TRANSFER_Alexander Callens

TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Free

The Alexander Callens sweepstakes have ended with the Peruvian international defender signing outside of MLS.

LaLiga side Girona announced Monday they’ve signed the longtime New York City FC standout and 2022 MLS Defender of the Year finalist, putting the 30-year-old back in Spain. Callens was out of contract following the 2022 MLS season and was eligible to sign abroad for free or within MLS (met free agency requirements).

"While we’re sad to see him go, we understand that it was Alex’s desire to test himself in a new league in Europe," NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a release.

"Alex is another example of the strong culture we have here in New York of identifying players and helping them develop and achieve their professional goals. We look forward to closely following Alex’s career and we wish him all the best in Spain."

The move keeps Callens within the City Football Group family – Girona are one of NYCFC’s sister clubs – and reunites him with striker Taty Castellanos, who joined the Spanish outfit on loan last July. They’re currently in 11th place in LaLiga, sitting midtable in a league historically dominated by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

During the last several weeks, Callens was linked to re-signing with NYCFC, joining Atlanta United in free agency and even heading to South America for Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors. Instead, Girona rose to the top of the list.

Callens originally joined NYCFC in 2017 from Spanish side Numancia, amassing 11 goals and two assists in 164 regular-season games for the Cityzens. The left-footed defender is third in all-time appearances (193) for the club, playing mainly at center back as they made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs each year he was in the Bronx.

Callens memorably scored the clinching penalty that brought NYCFC their first piece of silverware, an MLS Cup 2021 title over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. He also scored the opener in NYCFC’s Campeones Cup 2022 victory over Liga MX’s Atlas FC, a 2-0 result at Yankee Stadium last September.

With Callens leaving, NYCFC are down all but three starters from their league championship side from 13-plus months ago. Attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez (to Argentina’s Racing Club) and right back Anton Tinnerholm (to Sweden’s Malmö) are among the key wintertime departures from their longstanding core, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains a free agent.

NYCFC still have veterans Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins as center backs for the 2023 campaign. With several key roster holes to plug, they return to league competition on Feb. 25 when visiting Nashville SC at GEODIS Park (4:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass, FOX).