The Vancouver Whitecaps have secured their first major addition of the offseason after returning the majority of their 2020 roster.
Colombian youth international winger Deiber Caicedo was signed officially from Deportivo Cali, an exciting and dynamic talent hoped to boost the attacking ranks for now and develop another young talent for the future.
“It was a long process, but we were very convinced from the very first day," Whitecaps CEO & sporting director Axel Schuster told media on a virtual press conference. "We have a clear idea how we evaluate, check and scout a player, we feel very good with the signing. Every single check from every single department -- performance, stats, scouts and our personal impression in talks with the player -- we knew we were in the right way."
Caicedo, 20, can play on either wing though has spent more of his time on the right with Cali. He has seven goals and 16 assists in 67 professional appearances after graduating into the club's first team. He was a member of Colombia's squad at the 2019 U-20 World Cup.
MLSsoccer.com and other outlets have reported that the transfer fee is in the region of $2.5 million. Schuster noted that the deal is fluid, with plenty of incentive-based clauses.
“When we ended up deciding on Deiber, it was based on his potential," head coach Marc Dos Santos said. "With the ball and without the ball. You evaluate a player that has things in his game that need improvement. The player at 19 or 20 years old who is great at everything he does, he goes straight to Barcelona or Man City. We’re getting a player with incredible potential.”
Caicedo is not yet in Vancouver but can't wait to see his new city and get started.
“I’m very happy to be here. I’m glad to be coming to Vancouver, I want to grow. This is a team that lets young players play, I want to keep moving forward in my career," Caicedo said, before adding he hopes to get to Europe one day. "This is a great opportunity for me.”
Search for DP attacking midfielder continues
Caicedo won't be the only attacking reinforcement to arrive this winter.
The club have been consistent in their desire to sign an attacking midfielder as a Designated Player since the day South Korea international Inbeom Hwang was transferred to Rubin Kazan towards the end of the summer.
“We needed to identify what we need for our team, for our style and the style of the league," Schuster said. "It’s easy to go to the market and say we need a No. 10, because you get offered 100 No. 10’s. They were a lot of good ones, but they don’t fit what you want. We are looking for an exact profile.”
They settled on, in the simplest of terms, needing a chance creator. Vancouver signed Canadian international forward Lucas Cavallini for a club-record last winter and had six goals in 18 appearances, though he didn't have a ton of service. The Whitecaps created the fewest chances from open play in MLS.
“What we identified, looking at our roster, we felt a lack of quality in the link between midfielders and attacking players," Dos Santos said. "There’s a hole there, an area that needed to be filled.”
Some potential targets have been reported.
First the club were linked with Benfica attacking midfielder Chiquinho while MLSsoccer.com reported over the weekend that Vancouver have an offer out to FC Porto attacker Otavio.
Schuster was asked directly about that report:
"I don’t want to confirm anything," Schuster said. "I spoke very often that we want to approach the best possible profile, we are competing with other big organizations in the world for the player we’re looking at. I think it’s maybe a good tactic not to speak about that so not to make someone else aware the player is available."
SIC Notias reported that AC Milan have also made an offer for the player, while Italian journalist Gianluigi Longari has reported that AS Roma, Juventus, Napoli and Leicester City are also interested.
“Ironically, the majority of the No. 10’s we’re looking for don’t wear the jersey No. 10," Dos Santos said.
Otavio wears No. 25 for Porto, Chiquinho wears No. 19 for Benfica. Negotiations continue.
“We need someone with a great attitude with and without the ball, who can help us with tempo and feed our forwards," Dos Santos said. "That’s the profile we’re looking for, we’re still in the market for it.”