Transfer Tracker

Columbus Crew transfer Lucas Zelarayán to Saudi Pro League 

Lucas Zelarayan transfer - CLB


Lucas Zelarayán, one of Major League Soccer's premier playmakers, has been transferred from the Columbus Crew to Al Fateh of the Saudi Pro League for an undisclosed fee.

Zelarayán's impact

The deal, announced Monday, ends a three-and-a-half-year stay for Zelarayán in Columbus after joining in December 2019 from Liga MX side Tigres UANL. He ultimately tallied 38 goals and 30 assists in 97 regular-season matches for the Crew, developing a reputation as a free-kick specialist and scoring several audacious long-range strikes.

Zelarayán, 31, helped bring two titles to Columbus, lifting both MLS Cup in 2020 and Campeones Cup in 2021. The Argentina-born Armenian international was named MLS Cup MVP and departs as a two-time MLS All-Star (2021, '23).

"We greatly appreciate everything Lucas has done for the Crew, including his efforts to help us win the MLS Cup, the many memorable moments and goals, and his dedication to the club and our supporters,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a release.

"When we signed Lucas, we knew he would make an immediate impact on our team, our club and our city, and we thank him for being a key contributor to the club’s recent success and helping launch this new era of the Crew."

Looking ahead

Zelarayan's exit opens a Designated Player spot for the Crew; the club's other two DPs are striker Cucho Hernández and midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Should Columbus pursue a quick replacement, the MLS Secondary Transfer Window remains open through Aug. 2 and free agents can be signed until the MLS Roster Freeze Date on Sept. 15.

With a team-leading 17 goal contributions (10g/7a) this season, Zelarayán was one of the driving forces behind the Crew's rapid turnaround under former CF Montréal head coach Wilfried Nancy. Columbus, with a league-leading 45 goals scored, are sixth in the Eastern Conference table at the Leagues Cup break.

The most direct Zelarayán replacement on Columbus' roster may be midfielder Alexandru Matan, who's enjoyed a breakout year. Earlier this transfer window, the club also added midfielder Julian Gressel in a trade with Vancouver Whitecaps FC to bolster their chance-creation options.

"This transfer is beneficial for both the Crew and the player, and it provides us with additional resources and opportunities as we approach the close of the secondary window and plan for the future as we look to remain consistently competitive," said Bezbatchenko. "We are confident in our club’s leadership, direction and personnel as we continually strive to bring trophies to Columbus."

When Columbus initially acquired Zelarayán, they spent a then-club-record fee that reportedly approached $8 million. That was then broken last summer when Hernández arrived from English side Watford FC for a reported $10+ million.

Al Fateh, home to former LAFC midfielder Cristian Tello, finished sixth in the 2022-23 Saudi season. They are separate from the four clubs seeing a massive influx of spending via the Public Investment Fund, which helped fuel global stars like Karim Benzema, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino and more heading to the Middle East this winter.