Sporting Kansas City have lost their second star player to the English Premier League in less than a month, thanks to a loan deal announced Wednesday that sends forward Kei Kamara to Norwich City and allows the EPL side to buy Kamara outright when the loan is complete.
The loan will last through May 6 and is pending approval of a work permit. As part of the agreement, Kamara's contract with MLS has been extended.
Kamara, who has enjoyed a career rebirth during the past three-plus seasons in Kansas City, will miss the preseason and roughly two months of the regular season under the terms of the loan. He scored a career-high 11 goals for Sporting last season and has a combined 30 goals and 18 assists since 2010 while serving as a catalyst for one of the best offensive teams in the league.
"It is a very bittersweet day as I am excited to achieve one of my goals, which was to play in the EPL," Kamara said in a statement. "Being such a positive person, I trust in this decision and am thankful for the opportunity to play at Norwich City through the end of their season. I am grateful for the coaching staff at Sporting and especially Peter [Vermes] for believing in me and helping me through this process."
Sporting Kansas City will receive two-thirds of the substantial loan fee to use as allocation money, per MLS rules. If Norwich City elect not to acquire Kamara on a full transfer by the end of of the loan deal, then he will rejoin Sporting Kansas City, where he will be available to play immediately for the club.
Norwich, who currently stand in 13th place on the EPL table, went public with their intentions to land Kamara last week. They’ve won two of their last nine matches in all competitions and recently put out bids for Swansea’s Danny Graham and Celtic striker Gary Hooper, but now they’re hopeful that Kamara will be the one to lead them out of the doldrums.
“I'm delighted to bring Kei to the Football Club, one of Major League Soccer’s best players over the last few seasons," said Canaries manager Chris Hughton. “There is no doubt it is a big jump to make into the Premier League, but it is an exciting challenge both for him and us here at the Club to prove his talent.
“Kei also adds some valuable competition upfront alongside the current striking options we have here at the Club.”
Kamara is no stranger to the EPL, having gone on trial with Stoke City in December, a month after SKC were surprisingly eliminated from the MLS postseason in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Our club continues to get a lot of attention throughout Europe," Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said in a statement. "As we do with all of our decisions, we always think about the long-term impact on our organization, as well as the short-term. Ultimately, this opportunity allows us to re-invest back into the club and solidify our core group of players.
"We understand that players are going to be sought after and that players aspire to fulfill personal and professional ambitions," he added. "We want to continue to help them achieve those goals and this helps us accomplish that objective, along with extending his contract. We have a very strong roster and this enables another player to step up."
Kamara made his MLS debut with the Columbus Crew in 2006, but eventually left Columbus and landed with the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo before his fruitful switch to Kansas City midway through the 2009 season. He was one of the league’s most active offensive players last season, logging a league-high 134 shots and finishing in the top 11 in goals scored.
Kamara becomes the second SKC player acquired by an English Premier League club from Sporting Kansas City during the January transfer window. Midfielder Roger Espinoza joined Wigan Athletic earlier this month after five years in Kansas City.