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Jurgen Locadia hopes to stay with FC Cincinnati, but uncertainty looms during pandemic

Jurgen Locadia knows what he wants. 

He's only been around FC Cincinnati for a couple of months, with a grand total of 116 minutes in MLS before the league was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the striker knows where he wants to be. 

"My first experiences in MLS (have) been great," Locadia told MLSsoccer.com last week. "It’s my dream to stay here. It’s my goal.”

It's not the first time Locadia has made his desires known. He spoke a similar tune in an interview with Pat Brennan of The Enquirer, but his future carries a sizable question mark in this time of uncertainty.

Cincinnati have until July 5 to decide if they'll execute his purchase option from Brighton & Hove Albion for a reported $10 million. That fee would make him among the most expensive players in league history. General manager Gerard Nijkamp told reporters last month that he hoped to get a larger sample size of Locadia in MLS before making that commitment. As that date nears, the potential data pool shrinks.

In the meantime, as Cincinnati and Brighton discuss the business of Locadia's future, the 26-year-old former wunderkind waits. 

“I had a conversation with my agent that it was my goal to stay here," Locadia said. "He got in contact with Brighton, but it’s between the clubs now I guess. They know I want to stay here.”

The pandemic presents difficult times, and the sports world is not immune.  

With the majority of global soccer shut down for the better part of two months (and counting), revenue is down. No one knows for sure what will happen, but most executives assume less money will change hands whenever the summer transfer window opens.

“The income from every club is down, so it’s harder now to buy players or even loan for clubs," Locadia admitted. "That could be a problem in the future. In my case, Cincinnati have the option to buy me out and I don’t know. I’d understand if they would not want to buy the option because it’s a crisis right now, there’s no income.”

Long before Locadia arrived in Cincy, he broke through at Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven as a teenager. After being capped and excelling at various youth levels for the Netherlands, his name was well-known around Holland. Locadia then announced himself with a hat trick off the bench in his Eredivisie debut.

Locadia remembers everything about that day, when he and two other academy standouts were called up for a match against VVV-Venlo. They joked at the end of the bench that there was no way they'd feature, but Locadia was told to warm up. 

"My heart was jumping," he said.

Another can't-miss prospect was born. Locadia's head coach, in an effort to protect him from the hype, instructed him not to do any interviews after that game. Go straight to the bus after you're done changing, he was told. 

“In Holland, people hype players after one good game," Locadia said. "(My coach) wanted to protect me, which I appreciated. Like, I’m 18 and I just scored three goals. I might say stupid things.”

The hype didn't dissipate as big clubs lined up for Locadia's signature. He almost left PSV for the Premier League that summer.

Locadia scoring for PSV in the Champions League against Wolfsburg | Reuters/Action Images

“I could have gone to Liverpool in the season after my debut," Locadia revealed. "I signed a new contract (with PSV) that season. I chose to stay.”

That would have been ahead of the 2013-14 European season. Liverpool, led by a pyrotechnic attack of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, nearly won the Premier League that year. 

“At the time it was crazy," Locadia said. "There was a bid from Liverpool, but everything happens for a reason. Staying there helped me grow as a person and play more games. If I went to Liverpool, I wouldn’t play regularly in the first team.”

He eventually made it to the Premier League by joining Brighton in 2018, but made 22 starts across 43 appearances. A half-season loan to Bundesliga club Hoffenheim preceded Locadoa's move stateside this winter.

Locadia was the face of Cincinnati's big offseason, one that also saw fellow Designated Player Yuya Kubo join alongside former Dutch international Siem de Jong and midfielder Haris Medunjanin. Each move was geared towards rebounding from a difficult expansion season in MLS.

Now, Locadia just hopes he's still with the Orange and Blue as they progress. 

“They did everything to get me to Cincinnati in the first place," Locadia said. "I think I showed at least a small bit of my quality in the first two games. I hope they’re happy with it. I hope they find a way to figure something out with Brighton.”

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