Take a look at your new Vancouver Whitecaps.
With the sporting department under new leadership last winter, the Whitecaps wanted to enter a different direction. They placed an increased emphasis on youth development, both internally and in the players they targeted for acquisition, and were willing to find their place in the global transfer market.
The Whitecaps have one of (if not the) youngest squads in MLS and continue to show a willingness to make a deal. That process was typified Friday when Vancouver sold midfielder Inbeom Hwang to Russian club Rubin Kazan, the latest mark as the club changes their model.
Hwang often spoke publicly of his desire to play in Europe and expressed that to the club. Though with more than two years left on his contract, Vancouver weren't in a rush to sell him on. They'd be glad to once a deal which was amiable to all parties presented itself. After receiving offers from three clubs for the South Korean international, Rubin Kazan represented the best fit for all.
“We were not in the market looking to sell him, but he was very open," sporting director Axel Schuster told reporters on a video conference call Friday. "From the moment I arrived here, he told me his goal was to go to Europe. ... We were open to do a deal if we got a remarkable profit. It had to make sense for us to let him go during the middle of the season.”
The club did turn a tidy profit. Transfermarkt's Manuel Veth reported the fee to be €2.5 million while a source told MLSsoccer.com the fee was $3 million with a 25% sell-on fee. An impressive deal for a player who hasn't been shy in expressing his desires to play in Europe, with the transfer market generally deflated amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, Vancouver set their sights on filling the third DP slot, although the club are in no rush to find a replacement, particularly considering the complex logistics between a deal being reached and the player eventually making his Whitecaps debut. Between the visa process, heath protocols and mandatory quarantine once entering Canada, Schuster says even if they signed a player tomorrow, he wouldn't be able to debut for another 8-10 weeks.
“The market is very interesting right now, prices are down," Schuster said. "We are in a very good position. We have the (DP) spot. We have the financial possibilities but we are not in a rush.”
Vancouver are well into the search, though. If the right deal presents itself tomorrow, they'd execute despite the long road to a debut. Whether it's with the final DP slot or not, the Whitecaps are targeting an attacking midfielder.
“We would like to sign a player in the midfield but attacking the goal a little more than Inbeom’s style," Schuster said. Hwang had just three goals and six assists in 39 MLS appearances. "This is a position we were looking at anyway, but now we have a DP spot available.”
The club added a number of interesting players in the winter, headlined by club-record signing Lucas Cavallini. The foundation is coming together under the Schuster regime, still less than a year into their reign.