Jose Cifuentes LAFC

Ecuador international midfielder Jose Cifuentes, after most major European transfer windows closed Sept. 1, remains with LAFC for their Supporters’ Shield push and eventual MLS Cup pursuit (first team to clinch playoffs in 2022).

But there was reportedly considerable interest from abroad in the 23-year-old this summer, including from English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion. And when hearing LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington talk about Cifuentes, it’s easy to see why.

“What I'll speak to about Cifu is I think if he's not the most talented midfielder in the league, he's up there,” Thorrington said. “I think he has absolutely everything he needs to succeed.

“ … I'm not surprised to receive and hear of interest from high-level clubs in Europe. We, as I say, evaluate these opportunities on a case-by-case basis and we will cross that bridge when the appropriate opportunity comes.”

That opportunity, as reported by MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert, is expected to regain steam in the winter after Ecuador competes at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Cifuentes, alongside club teammates Diego Palacios and Sebastian Mendez, is vying to make La Tri’s roster and compete in Group A.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo echoed the potential Cifuentes has, having posted seven goals and six assists in 27 games (26 starts) so far this year.

“The sky's the limit with Cifu,” Cherundolo stated. “As John said, he's one of the most talented players in the league, midfielders in the league. I would second that. He's in control of his own destiny. It can be a very exciting time for him moving forward. He knows what we expect of him and he's been able to produce those performances quite frequently this year.”

Should LAFC sell Cifuentes in the winter, he’d be their latest youth South American export after these past moves: Colombian midfielder Eduard Atuesta to Palmeiras (Brazil) in 2021 and Uruguayan wingers Diego Rossi (to Turkey’s Fenerbahçe) and Brian Rodriguez (to Mexico’s Club America) the past two summers. That’s all part of the Black & Gold’s recruitment model, signing talented players from that mold with an eye toward their potential moves abroad.

Cifuentes, who leads MLS in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric (4.37), could be the next in line. He originally joined the club in 2020, signing from América de Quito in his native Ecuador.

“I think it's an excellent, excellent season for Cifu, especially someone his age who's showed maturity, which I think is the most important [part] for a midfielder at that age, is to play well consistently and not just have a great game and a poor and a great and a poor,” Cherundolo said. “So I think we've seen a nice step in maturity in his game this year. He's not doing anything different than he did last year, but I think there's a little more maturity there.