Portuguese phenom Andre Horta, whom the club officially introduced before Saturday night's Banc of California Stadium clash with Columbus Crew SC, won't be eligible until the Summer Transfer Window opens July 10. Big things are expected then.
“We made it very clear how much we valued Andre and for what he will add to our team,” said general manager John Thorrington, who toiled eight months to secure the 21-year-old midfielder's move from Benfica. “But it also required Andre choosing us. I have said -- and I maintain -- I think this is an unprecedented signing: a player of Andre's age, profile, qualities, pedigree and options coming to MLS.
“We are incredibly excited [that] Andre did choose LAFC ... and even more excited to see what he will bring to our team once the window opens in July.”
Horta, who helped Braga to a fourth-place finish on loan from Benfica this season in Portugal's Primeira Division, joins Uruguayan forward Diego Rossi and Mexican attacker Carlos Vela as an LAFC DP. He's the latest in a lengthening list of talented young players to come to Major League Soccer.
“It's historic to have a player of his caliber at his age come over,” LAFC President Tom Penn told MLSsoccer.com. “We've had a number of South Americans, Central Americans come, but to have a European -- from Portugal, which is fertile ground for the rest of Europe -- is really a feather in John's cap and Bob [Bradley]'s cap to get that deal done.
“What does this do with Carlos and Diego and the rest of our guys? How does it unlock the synergy among those guys. That's what going to be really exciting to see the rest of the season.”
Horta is a box-to-box midfielder who likely will play as a No. 8 for LAFC, but he can play anywhere in midfield.
“I think Andre's qualities as a player, he's an incredibly talented midfielder,” Thorrington said. “He's a modern-day midfielder. He's very active, very mobile, he's technically very good, he's got an eye for goal, he hits a pass. He's a very, very high-quality midfielder who we think fits into how we play and will certainly elevate our game accordingly.”
Horta said he was impressed by LAFC's “effort to bring me into the club” and how Bradley, Thorrington and Co. clearly valued what he could provide the team.
“I think MLS is league that improved the quality with the good players that have come here from Europe,” said Horta, who conducted the news conference in English. “The coach, he passed me the ideas from the club and the way we play; he tells me I'm important here. I think is a good opportunity for me. It is a project different than other teams in the MLS, and I think it is the choice for me.”
Horta has been in Southern California for a week-and-a-half and has developed a feel for what things are like at LAFC. He was delighted by the facilities.
“I think the training facility is not [comparable] with what I have in Portugal,” he said. “I think it's the greatest training facility I [have seen], and the stadium, it's absolutely amazing. ... We have all conditions to make good things. Now it's about the players and is about us to make a good work.”
Horta, who won the league/cup double with Benfica a year ago, arrives with big aims for his first season in America.
“My goal is to do my best to help the team and help the club,” he said. “I'm used to winning in Portugal -- I win titles -- and here is not different. I want to win the cup, win the championship. From here, I want to win everything.”