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Soumare, exiled by Fire, returns to France
by Ridge Mahoney, August 26th, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] At a transfer fee reported as $1.4 million and $2.1 million by various outlets, and said by a source to be $2 million, MLS and Chicago have agreed to sell defender Bakary Soumare to French club Boulogne. The club - along with a few other teams -- had expressed interest in Soumare in June, shortly after the European season ended, but MLS and the Fire tamped down the inquiry though an offer was reportedly made. A native of Mali, Soumare, 23, moved to the Paris suburb of St. Denis at age 3 and to New York at age 15.

Though uncertainty about Fire teammate Wilman Conde has quieted as the season unraveled for ex-Chicago coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who had also coached Conde in Colombia, the MLS team had hoped to keep Soumare for the entire season in its bid to win a second MLS Cup. But he and head coach Denis Hamlett tangled in the locker room at halftime of 3-2 loss to Houston Aug. 9; Soumare was replaced by Mike Banner at halftime and didn't played in three subsequent games. The team, not the league as erroneously reported by some outlets, fined both men undisclosed amounts.

French Web sites state he has signed a four-year contract. No salary figures have been reported and no confirmation has yet been released by the Fire nor MLS. His MLS base salary is listed as $105,000 and total compensation as $138,000 for the 2009 season.

Under a formula adopted two years ago, a team that loses a player in a transfer deal receives between 60 percent and two-thirds of the fee. A 1.4-million euro deal converts to slightly more than $2 million, of which Chicago would receive approximately $1.2 million.

Chicago drafted Soumare as a generation adidas player out of the University of Virginia with the second overall pick of the 2007 SuperDraft. He played 19 regular-season games in his rookie season and last year played 28 matches and earned selection to the MLS Best XI, which prompted his first callup last February to Mali's national team.

He grew up in Paris before moving to New York as a teenager, and is an admirer of fellow Malian Freddy Kanoute, who played in France (Lyon) and England (West Ham, Tottenham) before moving to Spanish club Sevilla.

"He's one of my countrymen," said Soumare of Kanoute in an interview last October. "Obviously I like PSG because I grew up in the Paris region. They haven't been doing so well the past five or six years but that's the team I grew up with.

"In England, my first team is Chelsea. They've done a great job building a great team with players from so many countries while retaining a core of English players. It's fantastic.

"It's not that easy to build a team with players from different backgrounds and different cultures. [Jose] Mourinho did a great job and I really enjoy watching them play. They have a lot of players from Africa and any time you see African players do well, it makes you proud."

Boulogne earned promotion to Ligue 1 for the first time last spring and hired Coach Laurent Guyot after the man who had guided it to promotion, Philippe Montanier, left to take over at Valenciennes.

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