It’s no secret Gilberto has struggled to score goals for the Chicago Fire this season.
The Brazilian forward hasn’t scored yet and was absent in the Fire’s last game before the Copa America break for “personal reasons.”
During a conference call with media on Monday, general manager Nelson Rodriguez addressed the rumors concerning what Gilberto’s absence against Portland on May 28 means for his future. The team took a week off from training during the past week and returned to practice on Monday.
“Over the course of the break, I checked in with Gilberto again,” Rodriguez said. “At that time he still indicated to me that he was not in a state of mind that was his best. He has left me to draw the conclusion that for the moment, we need to continue to try to work with him as a person.”
Whether this is simply a buildup of frustration over his or the team’s performance or is genuinely a personal matter that is affecting Gilberto was not made clear.
“We will work with Gilberto individually as we try to get him back into a form that can help us,” Rodriguez said. “Our preference has always been to be scoring goals for our team. That’s always been our preference. That’s something that I expressed to his agent not long ago. There’s a human side to this and a professional side to it. They get blurred a little bit in this situation as well.
“We’ll see what we can do to help Gilberto.”
Rodriguez does make it sound like a personal matter, but rumors have surfaced about a possible exit, either via transfer to another club or a buyout. For now, Rodriguez said there has been no contact with any teams in Gilberto’s native Brazil.
“Gilberto has from time-to-time expressed his desire to return to Brazil and play in Brazil,” Rodriguez said. “It’s unclear whether that’s now or at the end of his contract or in the future, but we have not spoken to any clubs in Brazil about Gilberto’s services.”
Gilberto is in Chicago as the team returns to training. The team plays an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, which will also feature the Fire’s PDL team, and how much he participates in that could be an indication of how close he is or is not to returning to game action.
His absence in the short-term would at the very least hurt the forward depth for the Fire, which is already thin in terms of sheer numbers. Michael de Leeuw is expected to join the team in training later this week, but isn’t eligible to play until July 9.
“I would just say we move on when we can,” coach Veljko Paunovic said regarding Gilberto’s absence. “We have guys who can perform.”
Rodriguez did leave an opening, if only in a roundabout way, to a potential Gilberto exit when asked if the team had explored trying to buy out his contract. Gilberto is one of 23 players in Major League Soccer who makes more than $1 million annually according to the MLS Players Union.
“We’ve not had that discussion with Gilberto or his representatives,” Rodriguez said. “Every option always has to be on the table. At some point if we can’t get him to be productive and scoring goals for us, we have to look at anything that is available to us or that we create for ourselves.”