The club announced Friday that they had signed Argentine defender Milton Valenzuela on loan from Newell’s Old Boys with an option to make the deal permanent after 2018.
With a loan deal, an option to buy, TAM movement and player acquisition all at play, technical director and head coach Gregg Berhalter called the move “a little bit complicated,” but said it was “a good deal from all sides.”
“We actually were able to utilize all of our money better by making him a Young DP,” he said in a conference call Friday.
Berhalter said Columbus has been tracking Valenzuela for four or five months, saw him play multiple times and met with him for an “extended period” before starting negotiations in November.
He said Valenzuela was “at the top of the list” of left backs he hoped to sign, and said the key now will be to develop him into the dual threat that Columbus fullbacks are required to be.
“I see Milton as, for his age, a very focused defensive player, a very good one-on-one defender and very concentrated on that defensive aspect,” Berhalter said. “What we haven’t seen, so far, is the really aggressive attacking play just because with his team, that wasn’t his style of play.”
Berhalter called Valenzuela a “young player with a lot of potential,” and said he’s happy to add the left back’s name to a long list of young acquisitions full of potential this MLS offseason.
“I like the fact that we’re working with young players; I like the fact that these players have resale value,” Berhalter said. “I truly believe that our league needs to be both an import and an export league. I think that’s healthy for the balance of our economic system.
“And with younger players, you have that potential. We would like nothing more than for Milton to have a successful career in MLS and perhaps have suitors in higher leagues that come after him because of his quality.”
And for Berhalter, acquiring players like Valenzuela isn’t optional in MLS anymore.
“If we’re not doing that, we’re in trouble, because everyone else in the league is,” he said.
Berhalter said the combination of the “international exposure” MLS has and the way Columbus play soccer meant that convincing Valenzuela to come to the league wasn’t too difficult.
“Both of those things were very appealing to him,” Berhalter said. “He had watched us play; he had a good understanding of how we want to play. And [MLS] is on all the time in Argentina. He got to see games and exposure and notoriety the league is getting. He was very excited about making that step.”