The Serbian midfielder is currently on loan to Chicago from La Liga club Deportivo Alaves. The Fire had an option to permanently acquire the 27-year-old for a previously-negotiated transfer fee, but that option expired on Sunday. It was previously reported that Katai’s loan expired on Sunday, which Alaves had also indicated in their initial announcement of the loan. However, a source clarified to MLSsoccer.com on Monday that his loan has always run through July 31. It was only Chicago’s purchase option that expired on Sunday.
After a slow start to the season, Katai has come on strong over the past couple of months, recording six goals and three assists in his last eight regular season matches, including two goals in the Fire’s 3-2 win against New York City FC on Saturday. He leads Chicago with eight goals and has three assists in 17 regular season appearances this year.
Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic told MLSsoccer.com last week that he wants to keep Katai around through the end of the season and that the Fire are looking at different options to accomplish that. Paunovic said that it’s possible Chicago extend his loan through the end of 2018 or complete a permanent transfer for the player.
According to the MLS Players’ Union, Katai, who told MLSsoccer.com last week that he would like to remain with the Fire, is making $1.14 million in 2018. A source said that the Fire are paying the entirety of his salary and that the club used Discretionary Targeted Allocation Money to buy his salary budget hit under the Designated Player threshold of $504,375.
If Chicago pay Alaves a transfer or loan fee to acquire Katai on a more permanent basis, it’s conceivable that his 2018 budget charge could rise above $1.5 million. If that happens, Chicago wouldn’t be able to use TAM to buy down his salary. He would count as the Fire’s third DP and the club would not be able to sign a third DP in the upcoming summer transfer window.