SALT LAKE CITY – Javier Morales and Real Salt Lake have given each other so much over the years. But the two parties apparently can't provide one other with the ending of his playing career either wanted.
“To leave the club with a game on the field, that is the best part for a soccer player,” Morales told reporters in a press conference held in downtown Salt Lake on Thursday. “Wear your jersey on the field and say goodbye to the fans. That is the best thing that can happen to a soccer player.”
Morales believed his RSL career ended in an office last week, when he was informed his contract option wasn’t being picked up for 2017. Morales said another contract or role or way to stay at the club wasn’t presented to him, which surprised him. If they had, he said, he wouldn’t have called the press conference.
“RSL is still my home,” Morales said, “but to be honest, I announced that I was leaving the club a week ago and since then nobody called me or my agent to say something about it. I never had a chance to talk about something else or a contract, until yesterday I announced my press conference and they called.
“That was a conversation with my agent, and to be honest I didn't want to hear much about that. I didn't want to know.”
RSL general manager Craig Waibel told MLSsoccer.com this week that the club was open to Morales' return, albeit in an altered role. On Thursday the Argentine playmaker sought to clarify his personal position and state of mind.
“People are saying it was my choice and it wasn't,” Morales said. “People are saying it's because you retired. I'm not. People are saying it’s because you're going to another team. I don't have a team right now, I have to play with my son in the backyard.”
He was surprised not just by what happened in his season-ending interview with RSL, but also at what has happened since. He announced he was leaving the club via social media last Thursday.
“After I left that room I felt empty inside, there was a question all the time in my mind, ‘Was it worth being here 10 years, playing for this club and have to go like this?’ and I didn't have the answer,” Morales said. “After I posted on social media a week ago, everything changed because the support and the love that I got from the people was amazing. I never expected something like that – never. That is when everything changed and that question in my mind disappeared. I was sure 100 percent that it was worth it.”
“You will never hear me say a bad word about Javi and everything he has done for the organization,” said RSL general manager Craig Waibel earlier in the day.
“From an organizational standpoint, this is a legend of the club and he should be honored, and we’ll do everything in our power to honor him the right way according to what his wishes are and the next steps for him.”
Morales said it’s too early for him to say if he’s staying in MLS or going abroad to finish the two years he feels he has left.
“Even now I'm leaving, but we have a life here. We belong here. We're almost from Utah,” Morales said. “We have friends that support us, people that support us, that is great. I wish, hope and I think in the future I will come back here as a fan and as a person. I have a lot of good things from this community that they gave to me that I want to give them back.”
Even with that desire, Morales suggested that working out a way to return to RSL for 2017 doesn’t look like a strong possibility.
“The toughest part of this is telling your kids that you're leaving, that they have to leave the school, leave the club, leave their friends of 10 years,” Morales said. “After you go through that, it's tough to come back. To be honest I don't think that's going to happen.”
Morales said he has great memories of his 10 years at RSL: An MLS Cup championship in 2009, a return to MLS Cup in 2013, the CONCACAF Champions League Final in 2011 – and despite what has has transpired, even last Thursday.
“Even if that was sad news for me to say to the people,” Morales said. “What I got back, that's what I'm going to tell my kids when they're old – what happened that day. That's something I'm going to take with me forever.”