Both globally and in MLS, the 2020 summer transfer window is going to be unlike any other.
With less money changing hands due to the financial pitfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's going to look different. Frankly, many clubs around the world aren't even quite sure of the pandemic's impact, both currently and where it projects. How much longer until the sporting world resumes to normality, how heavily are finances impacted without fans at stadiums for the foreseeable future?
To be sure, though: Transfers will still happen. Less money will be involved, but players will change clubs. There will be plenty to focus on across MLS, both incoming and outgoing, but here are a few to pay attention to as the Secondary Transfer Window opens.
Futures of Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie
It's not exactly a seller's market, but the Philadelphia Union have two sought-after young players. There is a ton of European interest in both, as highlighted numerous times on this website and elsewhere.
Aaronson, 19, and McKenzie, 21, each boosted their profiles with strong performances at the MLS is Back Tournament, guiding Philly to the semifinals. Celtic are chasing McKenzie (as first reported by Taylor Twellman) and a host of clubs are after Aaronson in Germany and elsewhere in Europe (as reported by MLSsoccer.com, Bild and others). One club to watch around Aaronson is Hoffenheim, though there are plenty of others in the running.
Philadelphia are in no rush to sell either player, nor is Aaronson looking to force an exit, MLSsoccer.com has learned. But, they won't stand in the way of either player should the right offer come in.
In an interview with Daily Record, Union sporting director Ernst Tanner revealed Celtic wanted to open negotiations over McKenzie, but Philly weren't looking to start talks before or during the MLS is Back Tournament. Now, they wait.
“Will they come back? That is not in my obligation,” Tanner said. “That is up to Celtic. There is obviously a little bit of an interest, but there are so many players in the market at the moment.”
What would the transfer landscape look like had FC Dallas not been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament? Aaronson and McKenzie's stock rose with strong performances, benefitting from the spotlight as well. Would it have been the same with FCD and their panoply of young stars, including Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira and Reggie Cannon?
Let's focus on Cannon, as he seemed very likely to head to Europe this summer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interest is still very much there, sources tells MLSsoccer.com. When will the interest turn to offers, and will those offers be lucrative enough to convince Dallas to let the US national team defender go?
Cannon's future is in Europe, it just depends on the timing.
"It’s obviously a concern," Cannon told reporters in March about the pandemic's impact on his future transfer. "Being transparent, I want to be present in my situation and give Dallas my 100 percent for however long I’m here. But the goal was to be transferred in the summer, and obviously teams are in a scramble right now because it’s a tough time for transfers at the moment. Now the most important thing is safety and health."
Matuidi to Miami, Reynoso to Minnesota?
Two huge signings heavily reported to become the third Designated Player for their potential new clubs, these midfielders may be two of the biggest incoming transfers of the summer.
Minnesota's chase for Emanuel 'Bebelo' Reynoso dates back to the winter, when reports suggested a deal was all but finalized, though it never quite got over the finish line. Reynoso is a highly rated 24-year-old attacking midfielder from Boca Juniors and would slot into the Loons' attack as a No. 10. No word on if the framework for a transfer has changed or not, but a February report suggested the fee would be around $5.5 million.
As we saw in the winter, though, nothing is certain until the deal is finalized and announced. For Miami, they've been linked with an absurd amount of players to fill any one of their DP slots, but appear on the verge of using the final one on Matuidi, who waved goodbye to Juventus Wednesday.
Thanks for everything, @MATUIDIBlaise!— JuventusFC (#Stron9er 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆) (@juventusfcen) August 12, 2020
Austin FC and Charlotte FC keep filling rosters
Austin, who will still kick off their inaugural MLS season in 2021, figure to be in for a busy month. They have already announced their first-ever signing, 20-year-old Paraguayan forward Rodney Redes, and continue to be linked with others. The latest name is Redes' compatriot, Cecilio Dominguez. He and Redes are represented by the same agent, who confirmed to journalist Chris Bils that Dominguez is in talks with Austin.
Agent for Cecilio Domínguez, Diego Serrati, tells me that the player is in talks with #AustinFC. Same agent also represents Rodney Redes.— Chris Bils (@ChrisBils) August 6, 2020
Domínguez, 25, is a winger with 17 caps for Paraguay. Valued at $4.4m by Transfermarkt. https://t.co/UKI5yQWU3J
Sporting director Claudio Reyna and head coach Josh Wolff are putting the pieces together for the club's inaugural roster. They were even linked with CF Monterrey's Vincent Janssen, those his reported $18-20 million release clause would make him the most expensive signing in MLS history.
Meanwhile, Charlotte also announced their first signing this summer —Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz — though their entrance to MLS play has been delayed to 2022. That hasn't slowed any plans down, though.
“We’ll be looking for players that will be building blocks," sporting director Zoran Krneta told reporters in July. "Like Sergio is, he’s the first building block of our team. We’ll also try to build our spine first: Central defender, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and a striker. This is what potentially we could be looking at adding this coming window.”
International free agent market
With European seasons drawing to a close, a number of intriguing players are free agents.
One-time Seattle Sounders left back Brad Smith is without a team following his contract expiring with Bournemouth (ditto for English winger Jordon Ibe, apropos of nothing other than another public mea culpa that I genuinely thought he was going to be better than Raheem Sterling when they were both teenagers at Liverpool. Sterling is currently a top 10 player in the world. Ibe played less than 1,000 Premier League minutes with Bournemouth over the last two years. Not my best take.)
There are some bigger names, including one with MLS links: Mario Gotze. There have been some rumors about linking him with FC Cincinnati (there's truth to the interest) as well as a report from Bild suggesting he turned down Inter Miami. He's still only 28 years old. Definitely one to watch.
Sticking with Cincy in the free agent market, reports have linked the club with English defender Tyler Blackett. He was most recently with Reading and played for Cincy boss Jaap Stam there. GM Gerard Nijkamp told MLSsoccer.com and media, through a club spokesperson, on July 31: "We’re not going to comment on any players currently not in our squad. We are always looking to strengthen our roster and will continue exploring all options.”
Here's a list of current free agents to peruse and let imagination roam for players not yet linked with MLS.