The recent deals involving goalscorers Yura Movsisyan and Kenny Cooper illustrate how valuable such players are in the world market, and how treacherous it can be to deal.
Real Salt Lake dragged its heels about making a competitive offer to Movsisyan, and so by the time it had tendered a deal worth approximately $1.2 million over four years, he'd already decided he'd rather go to Europe sooner rather than later.
Once Movsisyan, who is in the process of obtaining a green card and hopes one day to play for the USA, had entered the final six months of his contract he followed up an interest from Danish club Randers. A visit in early July led to discussions and negotiations, and the two sides agreed on a contract and an arrangement by which he'd join the club on a free transfer in January.
Randers had already offered $250,000 to acquire him during the summer transfer window, but that offer was rejected by RSL, which figured that it would be nearly impossible to acquire a scorer of Movsisyan's abilities and experience for the $150,000 it would receive in the sharing formula set up by the league. Once the deal came to light, RSL hinted it might sell Movsisyan during the summer rather than make Randers wait until the winter, but when the Danish club came back and merely reiterated its original offer, RSL ended the negotiations.
Movsisyan had already voiced his desire to head overseas, and so despite being young (he turned 22 on Sunday) and his wife expecting their first child in December, he may have felt the timing was right regardless of what RSL and MLS offered. And if one considers salaries and acquisition costs, $150,000 won't get you much in the modern market if you're in the Goalscoring aisle. But as it stands now, RSL won't get anything, whereas if it had aggressively pursued and signed him last spring, it would have commanded a much higher fee, or kept him longer if teams were unwilling to pay that price.
FC Dallas could have sold Cooper last summer to Rosenborg for $3 million, but rejected the offer and came out with public pronouncements about making him a symbol of the franchise. (There was also interest from Welsh club Cardiff City.) FC Dallas offered him a contract worth approximately $375,000 - about one-half of Rosenborg's offer -- and after that deal was turned down by Cooper and his representatives, it got very quiet.
Despite scoring two goals for the USA at the Gold Cup and 18 in league play last season, Cooper has been sold for a fee German media report as 500,000 euros ($720,000). There are performance clauses, sell-on provisions and promotion kick-ins that could ratchet up the price considerably, yet FC Dallas lost hugely in prestige as well as up-front money by waiting nearly a year to sell Cooper.
It will have more money to work with than will RSL, even though Cooper's price dropped with less time remaining on his MLS contract. (It would have expired at the end of 2010.) But since declining the Rosenborg offer FCD has: missed the 2008 playoffs; nullified a possible Cooper move to Eintracht Frankfurt; and lurched through a miserable 2009 season.
Though Dallas gave Cooper a nice send-off last Saturday by smashing Kansas City, 6-0, as Jeff Cunningham scored four goals, his output doubled Cunningham's 2009 goal total coming into the game. And I don't see FCD officials portraying Cunningham -- one of the league's all-time goalscorers, it must be said, who has changed clubs four times in the past five years -- as their poster child.