SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake officially entered the Designated Player market on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean the club made a drastic change to its tight-knit group.
Instead, RSL stuck with a player they already know perfectly well, signing star striker and 2010 leading scorer Alvaro Saborio to a new four-year deal after the Costa Rican international enjoyed a breakout season in his first year in the league.
Due to acquisition fees associated with Saborío’s buyout from Swiss club FC Scion, he becomes RSL’s first-ever Designated Player under Major League Soccer’s roster and salary compliance guidelines.
Saborío came to RSL before last season from FC Sion on a one-year loan deal that contained a $1 million buyout agreement, but RSL GM Garth Lagerwey has spent the last several weeks trying to negotiate a more affordable buyout amount.
“First and foremost, I must express the deepest gratitude to Real Salt Lake ownership for stepping up and making the moves necessary to keep this team together,” said Lagerwey, who saw RSL finish with a club-record 56 points in 2010 as runners-up in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race.
[inline_node:319900]“We are delighted that Álvaro has made a long-term commitment to Real Salt Lake, and we hope this signing contributes to our future success,” Lagerwey added. “Our attendance has steadily increased since we moved into Rio Tinto Stadium and that increased fan support is one of the primary reasons we as an organization were able to make this happen.”
Perhaps RSL’s top priority of the offseason was securing the services of Saborío, who was named the MLS Newcomer of the Year following his 12-goal performance this past season. The four-year deal includes a base of two years, with two additional option years.
The team had been negotiating for the past several weeks with Saborío’s agent, Horatio Patanian, who was also helping to facilitate negotiations with FC Sion. The agreement will add Saborío to the core players on the team now under contract for multiple years, including Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Nat Borchers and 2010 Visa Defender of the Year Jamison Olave.
According to Patanian, the negotiations took place in two stages. First, the two sides negotiated on the terms of the contract with Saborío. Patanian indicated that the focus for the 28-year-old player was to get a good deal while he is in the prime of his career, and also provide some stability for his client.
“This was done first, and then RSL and MLS made a good offer [to FC Sion] after some negotiation," Patanian said.
According to the agent, it was that second stage that took many hours of negotiating over the last couple of weeks.
“It was a very difficult deal. It was very, very complex,” Patanian said. “RSL knew that they had to make an investment. They wanted to lower the price, while FC Sion wanted to honor the agreement.”
With the long-term deal now locked up, Real Salt Lake will look forward to getting Saborío back from injury. The Costa Rican striker is currently recovering from knee surgery in November, but Patanian indicated everything looked positive for Saborio’s return.
“By the end of January, he should be able to join the team for training,” Patanian said.