ORLANDO, Fla. – If Portuguese giants Benfica have targeted Orlando City SC’s Cyle Larin, that will come as news to both the club and the player.
That was the word from the team’s training session on Thursday, where reports of Benfica’s apparent transfer window interest in the Canadian striker were shrugged off with a simple “not happening.”
Orlando City does have an existing partnership in place with Benfica, but it is highly doubtful the Lions would ship their top-line talent to Portugal, especially at such a crucial stage in the season. And a team front office source was quick to pour cold water on the idea, insisting it was nothing more than typical summer transfer window rumor chatter.
“There has certainly been no contact from Benfica about this, and the club has absolutely no interest in selling at this time,” the source insisted.
While it wouldn’t be uncommon for the player to be the last to know in a situation founded on media stories from across the Atlantic, Larin himself was equal parts puzzled and flattered by the suggestion of a move to Portugal.
“I just saw it online myself yesterday,” he said. “Of course it’s always nice to be associated with clubs like that, because Benfica are a top team. I do leave things like this up to my agent, but, as far as I know, there has been no contact at all.”
Larin – the 2015 Rookie of the Year – has bagged 26 goals in 45 appearances for Orlando, including nine in 18 games (16 starts) this year. He also has four goals in 17 outings with the Canadian national team.
The 21-year-old has quickly become a huge part of the Lions’ offensive makeup, and it would be highly unusual if they be looking to cash in on their top scorer at such a crucial juncture, especially with new head coach Jason Kreis only installed on Wednesday.
Kreis and team president Phil Rawlins were both on the sidelines at training on Thursday, and Rawlins has made it clear the new coach will have a major say in all future personnel decisions, alongside himself and assistant general manager Niki Budalic.
“That is very much the case,” Rawlins insisted. “We have a small soccer operations committee, which is Jason, Niki and myself, and we will be taking all decisions on personnel and everything else of that nature.
“Jason will have full rein on personnel matters when he is working alongside Niki and myself to take things where they need to go.”
The club has admitted in the past it would be hard to hold on to Larin if he keeps up his scoring pace and continues to develop as a striker, and his youth team training experiences in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have already marked him out as someone who features on the radar of European scouts.