Larin, Orlando's 22-year-old Canadian goalscorer, was prolific in his three MLS seasons for the Lions, but was public about his ambition to play in Europe, especially as the 2017 wound down. Larin would eventually leave Orlando without permission from the club to train with Turkish club Besiktas, a move that provoked the MLS team's ire.
“I will start asking you guys to understand and respect the fact that it’s going to be the last time we speak about this player. I’ve been in this business for so long – more than 17 years – so I can testify we didn’t overreact to what happened,” Leitao told reporters during the team’s media day on Monday. “You don’t see that happen very often this kind of situation for the same reason. For this situation to happen, you need to have one side, a player that doesn’t respect the club, doesn’t respect his contract, doesn’t care about the group, and this was exactly what we saw from Cyle.”
Leitao said that when Larin left to train with Besiktas before the transfer was made, Orlando had to explain to the Turkish club that the striker was still under contract and negotiations needed to occur.
“At this moment, we had a conversation,” the Orlando City CEO continued. “What’s the point to force a player like that with that character, with that personality, a troublemaker [to stay]? What’s the point of bringing a player like that back to the club? We decided it was better to do it and do it fast in order to put our efforts and focus on the players we have.”
Orlando City and Besiktas eventually came to an agreement for Larin where the Lions will receive an estimated $2.3 million, according to Turkish media outlets. For Leitao, he thinks it was a good deal to finally close the ordeal.
“We engaged in negotiations with the Turkish club, and it ended in my opinion, with a good result for the club. So that’s what exactly what happened,” Leitao said. “There was no overreaction from the club because it’s not something that happens every day, and the reason is because players are becoming much more professional, and that’s not what happened with that gentleman when he left this club.”
Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis also chimed in regarding the Larin transfer drama, saying a big factor in the offseason turnover the club experienced was because of how players acted off the field.
“From my point of view, what we saw last year, with the things happening off the field, was alarming and we weren’t happy about it,” Kreis said. “And we tried to address that the best way we know how, which is disciplinary this season, but also the decisions that were made this offseason.
“We felt a strong desire to have better professionals here that were more serious about what they were doing and are like-minded like with us,” the head coach added. “We want guys that want to compete, we want guys that want to win, we want guys that feel the pain when we don’t win — because we feel that.”