The Chicago Fire are working to acquire Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan from Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang, a source confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Thursday.
The source cautioned that the deal isn’t yet complete, but they said that it is trending in a positive direction for Chicago. If it does get done, the source said that the Fire would use Discretionary Targeted Allocation Money to sign Gaitan. Chicago already have the maximum of three Designated Players on their roster in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic and Aleksandar Katai, none of whom can be bought down with TAM.
The source also said that Chicago are working to sign 25-year-old Swedish international center back Joakim Nilsson from Swedish club IF Elfsborg.
The Athletic’s Guillermo Rivera was the first North America-based journalist to report the Gaitan and Nilsson news.
Hearing that #cf97 deal for that Swedish centerback is not quite done yet. Joakim Nilsson is currently under contract at IF Elfsborg.— Guillermo Rivera (@FireConf) February 27, 2019
Sources on Nico Gaitan rumor. Deal is not done but #cf97 is working on finalizing. Would be a DTAM player.— Guillermo Rivera (@FireConf) February 28, 2019
Gaitan, who turned 31 last Saturday, moved to China in February 2018 following a disappointing 18 months with Spanish club Atletico Madrid. He recorded two goals and nine assists in 28 league appearances as Dalian Yifang finished 11th in the Super League in 2018.
Dalian’s signings this winter of Slovakian international and former Napoli captain Marek Hamsik and Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Boateng made Gaitan’s position with club tenuous, as it gave the team five international players, one more than the maximum allowed by the Super League. A separate source told MLSsoccer.com that Gaitan had been offered to several MLS clubs in addition to the Fire in recent weeks.
Prior to moving to Atletico, Gaitan spent six years with Portuguese giants Benfica. He recorded 25 goals and 60 assists in 152 league appearances with the club, which he helped to three Portuguese Primeira Liga titles before he was sold to Atletico for a reported fee of €25 million. He had three goals and three assists in 29 La Liga appearances with Atletico.
In addition to his league statistics, Gaitan recorded five goals and 11 assists in 46 UEFA Champions League matches and three goals and two assists in 23 UEFA Europa League contests during his time in Portugal and Spain. He has two goals and three assists in 19 career appearances for Argentina and was a member of their squad at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. His last cap came in a World Cup qualifying loss to Paraguay in October 2016.
If signed, the source said that Gaitan would most likely line up in a central attacking role for Chicago. 20-year-old U.S. international Djordje Mihailovic had been playing that position for the Fire throughout preseason.
Chicago are also working to add Nilsson to a corps of center backs that includes Johan Kappelhof, offseason signing Marcelo and second-year Homegrown Player Grant Lillard. Nilsson has made 74 league appearances for Elfsborg since he joined the club from fellow Swedish side GIF Sundsvall in February 2016. He has four career caps with the Swedish national team, with his last appearance coming in January 2018.