BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Marco Pappa's future has finally been settled.
The Chicago Fire midfielder is moving on at the end of the season after signing a pre-contract with Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie, the club announced earlier this week.
But the Guatemalan may not be gone forever, coach Frank Klopas emphasized after Wednesday’s practice.
“I think it’s important to retain his rights,” Klopas said. “There were opportunities for him to leave earlier, but the club made an important decision because we wanted to keep the pieces together. I think it’s very important that we push and he’s a very important player for the team.”
Because Pappa is heading to the Netherlands after the season on a free transfer after his contract expires, the Fire will still hold his rights should he decide to return to Major League Soccer.
Retaining Pappa’s rights was a key factor in not taking an earlier transfer offer, along with keeping the core group of the team together as they head toward the playoffs.
Over the last few years, the Fire have had two key players return after heading abroad. Chris Rolfe returned this season after spending two seasons with Aalborg BK in Denmark, and Gonzalo Segares came back to the team in 2010 after a brief stint in Cyprus.
“Sometimes you have to move on, but I’m sure they’ll leave the doors open for him,” Segares said. “I think [the Eredivisie] definitely a league that fits him, it’s a very offensive league. It’s going to fit him well, and I wish him the best.”
Pappa was one of Klopas’ early acquisitions with the Fire, and seeing him move on will be bittersweet for the head coach.
His absence will be felt, but the Fire had already picked up cover for his possible departure after they traded for Uruguayan midfielder Álvaro Fernández two weeks ago.
“It’s great when you see someone at a very young age come and develop and obviously have opportunities,” Klopas said. “This is obviously something that he wants. Marco has been a guy that, the Fire is in his heart always. He’s a fantastic player, he’s matured every year. He’s gotten better.”