The sources said that the English Premier League giants, Columbus and MLS are nearing an agreement on a transfer fee between $7.5-10 million for the 23-year-old, who was named 2018 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year earlier this month. The Athletic's Paul Tenorio was first to report the news.
Columbus head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter wrote in a statement to MLSsoccer.com that "The Club has been approached regarding a potential transfer of goalkeeper Zack Steffen but no deal has been finalized and the Club will not be commenting on the specifics of reported offers.”
Though he was the US men’s national team’s No. 1 goalkeeper for most of 2018, Steffen doesn’t have enough international experience to automatically qualify for an English work permit. He would have to be cleared by an appeals panel to receive authorization to play in England.
If the transfer is completed and his work permit is approved, it’s not clear whether City intend for Steffen to serve as the backup to starting goalkeeper Ederson for the remainder of the EPL campaign or if they plan to loan him out for the rest of the European season.
Inexperienced 20-year-old Arijanet Muric has been Ederson’s backup since longtime Chilean international Claudio Bravo suffered a season-ending injury in August. Bravo played in 13 matches across all competitions while backing up Ederson last season, starting all six of City’s games in their run to the English League Cup title. Muric has three appearances across all competitions this season.
If Steffen is loaned, two possible destinations would be Spanish La Liga club Girona or Dutch Eredivisie side NAC Breda, both of which are partnered with Manchester City under the City Football Group umbrella. Breda have also taken US international Erik Palmer-Brown from on loan from City for the 2018-19 Eredivisie season.
Steffen signed with Columbus in July 2016 following two years with German club SC Freiburg. He became the full-time starter ahead of the 2017 season. One of the top goalkeepers in the league, he recorded 10 shutouts and allowed 37 goals in 29 regular season appearances in 2018. The Philadelphia-area native came through with heroic performances in the 2017 and 2018 postseason, leading Columbus to shootout victories in the Knockout Round at Atlanta last year and at D.C. this fall.
This isn’t the first time Steffen has received an offer from England; Columbus declined a $3.9 million bid for him from Championship club Bristol City in July.
Steffen was called to every USMNT camp in 2018, though he pulled out of the team’s recent matches at England and against Italy in Belgium due to a minor hamstring injury. He has six career caps, all of which have come this year.