KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Peter Vermes knew a phone call was coming. He just expected to hear that Kei Kamara was staying in England, not returning to Sporting Kansas City.
"I thought he was gone," Sporting's manager and technical director said during a news conference on Monday, two days after struggling Premier League side Norwich City FC announced they would not exercise their buy option on Kamara when his loan there expired.
"Honestly, I thought he was gone. I thought they were going to pick him up. It's interesting that they didn't. We're the ones who are the fortunate ones now."
The Sierra Leone winger's loan deal ran out on Saturday, after the Canaries' 2-1 loss to Aston Villa left them just three points clear of the relegation zone with two matches to go. Shortly after that, the club tweeted that Kamara would return to Kansas City, after scoring one goal in 11 Premier League appearances.
"I went over there just to prove myself, live my dream and show that I can play," he said during Monday's news conference. "After a few games went by and I was doing well, I was really happy about the situation. But at the same time, I knew that whatever happened, it was going to be a win-win."
And if Kamara was disappointed by Norwich's decision, he didn't show it upon his return. He was all smiles while talking to reporters, and later sent out a Twitter invitation to buy all of his fans dinner on Monday evening.
"I'm sitting here, and I can say that I'm home and be happy about it," he said. "I'm not surprised that it didn't happen. [Norwich] is not safe, and if they had picked up my option and been relegated, I could have been, 'Oh, maybe it's better for me to pick up and go back home.'"
Kamara returned to Kansas City on Sunday, with a physical scheduled for Monday afternoon and his first full training session set for Tuesday. After that, Vermes will decide whether to use him — and for how long — in Wednesday's home match against Seattle (8:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
"It's not like he hasn't been playing," Vermes said. "He's been playing week after week. It's not like he's completely out of shape or something."
Vermes has acknowledged other foreign clubs' interest in Kamara, without discussing which clubs have reached out to MLS about a possible deal, and Kamara did not rule out a return overseas if the right opportunity comes up.
But if it doesn't, he's fine with that, too.
"I said it before I went over there: It was a dream to go overseas and play," he said. "But if it never happened, I wouldn't have regretted it. My dream was always that I wanted to play pro soccer, I'm playing professional soccer in America, in the top league in America, so I would never have regretted anything.
"No matter what happens in my career," he added, "this is definitely a place where I can see myself for years and years."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.