Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon had been after midfielder Oriol Rosell for more than a year and a half.
On Tuesday, defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City finally agreed on a move, resulting in the highest transfer fee in club history, according to SKC chief executive Robb Heineman. Although he wouldn't divulge specifics, some reports have quoted the figure to be as high as $2 million.
"The first couple of times they inquired, it wasn't appropriate from a timing perspective," Heineman told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "And the more we talked to Uri, his desire to head back to Europe was increasing and the opportunity to play in the [UEFA] Champions League was attractive to him. The timing worked out and based on where we are at, it made sense for us as well."
The club is now focused on pouring the funds earned from the transfer – SKC will receive two-thirds of the fee as well as a percentage of any future Rosell transfers – back into the squad: retaining current players and potentially acquiring new ones, including a player based overseas with whom SKC have entered into a "verbal agreement," according to Heineman.
"We've got a good pipeline of players we feel can come in and if that doesn't happen, we feel the guys on the roster can get the job done," Heineman stated. "Peter [Vermes, Sporting KC manager] has a great way to plug guys in, and that's what we feel is going to happen here. Young guys are going to have the opportunity to move up, and we'll have the space to move other guys in."
Some might question the timing of the Rosell transfer given the rash of injuries and international call-ups that have decimated the defending champs in recent weeks. But Heineman says that delaying the transfer to late summer wasn't going to work for Sporting Lisbon or Sporting Kansas City.
"And candidly, if a player mentally has moved on, he's physically moved on as well. I don't think that's a situation we want to be in," he said.
And even after losing Roger Espinoza (free transfer to Wigan Athletic in 2012), Kei Kamara (transfer to Middlesbrough in 2013) and now Rosell – three key starters over three consecutive years – SKC isn't concerned about being labeled a feeder club.
"We've done a number of these over last few years, and we have a reputation for developing players and allowing them opportunities to take a step to a different league – and it's a good one to have," Heineman said. "We're confident in our ability to develop talent.
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"Here's a kid [Rosell] who came from Barcelona B [reserve team] and had a lot of potential," Heineman continued. "He wasn't at this level and Peter [Vermes] has done a great job to get him to this level and open up the opportunity for us, which is one we're going to be able to build on. We're going to keep looking at places like Barcelona B, and other clubs like that."
And even after losing a player who started 31 of 34 matches during last year's championship season, Sporting Kansas City are not about to lower the bar on their expectations for 2014.
"Our expectations are always to finish at the top of the league, whether or not we make transactions during open [transfer] windows," Heineman said. "We're going to have these [player moves] any season and my perspective hasn't changed: We're going to win MLS Cup. … This transfer will allow us to do some things in the back half of the season that will help make that a reality."