MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

European transfer deadline: Which MLS players could be on the move?


Tuesday evening (Jan. 31) is transfer deadline day, with most European windows closing.

Quick reminder: Transfer deadlines only impact the club acquiring a player. MLS’s Primary Transfer Window closes on April 24, meaning clubs can acquire players from anywhere until then. That makes tomorrow's deadline all about who could be leaving MLS for an overseas club.

Enough preamble. Let’s dive in.

English Premier League side Nottingham Forest made an offer to sign Brazilian forward Brenner from FC Cincinnati, as first reported, and talks continued as Tuesday night’s deadline got closer.

At the time of writing, a move for Brenner is unlikely due to the distance between the teams – both in the metaphorical sense in terms of negotiations and the literal sense in terms of geography – with less than 24 hours left in the transfer window.

Brenner was very keen on a move. He trained by himself on Monday after a discussion with Cincy's coaching staff, who gave him the green light to do so. Brenner hopes to push a move through, while the coaches thought it’d be best not to have him in the group as a distraction. Brenner didn’t train on Sunday as talks heated up as well.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakout 2022 MLS season with 18 goals and six assists in 29 appearances (2,061 minutes). He is a former Brazilian youth international and was originally acquired in 2021 from São Paulo FC for $13 million, one of the most expensive inbound transfer fees in MLS history.

Italian Serie A side Udinese made an offer for Brenner earlier in January and Eredivisie powerhouse PSV Eindhoven had interest as well.

If no deal is finished before Tuesday's deadline, Cincinnati will revisit a potential transfer in the summer, typically a busier market for clubs in Europe.

LAFC forward Chicho Arango started for Colombia against the USMNT on Saturday and may soon find himself a new club.

Arango wants a new contract after helping guide LAFC to win the MLS Cup/Supporters’ Shield double in 2022.

He was the subject of a bid of around $3 million from Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli Saudi FC a few weeks ago, while LAFC were asking for more than $6.5 million. Interest and talks continue to swirl.

Arango, 27, has 30 goals and seven assists in 3,753 minutes with LAFC after arriving in a transfer from Millonarios FC in the summer of 2021.

Arango’s LAFC teammate José Cifuentes is the subject of interest and talks about a move to Europe as well, with most people (myself included) expecting a transfer to have happened much earlier this winter.

Still, though, Cifuentes remains an LAFC player heading into deadline day.

Cifuentes, 23, experienced a breakout 2022 with 7g/7a in 33 appearances as LAFC became the eighth MLS Cup-Supporters' Shield double winners in league history.

Cifuentes was a highly-rated Ecuador youth international, helping lead his country on a memorable run at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He recently played at the senior World Cup in Qatar, too.

LaLiga giants FC Barcelona are in talks with the LA Galaxy for Mexican right back Julián Araujo, sources tell

Any deal is far from done and the situation remains very fluid. Araujo would serve as cover for the first team and could see minutes with Barcelona B, who are managed by Mexican legend Rafa Márquez (ex-New York Red Bulls).

Barcelona are likely about to allow right back Hector Bellerin to leave for Portugal's Sporting CP, creating a need for depth at right back. Barcelona considered Araujo in the summer as well, when the club allowed USMNT fullback Sergiño Dest to sign with Italy's AC Milan on loan… but they opted for Bellerin instead.

Bellerin played fewer than 500 minutes across all competitions for Barcelona so far this season.

Araujo, 21, already has 100 regular-season appearances (89 starts) for the LA Galaxy. The former US youth international has three caps with the Mexican national team after filing a one-time switch to play for El Tri in October 2021.

After Süper Lig powerhouse Beşiktaş had two bids rejected by the Philadelphia Union for star defensive midfielder José Martinez, talks have cooled, per sources. The Union currently aren’t expecting another bid.

The Turkish transfer window remains open until Feb. 8, so there is less urgency on this deal if Beşiktaş end up reviving talks.

Martinez, 28, has made 68 appearances for the Union since arriving in 2020. The Venezuela international quickly became one of the league’s best defensive midfielders and was an integral part of Philly’s 2020 Supporters’ Shield triumph as well as their run to MLS Cup last year, where they lost after penalty kicks.

If Martinez were to depart, the Union added Richard Odada at the end of the summer window last year as well as Andrés Perea (trade from Orlando City SC) this winter to bolster their midfield options.

Philadelphia star left back Kai Wagner remains the subject of speculation, but surprisingly, no transfer bids. The last club linked with Wagner was Italian Serie A side Bologna, but no bid came. Bologna share an owner (Joey Saputo) with CF Montréal.

Wagner’s current contract expires after the 2023 season. There have been talks about a potential new, long-term deal to keep the German defender in Philadelphia. He had wanted to go back to Europe, and the Union were understanding of that desire and open to a transfer. But no move materialized over the last year.

The 25-year-old fullback set a new league record for assists by a defender with 15 in 2022. He's been integral to the Union’s system and success over the last few years since joining in 2019.

With Martinez and Wagner looking likely to stay, the Union will be one of the league’s preseason favorites for 2023.