MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Chicago Fire complete club-record transfer of Jhon Durán to Aston Villa



UPDATE (Jan. 17) – Chicago Fire FC have formally reached a club-record transfer fee with Aston Villa for striker Jhon Durán, the club announced Tuesday.

A source says the 19-year-old Colombian leaves for up to $22 million ($18 million initially + $4 million in add-ons), one of the highest fees in MLS history. The deal remains subject to completing a medical, agreeing to personal terms and obtaining a work permit – though hurdles aren’t expected at the English Premier League side.

“We’re very pleased to have reached an agreement with Aston Villa for the transfer of Jhon Durán,” sporting director Georg Heitz said in a release. “When we originally scouted Jhon as a 16-year-old, we knew that he had the potential to become one of the top young strikers in the world. 

“Jhon’s rapid development is a testament to his hard work and the investment from our coaching staff and many individuals throughout the club. Additionally, this transfer is another example of the benefits of the MLS U22 Initiative, which was a key factor in our ability to sign Jhon two years ago.”

Durán scored a team-high eight goals last season and is on a rising trajectory with Colombia’s national team.

“From the moment I signed with the Chicago Fire, everyone welcomed me with open arms,” said Durán. “I’m grateful to my teammates, coaches, club staff, and the fans for all the support I received this past year. The Fire and the city of Chicago will always have a special place in my heart.”

ORIGINAL (Jan. 16) – Aston Villa have reached a transfer agreement for Colombia international forward Jhon Durán from Chicago Fire FC, the English Premier League club announced Monday.

The deal is still subject to agreeing on personal terms with Durán, as well as a medical and work visa.

A source tells the deal is worth up to $22 million ($18 million up front, plus another $4 million in add-ons). The Fire will retain a sell-on percentage as well. The deal could be the second-biggest outbound transfer in MLS history.

Durán, who just turned 19 in December, tallied eight goals and three assists over 1,363 minutes (27 appearances; 14 starts) during his lone MLS season for the Fire. The center forward already has three appearances for the senior Colombian national team and is currently with their U-20 side at the South American U-20 Championship this month.

The Fire initially acquired Durán from Colombian club Envigado FC for up to $2.5 million in 2021, a deal that wouldn't go through until the winter of 2022 after Durán turned 18. The forward had nine goals and four assists for Envigado. He was named to _The Guardian_'s Next Generation 2020 list, highlighting the best talents around the globe in his age group.

MLS-wide context (and Chicago's windfall)

Chicago officially transferred wonderkid goalkeeper Gaga Slonina to Chelsea this month, in a deal worth up to $15 million, making this winter window the most lucrative outbound transfer period for one club in MLS history. Chicago also received 10% of CF Montréal's deal to send former Fire homegrown attacker Djordje Mihailovic to Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar. The Fire also sent Poland international Przemysław Frankowski to Ligue 1 club RC Lens in 2021.

Atlanta United's deal to send Miguel Almirón to Newcastle for $26 million remains the MLS record for the most expensive outbound transfer, while the transfer of Vancouver Whitecaps FC homegrown superstar Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich was worth up to $22 million – the same fee as Durán's.

To round out the top five: Ricardo Pepi was transferred from FC Dallas to German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg for $20 million last winter, while Pity Martinez went from Atlanta to Saudi Arabia's Al-Nassr for $18 million in 2020.

Top 5: Most expensive outgoing transfers in MLS history
1. Miguel Almirón
$26 million
Atlanta United to Newcastle United (EPL)
Jan. 31, 2019
T-2. Alphonso Davies
$22 million
Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
July 25, 2018
T-2. Jhon Durán
$22 million (up to)
Chicago Fire to Aston Villa (EPL)
Jan. 16, 2023
4. Ricardo Pepi
$20 million
FC Dallas to FC Augsburg (Bundesliga)
Jan. 3, 2022
5. Pity Martinez
$18 million
Atlanta United to Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia)
Sept. 7, 2020

What's next?

The Fire remain active in the transfer market, aiming to add a Designated Player center forward as well as another U22 Initiative signing to replace Durán. Their lead remaining No. 9 option is Kacper Przybyłko, who was acquired last winter in a trade with the Philadelphia Union but struggled to replicate his goalscorer's touch.

Chicago's current DPs are Mexican winger Jairo Torres and Swiss international attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who last month joined legends Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as players to score in each of the last three FIFA Men’s World Cups. They also have budding homegrown star Brian Gutiérrez and Chicago native Chris Mueller as key attackers.

Chicago are entering their second season under head coach Ezra Hendrickson, eyeing their first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs trip since 2017. They’ll start their new season on Matchday 2 when hosting New York City FC (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Aston Villa are currently 11th in the Premier League table, reinvigorated by manager Unai Emery. Their main out-and-out strikers are Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings.