KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The details are still a little murky, but Sporting Kansas City may have found a replacement for defender Jimmy Conrad.
Manager Peter Vermes confirmed Tuesday that former Real Madrid, Benfica and Olympiakos defender Júlio César Santos was training with the team with an eye towards a contract.
Vermes said the 32-year-old Brazilian – who also made pit stops in the English Premier League and Mexican first division – would go through preseason with Sporting while the staff evaluated his health and compatibility with the team and the center back decided whether the city and club are a good fit.
“We have an agreement between [Júlio César] and us,” Vermes said. “This is also part of him getting to see Kansas City and how we do things. It’s kind of a trial period for all of us. We’ll make that decision in the next couple weeks.”
Though no contract is in place at this time, Vermes said the two parties had already discussed potential financial parameters enough that a deal would be “pretty close” should both sides agree that the situation was right.
“If he meets all the criteria, then I think it’s a foregone conclusion that we’d want to sign him,” Vermes said. “But for all of us, we need to make sure we are on the same page with that. This is an important signing for us, but also for him because he is still a young guy.”
[inline_node:327150]With 15 professional seasons of experience under his belt in a variety of leagues, Júlio César would certainly bring plenty of experience to the back line and help ease dent caused by the departures of Conrad, Aaron Hohlbein, Jonathan Leathers and Nikos Kounenakis from Sporting’s defensive ranks this offseason.
Vermes said Júlio César has the skills and athleticism to thrive in Major League Soccer if healthy, bringing a combination of skills to the back line along with the tactical knowledge and wherewithal gathered throughout his career.
“Now that he’s 32, he probably has the full package,” Vermes said. “When he was younger, he was probably more the athletic guy. The one thing that he does bring is that he is very good in the air on set pieces. He’s a very good timing guy, but he’s calm on the ball, too, playing out of the back. He reads the game. He’s a complete guy.”
Júlio César last played significant minutes at Turkish club Gaziantepspor, where he made 31 appearances over two seasons. Although his track record as a journeyman could raise flags with some observers, Vermes said his research didn’t indicate any reasons to be apprehensive about the player’s character or resolve.
“He’s won in the different places that he’s been at,” Vermes said. “There are different reasons why guys move around. Sometimes they move around because they haven’t been good, solid citizens there. But if you look at the places he was, he has always played. So there are other reasons, and that’s for him to answer.”
For now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see if Júlio César’s health checks out and both sides can come to a final agreement to bring aboard a player that would fill a large void in Kansas City’s depth chart.