Suggesting a single event happened both incredibly fast and yet seemed to drag on for a long time should be two mutually exclusive descriptors, two sentiments that cannot co-exist in the same space. Yet it aptly describes the Bryan Reynolds saga that gripped MLS this winter.
That saga eventually ended with the FC Dallas academy product posing with an AS Roma jersey after a club-record transfer. For a move that seemed to come out of nowhere yet refuse to go away, it was a hectic few months for those involved and trying to follow along.
“This deal was a rollercoaster," FCD technical director Andre Zanotta told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday with a laugh. “In the end, we feel very happy that he’s going to such a great club.”
Those around the club and US youth national team circles have long been bullish on Reynolds' talent and potential. That goes without saying, as Dallas inked him to a new four-year contract just before starting right back and USMNT regular Reggie Cannon was transferred to Boavista. They knew he'd be ready for more minutes and given his age, physical metrics and natural attacking technical ability — he was a winger his entire youth career before switching to fullback — it was no surprise he'd catch the eye of European clubs.
But even they didn't know how quickly "catching the eye" would turn into serious phone calls from Europe's biggest clubs, which would turn into a potential eight-figure transfer for a kid who'd made just 15 MLS starts.
“We didn’t expect it to be that fast," Zanotta admitted. "Just six months earlier we sold Reggie Cannon. We were sure we had the replacement in-house, we didn’t need to bring in any other right back because it was the time for Bryan to step up. I had high expectations for him but I didn’t expect after 15 games, all of a sudden he has all these clubs after him.”
Roma were the first to submit an official offer, as reported by MLSsoccer.com in December. While the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan and plenty of others were interested, a clear top three emerged with Roma, Juventus and Club Brugge.
Brugge were the next to submit an offer, something both FCD and Reynolds' camp were intrigued by. Moving to Brugge would give Reynolds a clearer opportunity to consistent playing time as well as European competition. Dallas were interested in a lucrative sell-on clause in addition to the original fee, though that deal never materialized.
While Dallas were close with Roma to agreeing on finances, negotiations between the Italian club and Reynolds did not go well. Roma were still awaiting their new sporting director, Tiago Pinto, to start work on January 1. Talks stopped for a while, Juventus stepped up their chase.
A deal with Juventus would be complicated, though. Clubs in Italy are limited to how many non-European Union players they can sign each season. Juventus didn't have an open slot, meaning he'd have to go another club until the summer before joining Juventus. Cagliari were the first club reported before it was settled on Benevento to be Reynolds' temporary home, should Juventus seal a deal.
Roma didn't have this roster problem. And, with no deal done elsewhere, Roma found common ground with both Dallas and Reynolds' camp to land the player.
“[When] Tiago started in Roma, who started negotiating with the player again," Zanotta said. "That was the issue. On our side was just small details left. In the end, we felt this was the best for us and Bryan. Roma won the race.”
Reynolds was officially unveiled on Monday, which was deadline day in Europe.
“Bryan is such a great kid and a great talent," Zanotta said. "I’m very happy for him, I’m sure he’ll do well there. It’ll be fun to watch him.”
For the second time in as many transfer windows, Dallas will have to replace a player in the US national team pool at right back. Just like after Cannon left and Reynolds stepped in, they're going to look internally first.
“Eddie Munjoma didn’t have any minutes with the first team, but he played at a very good level with North Texas," Zanotta said. "He’ll have his chances. Ryan Hollingshead has shown he can play as a right back, Bressan has played as a right back. Maybe some other young players we can make work to claim that position. I believe we have options in our group to play there and play well. Let’s see, we might not even need to look in the market for a new right back.”
Zanotta said the transfer doesn't totally alter their offseason plans.
“We made almost all the transfers we might do [this winter]," Zanotta said. "Most of the transfers already happened, we’re happy with who we’ve signed.”
Zanotta is no stranger to these types of deals.
The Brazilian previously worked for storied clubs Gremio and Santos, two clubs at the forefront of player development and selling players to Europe. Dallas are on the track, which is why Zanotta felt so comfortable in joining.
“It makes us proud of where we’re going with FC Dallas," Zanotta said. "All these clubs are watching us, watching our players. It’s really good.”
The Reynolds transfer, following the likes of Reggie Cannon (Boavista) and Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) in recent years as well academy product Weston McKennie starring for Juventus, compounds to have a long-lasting, very positive, impact.
“I worked at Santos and Gremio, those are the top two or three academies in Brazil," Zanotta began to explain. "Neymar on one side, Ronaldinho on the other side to just name one for each. When there is interest in a player from Santos or Gremio who is at the same level of another player at a different team, the buying clubs tend to pay more for the player coming from Santos or Gremio. The Santos and Gremio brand adds more value to the transfer when a club wants to buy a player from those teams.
“I’m starting to feel that at Dallas."
In addition to those already starring in Europe, Dallas have a deep collection of current youth internationals in the academy and first team. The price keeps going up for the next talent.
"Obviously not quite the history of Santos, who have 100 years doing this and Pele coming through the academy in the 1950s," Zanotta said, "but with all [former Dallas] players in Europe, the perception from Europe of players coming from FC Dallas is seen differently. They see a stamp of quality. FC Dallas is creating this strong brand, this seal of quality for players. Clubs are willing to invest more because they know the quality of our academy system, the pathway of players through the first team.”