MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Jurgen Locadia on FC Cincinnati future: "Whatever happens, happens"

FC Cincinnati have been one of the teams dominating headlines this winter.

The club have been aggressive in their pursuit of improvements, acquiring Brazilian youth international forward Brenner from Sao Paulo for a reported $13 million up front (with incentives for more), making the 21-year-old one of the most expensive signings in league history. They supplemented that signing by adding former D.C. United star Luciano Acosta from Liga MX side Atlas, just a year after the Argentine No. 10 left the league.

All the while reports linked last season’s key acquisition, Dutch forward Jurgen Locadia, with a move away from the club, either before preseason or when his loan expires in the summer. Locadia, though, is still with the club. And, speaking with the media on Friday for the first time since their last-place 2020 campaign came to a close, explained that he is firmly focused on the present.

“I saw the rumors, I think everybody saw the rumors about me leaving the club,” Locadia said. “All I can do is focus on Cincinnati. Whatever happens in the future, happens. You know?”

Locadia’s loan from Brighton & Hove Albion expires at the end of June, putting him in a similar position as last season. He was acquired ahead of the 2020 season on a six-month loan with a purchase option before the two clubs agreed to an extension as the COVID-19 pandemic paused professional soccer around the globe. The only difference now is the focus has been on a disappointing debut campaign rather than one of universal hope surrounding an uber-talented in-prime striker.  

Some of the speculation this winter was brought on by the fact that Cincinnati shattered their club-record transfer fee to sign Brenner, a highly-rated center forward joining a team with a preferred system of one striker. Many deduced the writing was on the wall for Locadia’s imminent departure.

Not entirely.

Throughout his career, Locadia has been equally adept as a left winger as he has a center forward, able to use his pace and cut in on his preferred right foot, playing more as a wide forward than a traditional winger. Head coach Jaap Stam and GM Gerard Nijkamp have mentioned that often this winter.

That’s how the club lined up in their most recent preseason game to great effect, with Brenner through the center and fellow new signing Luciano Acosta as an attacking midfielder.

“We created a lot of chances, Acosta played as a No. 10,” Locadia said. “We had a good understanding, it was a good game. Me playing on the left isn’t new, I played in Holland on the wing. It’s fun to play there. I feel good.”

Added head coach Jaap Stam: “He played previously in Holland in the majority of time on the left, I knew that as well. In the game he played together with Brenner and Acosta … they’ve been doing well. There’s a lot of movement and creativity. In that game it worked out well, but we still have a long way to go.”

As has been well advertised, Locadia struggled in his debut season in MLS with just one regular season goal in 17 appearances. Perhaps with more talent around him, 2021 will be different.

He had only positive things to say about new teammates Brenner and Acosta thus far, noting that the former is a great finisher with both feet and a complete player, while the latter is a modern No. 10 with great skill and vision. Maybe all three Designated Players get the best out of each other.

Locadia was once thought of as the Netherland’s hottest forward prospect and made a $20 million transfer to the Premier League just a few seasons ago.

The original purchase option as part of his loan agreement was set at $10 million, which would make him among the league’s most expensive players. Details were not released by either club of the new loan agreement and both player and fans alike will have to wait and see what the future holds. 

“I’m not thinking about it, whatever happens in the future happens in the future,” Locadia said. “The contract stops in the summer. To make a decision at that time depends on what Cincy wants and what I want. At the end of the day, a decision will be made. For now I feel good, but God knows what will happen.”