A pair of Spanish players signed this winter with Targeted Allocation Money may soon be on their way out of MLS.
Sources have told MLSsoccer.com that Real Salt Lake are close to offloading striker Alfredo Ortuño to Spanish second-division club Albacete and that Toronto FC are working on a deal to send midfielder Ager Aketxe back to fellow La Liga 2 side Cadiz.
It was reported on Monday by Spanish outlet Marca that Aketxe is set to return to Spanish second-division club Cadiz on loan with an option to purchase. Reports emerged on Tuesday linking Ortuño with Albacete.
Neither player has come close to living up to expectations in MLS, combining for zero goals and one assist in just 14 regular season appearances. Both RSL and TFC would be able to free up a significant amount of budget space and TAM if they’re able to deal away either player.
Signed in January, Ortuño has barely seen the field for the Claret and Cobalt. The highest-paid player on RSL’s roster with a base salary of $990,000 per the MLS Players Association, he’s recorded zero goals or assists in just 119 minutes across three league appearances. He hasn’t featured in an MLS match since making a substitute appearance in a 4-0 loss at New York City FC on April 11 and hasn’t made the 18 in regular season action since April 22. If moved, a source said he'd most likely end up back in Spain.
RSL did not pay a transfer fee to acquire Ortuño, who was a free agent when he joined the club. If they can move him, it’d mark the second time in 2018 that Salt Lake has offloaded a highly-paid striker. The club waived Designated Player forward Yura Movsisyan in March and subsequently loaned him to Swedish club Djurgarden later that month. They’re still paying a portion of his 2018 salary, though he doesn’t count towards their roster budget.
Aketxe, 24, signed with TFC in February. He terminated his deal with La Liga club Athletic Bilbao a week before joining Toronto, allowing the club to sign him without paying a fee. Though he’s appeared in 11 regular season matches and made nine starts this year, the attacking midfielder has never gotten much run with TFC’s first-choice team. The bulk of his MLS appearances came early in the season when Toronto were prioritizing their run to the Concacaf Champions League final. He didn’t start any matches in the CCL.
While it was reported that Cadiz are set to sign him, the source cautioned that a deal to send Aketxe back to Spain is not yet done. According to the MLS Players Association, he has a 2018 base salary of $1.19 million. He has one assist and no goals for Toronto and didn’t travel to their 2-2 draw at Sporting KC on Saturday.
Coincidentally, Aketxe and Ortuño both spent the second half of 2017 with Cadiz, helping the club earn a spot in La Liga 2’s promotion playoffs.