UPDATE: The Fire officially announced the move at 1:04 pm ET on Wednesday afternoon. This article was originally published at 12:13 pm ET.
The Chicago Fire have permanently acquired midfielder Aleksandar Katai from La Liga club Alaves, a source confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. The news was first reported earlier Wednesday by a Serbian outlet.
Katai was initially acquired by Chicago this offseason on a loan that was set to expire at the end of July. As part of the transfer, the Fire signed Katai through 2019 with a club option for 2020. The source said that he’ll remain a Targeted Allocation Money player for the remainder of this season before becoming a Designated Player next year. That will allow Chicago to continue to pursue a new, third DP for this season to join current DPs Nemanja Nikolic and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is out of contract after this season.
The transfer fee Chicago paid Alaves for Katai was not known by the source.
According to the MLS Players Association, Katai is making $1.276 million this year. Teams can use TAM to buy down the contracts of players whose salary and acquisition costs are between the maximum budget charge of $504,375 and $1.5 million. Anyone whose salary and acquisition costs exceed $1.5 million count as one of three Designated Players allowed to each club.
After a bit of a slow start, Katai has emerged over the last two months as Chicago’s most dynamic attacker. The 27-year-old Serbian is tied for first on Chicago with eight goals and has three assists in 18 league appearances. Six of his goals and all three of his assists have come in his last nine matches.