Anibal Godoy has been in the crosshairs of Nashville SC longer than the club has existed. Well, kind of.
Back in 2015, when Nashville technical director Mike Jacobs was working for Sporting Kansas City, Godoy had just joined the San Jose Earthquakes. His second game in MLS came at Sporting.
With Jacobs in attendance, Godoy led the Quakes to an SKC thrashing, winning 5-0. Godoy even scored the first of his five career MLS goals.
“Anibal was a man among boys," Jacobs told reporters on a media conference call Thursday. "Following him in San Jose and the national team with Panama, he’s been on our radar for some time.”
Fast forward a few years, as Jacobs and his front office aim to build Nashville's inaugural MLS roster for 2020, the group got together and began talking through potential targets. In one exercise, they all were to leave, and individually figure out a group of 11 MLS players that best fit what the club were looking to accomplish.
The next day the brain trust reconvened, with their XIs in hand.
“There was only one player on all four teams: Anibal Godoy," Jacobs said. "He was someone very early on we believed strongly he’d fit into our project. He embodies what Gary [Smith, Nashville's head coach] is looking for in a player and embodied the culture of Nashville.”
On deadline day of the Secondary Transfer Window, Nashville got their man. He didn't come cheap, either, as the expansion side sent $650,000 of General Allocation Money (GAM) to the Quakes for Godoy's services. The Panamanian will remain in San Jose until the end of the season.
“I’m very happy, I want to win everything for Nashville," Godoy said. “It’s a new experience for me and my family. I’ll give everything for Nashville because I know this team paid a lot for me, I feel grateful.”
The price tag is a hefty one.
It's been said that GAM is viewed to be more valuable than TAM at present in MLS, and there has been no straight-up player-for-GAM trade that eclipsed the figure. Part of the package that Atlanta United sent to Portland to acquire Darlington Nagbe included $750,000 GAM but Atlanta also got another player in the deal.
Granular details aside, the bottom line: Nashville are making a significant investment in Godoy.
“The fact that expansion teams have more allocation money than existing clubs, it’s very common to see deals for players acquired for a perceived higher valuation," Jacobs said. “When Cincinnati acquired players like [Kendall] Waston and [Fanendo] Adi, when Atlanta acquired Nagbe and LAFC with Lee Nguyen, each other those clubs spent more money on those moves than we did with Godoy. For us, with the previous moves we made that we describe to be financially shrewd, we were willing to push the envelope to acquire Godoy because we felt we needed to do so.
“The irony is that some early on criticized us for saying we’d spend wisely, thinking that meant we wouldn’t spend," Jacobs added. "Now we’re being questioned for over-spending. The reality is we acquired two premier players in MLS over the last two windows, in David Accam now Anibal Godoy.”
Smith now has the beginnings of a roster, as Godoy joins Accam, Derrick Jones, Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos as the first players on Nashville's inaugural squad for 2020.
"If you look at his style of play, he has the attributes to be more progressive in the opponent’s half of the field," Smith said. "What you see is a strong individual, a big character, someone who plays with personality. But when you dig deeper technically, we found someone who can be a cornerstone of this group.”