s long-term fate is still uncertain, but the big center back finally sealed a long-awaited move abroad, ending a six-month transfer saga that included a failed move to Blackburn.
On Friday, FC Dallas announced that John will spend the next two months on loan with Championship side West Ham United. The Hammers will have the option of completing a permanent transfer for the former first-round SuperDraft pick at the conclusion of the loan. John's current contract with FCD runs though the 2012 season, and there has been plenty of interest in the defender during the past six months.
After talks with Blackburn broke down in August, reportedly over personal terms, John's name was consistentlly linked with European moves, eventually resulting in an early departure from US national team camp earlier this month to link up with West Ham. He has both an American and Greek passport, which makes him exempt from the work-permit process should the London-based club decide to make the move permenant.
“This is an opportunity for George to raise his play to another level,” Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman said in a statement. “He has the opportunity to spend time with a club rich in tradition, playing in one of the top leagues as they work to earn a promotion back to the Premiership. I have no doubt we will see an even better center back at the end of this period.”
John, 24, started 31 games for FCD in 2011 – his third season in MLS – and played a career-high 2,781 minutes, scoring three goals to go along with one assist. He becomes the fifth American to play for West Ham along with John Harkes, Ian Feuer, Jonathan Spector and current Hammers reserve and US U-23 player Sebastian Lletget.
In a move portrayed by Hyndman as a way to soften the blow should a transfer involving John materialize, Dallas signed 22-year-old Colombian defender Hernán Pertúz last week from Liga Postobon side Independiente Medellín.
Along those same lines, FC Dallas used Thursday’s SuperDraft to add yet another insurance policy against John’s looming departure, drafting six-foot-four North Carolina defender Matt Hedges with the 11th overall pick.
Hyndman managed to stay mum about John’s impending loan on Thursday, but he did allude to the club’s preparations for a move that has seemed inevitable for months as John's actions and public statements made it clear he believed his future was abroad.
“Obviously, it makes you think about what life might be without him and who would be in that position,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve been preparing ourselves [for that].”
And in choosing Hedges with their only pick in the draft, Dallas acquired the rights to a player who drew physical and technical comparisons to John when the turned pro, giving Hyndman another player on the back line should West Ham or any other club make the move permenant.
“They’re very very similar,” Hyndman said. “I think [Hedges is] going to be a little bit of a work in progress, but understand that we weren’t really bringing him in to be a starter. We need more balance and more support in that position.
“Last year, when we lost George to Blackburn – he left for two weeks – we had to take a midfielder and put him back in the back. We don’t want to do that anymore.”