Striker Eddie Johnson's move to English Premier League club Fulham reached fruition Wednesday just as news reports out of South America quoted Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo saying he's joining D.C. United.
The 23-year-old Johnson, who turned down a move to Derby last summer, fell just shy of the 75-percent benchmark for appearances in competitive internationals during the past two years to qualify for a British work permit.
Under such circumstances, the original application for a work permit is automatically denied in most cases. But since he came in at 72 percent, all Fulham needed was a few letters of recommendation along with evidence Johnston will be paid in accordance with EPL standards, which means his MLS salary of $875,000 last year will increase by at least 50 percent.
He signed a three-and-a-half year contract with the Cottagers, who are second from bottom in the Premier League and have embarked on a buying spree to avoid relegation under manager Roy Hodgson, hired to replace Lawrie Sanchez.
Johnson's MLS contract contained a stipulation that MLS was obligated to sell him if a club agreed to a pre-negotiated price, supposedly $3.6 million. Derby agreed to the fee, yet Johnson turned down the opportunity. He left the U.S. training camp in Southern California a week before the USA played Sweden to negotiate salary and other personal terms with Fulham and pass a medical exam.
It's possible Fulham paid less, since his contract has only one more year to run. But since MLS has already paid out three years of that contract, and Kansas City will receive two-thirds of the fee as well as an allocation, and the Wizards agreed to take Johnson in a trade after he'd burned his bridges in Dallas, which had agreed to take on Carlos Ruiz so the Galaxy could add Landon Donovan (whew!), MLS might well have stuck to its guns.
Under league policies, a team can use up to $500,000 of any transfer fee received as allocation money to buy or pay players, with the remainder to be earmarked for player development or other uses.
A flurry of South American signings by D.C. United may also net Gallardo, whose contract with French club Paris St. Germain was terminated last month.
D.C. has announced the acquisitions of Argentine striker Franco Niell (on loan) and Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez as negotiations continue with Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez.
Also expected to be signed is another defender, Argentine Gonzalo Peraltaof Second Division Club Almirante Brown, but if Gallardo is brought aboard as the team's first Designated Player, his $400,000 salary-cap hit may change the team's plans.
Reports Wednesday suggested Gallardo has decided to join D.C. United and not New York, whose coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, had expressed interest earlier in the week before declaring his team out of the chase because of salary cap restrictions.