The Chicago Fire signed Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. Well, for the briefest of moments, that is.
Monday’s confirmation -- spotlighting negotiations between the Fire and the Ivorian’s camp that reached a climax with a sign-and-trade deal agreed upon with the Montreal Impact – precipitated Toronto FC forward Gilberto Oliveira Souza Júnior’s move to Chicago as a designated player.
With Drogba ultimately preferring Montreal to Chicago in favor of accommodating his family to the francophone culture, the Fire relinquished the player’s discovery rights to Montreal, which reportedly doled out upward of $250,000 in general and targeted allocation money to the Chicago club. That sum, in turn, enabled the Fire to use the Targeted Allocation Money mechanism to buy down the cap hit of Kennedy Igboananike, who, according to the MLS Players Union, was set to earn a guaranteed compensation of $901,666.67 in 2015.
"We paid a big fee for David [Accam], and we’ve put our future into him,” head coach Frank Yallop said Monday via teleconference. “It’s picking and choosing. Brian [Technical Director Brian Bliss] works with the league pretty closely and we all talk about it. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason behind it, it’s just the best way of doing it for us.”
Gilberto, whose guaranteed compensation in 2014 was $1,205,000.00, appeared on Yallop’s radar within the last three to four weeks, and was back on Toronto’s books and subsequently placed on waivers after his loan spell with Brazilian outfit Vasco de Gama was terminated. As a result, the club “retained a substantial portion of our initial investment on a future sale,” according to TFC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko.
The 27-year-old’s sudden return left Toronto at a crossroads, however, having all three of their designated player slots already filled with Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The Canadian side was no longer roster compliant under Major League Soccer’s rules, opening the door for the Fire, who were positioned first in the waiver draft order, to claim him.
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“We’ve just been trying to recognize what we wanted to do in the window, and I think he’s a quality player,” Yallop added. “He had a good end to his season with Toronto. I’ve always liked the way he played, and it’s a great opportunity for us to acquire him. ... From watching him and doing our homework, we made that decision and it was a good one.”
For now, the Fire await the receipt of his P-1 visa. If all goes according to plan, Yallop indicated Gilberto could join the team at the beginning of next week, and render himself available for the trip to Portland to face the Timbers on Aug. 7. With the close of the summer transfer window on Aug. 6, Yallop could also be gearing up to make further use of the allocation funds to splash out on a defender.
“We’re working on some stuff as we speak; obviously the window is coming to a close in 10 days,” Yallop said. “I’ve said it all along, we’ve been pretty poor in both boxes, scoring and keeping them out, so we’re trying to get some help at the back. Some help in that department would be good; we’re trying to do that. It’s just getting the all-clear and getting the players to sign. Big thing for me is making sure that it’s the right thing for the club moving forward.”