CHESTER, Pa. – As recently as last October, Chris Albright was still an MLS player.
Less than a year later, Albright successfully navigated the murky South American soccer waters from his new front-office position with the Philadelphia Union to secure the return of Colombian center back Carlos Valdes.
For that, Albright – who was hired by the Union as assistant technical director in January, then promoted to technical director when John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian were fired in June – was lauded by Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz at Valdes’ (re)-introductory press conference Monday.
“I’m really, really proud of the work that [Albright] did working with the league on this complicated transaction,” Sakiewicz said.
While the Union still owned the rights to Valdes after sending him out on loan stints to Colombia’s Santa Fe and Argentina’s San Lorenzo, getting him back was indeed more complicated than you might expect.
For starters, Albright said the loan with San Lorenzo was set to expire at the end of the 2014 calendar year, meaning the Union had to work with the Argentine club for an earlier release. And Albright then had to guarantee stability for Valdes, which he did by offering a new, long-term contract with a bump in salary (though not at the Designated Player level).
“Obviously there was a lot of back and forth with multiple parties involved when you’re dealing with MLS, San Lorenzo, Carlos and the Union,” Albright said. “There was some stuff to sort through. The loan deal was a bit complex and I think that’s why you saw it take the time that it did. But we wanted to make sure that Carlos was happy in the end with a new deal that rewards him for being the player that he is.”
There were also rumors to contend with over the past few weeks after Valdes didn’t report to San Lorenzo’s camp following his time in Brazil and tweeted that he hadn’t been paid in five months. While not delving into the specifics behind the issue, Sakiewicz called it a “complicated legal matter” and Curtin said it added to the saga of getting the Colombian defender back to Philly.
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“It’s never easy in a situation where a top player coming off the most important tournament our sport has and he’s sought after by a lot of other clubs,” Curtin said. “So it’s never going to be an instant, ‘OK, I’m coming back.’ There’s always a process.”
Thanks in large part to Albright, an accomplished 15-year MLS player who spent his final two seasons as a reserve defender for Philly, the Union saw that process through to the end. And the club has now locked up two World Cup players to long-term deals in the past week, following the signing of Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi last Wednesday.
Sakiewicz appears confident in his first-year technical director, adding that the Union “want more” top players under Albright, who has quickly adapted to his front-office post.
“To be honest with you, I had my mind in this part of the game for the last couple of years, so it’s been an easier sort of transition,” Albright said. “This was a little bit more complicated than I think everyone would have liked, but I guess that’s the best way to experience something.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.