KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Graham Zusi's new deal with Sporting Kansas City doesn't come with a formal Designated Player tag.
But that's how Sporting view the star midfielder/winger and US national team regular – and how they'll pay him, as well.
“I would say, for all intents and purposes, that he really is a DP,” manager Peter Vermes said on Friday during the club's weekly news conference. “The difference is that there are certain monies available, that I have the ability to use within the salary cap, that are what are called 'retention funds' – to be able to retain certain players within your roster. That allows us to bring him under that DP level.”
Zusi's extension, which he signed on Thursday, will keep him under contract with Sporting through 2017.
“It's just a great organization to play for,” he said at Friday's news conference. “From top to bottom, they're demanding the best, whether it's from the players, the staff, coaches, ownership group, stadium – they leave no stone unturned when they want to accomplish something. That's the kind of organization you want to play for.”
Still, Vermes doesn't expect foreign interest in Zusi to abate because of the extension.
“It doesn't send anybody away,” he said. “That goes for any of our players. We're always going to evaluate whatever opportunities come along for any of our players, and frankly there's been a lot of interest in quite a few of our players.”
And Zusi could be a regular in a top European league right now, Vermes said.
“You can talk about the skill, the technique, all that other stuff,” he said. “But his work ethic – his transitional moments in games, defense to offense and offense to defense, the pace at which he goes – there are people who don't even notice it because they think that's what you're supposed to do. But look around the field and look what the other guys are doing. That's not happening. He's special in that respect.”
While he didn't rule out a move overseas someday, Zusi said he's in a good environment that will help him continue to develop both domestically and internationally.
“I don't want to get ahead of myself. I just signed a four-year deal,” he said. “So that's where my head's at now. Who knows? Eventually it could happen. My dream of playing in Europe – I'm not going to go there just to say I'm playing in Europe. I want to be in a spot where I'm getting the best training, the best competition that I can play at.
“I'm not going to go to a league just because of the name of the league,” he went on. “I want to get the most consistent competition that I can, and for me right now that's right here.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.