[MLS]The track records of Designated Players took another hit last week when D.C. United and Marcelo Gallardo concluded negotiations to terminate his contract.
Injuries limited Gallardo to 15 league games last year during which he scored four goals and registered three assists. He earned the third-highest salary in MLS last season, behind David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, at $1.9 million.
Gallardo needed surgery to repair a sports hernia and then strained an adductor muscle that sidelined him for another month. He came back in early October with D.C. still alive in the playoff chase but suffered a knee injury that ended his season. In addition to his MLS stats, he played five other matches and earned one assist.
Though news of River Plate's interest emerged only in the last week or so, his representatives had originated contact with Argentine clubs late last year, and offered his services at that time. Like leagues in Mexico and several other countries, the Argentine season is split in two. Once teams resumed training in early January and he returned to Argentina to rehabilitate his injuries, the Gallardo exit began to gain steam.
By terms of the settlement, the details of which haven't been revealed, Gallardo - who turned 33 last month -- received his international transfer certificate and opened discussions about re-joining River Plate, with which he started his career in 1993 at the age of 17. After five seasons, he played four years in France with Monaco, returned to River for three more seasons, then played another season in France with Paris St. Germain before joining D.C. a year ago to much fanfare.
He left PSG in the same circumstances as he left D.C., with his contract terminated by mutual agreement.
D.C. United will not be saddled with any salary-cap hit or other financial burden in the wake of Gallardo's departure, so it will not be impaired if it wishes to bring back attacker Christian Gomez, traded by D.C. to Colorado a year ago and a week after Gallardo had been signed.
It received a second DP slot in the Gomez trade that it used last year to upgrade Luciano Emilio to that status; it can use the vacant DP slot, though MLS has yet to clarify if the slot extends beyond the 2010 season. D.C. has enough allocation money to fit Gomez under its salary cap, though it is also negotiating with Brazilian defender Rogerand evaluating several South American strikers as possible acquisitions.
Gallardo, injuries notwithstanding, joins former FCD midfielder Denilson in the category of DP busts. MLS officials will conduct an extensive review of the DP option at the end of this season, which is the third year teams have been allowed to sign high-priced players not subject to salary-cap and maximum-salary limitations.