If anybody was due for a contract extension heading into the 2023 Major League Soccer season, it was Sebastián Driussi.
In his first year and a half at Austin FC, the Argentine midfielder scored 30 goals and provided 12 assists across 54 total MLS appearances – including an astounding 22g/7a during the club's 2022 campaign as they reached the Western Conference Final in their second year of existence.
On Tuesday, Austin rewarded Driussi by extending the 27-year-old through the 2025 season with an option for 2026.
By doing so, the club secured their talisman for the long term while also warding off suitors from around the world. One, in particular, was rumored to be English Premier League side Leeds United, home to MLS homegrown exports Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls) and Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), plus fellow USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie (FC Dallas).
Both Driussi and ATX head coach Josh Wolff admitted as much during their joint press conference announcing the Designated Player's new deal.
"As you know, there was a very important offer from a club in England," the 2022 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire selection and 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalist said. "But, well, my head was always in Austin."
Fully aware of their player's expressed desire to stay, the Verde & Black weren't about to take any chances when it came to Driussi.
"There was plenty of interest for Sebastián around the world in many different leagues," Wolff acknowledged. "I think he was quite honest with us [that] this is where he wanted to be. Ownership recognized that; Anthony Precourt made it a real emphasis in the offseason to get this contract done and get the commitment from the club to him but also Sebastián's commitment to us."
Legend in the making?
For Wolff, the money spent to keep Driussi in Austin was an investment for the future, given the stakes involved for both club and player.
"I think our league has grown now that we are a selling league," the third-year coach said. "We are developing talent, our own talent. We're bringing talent in and developing it and selling it. Those are things that we should look forward to as an organization as well.
"But in the end, it's a decision that Sebastián has and he has full control of that. So I think his intentions were quite clear to us; his ambitions are with Austin FC. What the future holds beyond Austin FC, when that happens, if it ever happens? We will see."
It's also a logical move, considering how Driussi is in the prime of his career and has yet to reach his full potential, according to Wolff.
"He can set himself apart from any other great player that this league's had, he really can," the manager stated.
"He's 18 months into his MLS tenure, career," Wolff later said of the River Plate academy product. "There have been many great players, many great Argentineans. Landon Donovan is who the MVP is named after and I think there are many great MVP winners. Sebastián hasn't won one yet, but I know he is passionate about putting himself in a position to win an MVP."
All about trophies
With nearly a decade of experience in his native Argentina and Europe, Driussi knows well just what distinguishes legends from regular stars.
"What’s needed for this year? Austin raising a trophy," said Driussi, who originally signed in July 2021 from Russian Premier League side Zenit Saint Petersburg. "It would be something very special for me, for all the fans."
And with Austin taking part in multiple competitions in 2023 – MLS, Concacaf Champions League, Leagues Cup and US Open Cup – the time is now for Driussi to start entering legendary status.
"We have a lot of competitions ahead of us," he said. "We know it’s difficult but not impossible."