Rodriguez wouldn’t specify whether either target would be a Designated Player, if they would need to be signed with Targeted Allocation Money or if they’d count for less than the maximum budget charge of $504,375, only saying that, if signed, the players would mark “significant investments.”
“We currently have two standing offers made for two different players in Europe, one of whom is what we would classify and characterize as a No. 10,” said Rodriguez. “One way or the other, we expect resolution on those offers this week. I can’t lay odds at this point; we have felt good in the past and things haven’t happened, we’ve felt skeptical in the past and things have happened.”
Rodriguez has said repeatedly this year that Chicago, who recently traded for Raheem Edwards and Nicolas Hasler, are in the market for attacking pieces. They signed midfielder Aleksandar Katai on loan from La Liga club Alaves in February and permanently acquired him earlier this month through 2019. The Fire are using TAM to buy down Katai’s contract for the remainder of the year, but a source told MLSsoccer.com at the time of his permanent signing that he will be a Designated Player in 2019.
The Fire currently have two DPs on their roster in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, with Schweinsteiger coming out of contract at the end of the year. Rodriguez said that the German midfielder, who will turn 34 next week, has indicated to the club that he would like to return in 2019. The Fire would like to bring him back, with Rodriguez expecting to open talks before the end of the season.
“Bastian has indicated he’d like to return. For sure, he’ll have other offers. We would like for him to return,” said Rodriguez. “That’s a little bit different than last year, because last year we had said let’s get through the whole season [before making a decision on whether to bring Schweinsteiger back], but I think both parties feel really good and when the time is right I’ll speak with his representative. I generally don’t like to speak to a player about it in-season, my view is that tends to be a distraction, but I’ll speak to his representative and see if we can agree and go forward together again for another year.”
Schweinsteiger isn’t the only key member of the Fire with an expiring contract. Rodriguez confirmed that head coach Veljko Paunovic’s deal is also up at the end of the year. Rodriguez indicated that the Fire would like to bring Paunovic back and said he believes the Serbian would like to return to Toyota Park for next season and beyond.
“Pauno is our coach, period,” said Rodriguez. “I want him to continue being our coach, I believe he wants to continue being our coach, but he is our coach and I’m not going to get into this North American sports culture of ‘Is he our coach, will he be our coach, won’t he be our coach?’ that kind of thing.”
Chicago are currently in eighth in the Eastern Conference with 23 points through 22 games. The Fire will play the second of two straight matches against Toronto FC on Saturday, when they’ll look to avenge last weekend’s home loss to the Reds with a win at BMO Field.