LEHI, Utah – Alvaro Saborio has proven himself a worthy contributor for Real Salt Lake this season, with 10 goals in league play to go along with his four assists and another six tallies in five CONCACAF Champions League matches.
“Sabo” recently made RSL fans happy when he told MLSsoccer.com that he wanted to make his loan spell with the club permanent and had instructed his agent, Horacio Patanian, to try to work out an agreement that would keep him in his newfound Rocky Mountain home.
“Everything is working very well for Sabo,” Patanian told MLSsoccer.com. “He is enjoying life and is regaining his best form.”
The recipe for a smooth sailing negotiation is there: The player is happy with his team, and the team is happy with its player. But there is potential for some choppy waters as this dialogue goes forward.
[inline_node:314724]Swiss club FC Sion own Saborío’s contract through June 2011. They have undoubtedly been receiving reports of their player’s success, and have heard about big deals signed by players such as Rafa Márquez and Thierry Henry.
It’s unknown what Sion’s expectations are over a transfer price, but Saborío will become a free transfer in a little more than eight months if the club does nothing. That might be enough to mitigate any transfer-fee inflation.
There is already a buyout clause in Saborío's loan agreement which could be exercised by Real Salt Lake. However, it’s common for clubs to set buyout prices high and then renegotiate at the end of the loan deal.
“The thing is we’ve already got a buyout in place,” RSL GM Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com, “so if we exercise the buyout there’s no discussion, the deal’s already done.”
However, Lagerwey continued: “I suspect we’re going to be better off restructuring that.”
Patanian admits that this would likely be the key point to deal with in getting a deal done, but pointed out that “Álvaro’s performances have increased his price.”
Lagerwey agrees … sort of.
“If Sabo stays, he’s going to get a raise over what he got this year, for sure,” he said. “In that sense, [Patanian’s] absolutely correct – the price is going up.”
[inline_node:313229]“Sabo has done well for us. I think he’s the best forward we’ve ever had,” said the RSL boss, who was also quick to point out that Saborío has not yet reached Robbie Findley’s goal total (12) from a year ago.
The other potential sticking point could be the issue of Designated Player status.
Patanian admits that Saborío’s salary would likely not be at the level of a DP, but transfer fees count against a team’s salary cap as well. The combination may push the Costa Rican into that elite class.
It would be a psychological hurdle for this team to take on a DP at this point in time.
“You’ve heard this ad nauseum from us, ‘The team is the star,’” Lagerwey said, “and we’ve structured the salary cap the same way. We don’t have any ridiculous outliers from a salary perspective.”
“We are optimistic that we can structure a deal that would avoid that,” Lagerwey said of the specter of striking a deal that could trigger DP status, “but if we can do that or not remains to be seen.”
Saborío’s agent pointed out that his client is “only 28 and he still has several good years remaining.” He’s looking for at least a two- to three-year agreement, but that’s unlikely to be a sticking point for a club has already tied up several key players to four-year deals.
“Everything has worked well with Garth and Jason [Kreis],” Patanian said. “We are planning to meet up face-to-face to discuss Álvaro’s situation and the possibilities.”
That meeting may take place in Utah if Patanian decides to come for a home playoff match, possibly in early November. However, Lagerwey warned that this is not a process that can be rushed.
“It’s important to not be doing this stuff while we’re fighting for a championship," he said. "The approach is going to be to have some conversations and see if they get anywhere, and if they do, great. And if not we probably shut it down and finish it once the season is over.”