By Ridge Mahoney
On separate planes, Philadelphia Union president Nick Sakiewicz and U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu flew back from England Monday after concluding their business there over the weekend.
Edu will be presented to Philly fans and the media on Tuesday as soon as all the paperwork regarding his move from Stoke City to MLS is completed. On Saturday, speaking by phone from London, Sakiewicz refused to confirm details of the deal while emphasizing the parties were able to attain a transaction amenable to everyone, including MLS.
On Sunday, Sakiewicz attended the Chelsea-Stoke City FA Cup match at Stamford Bridge. He texted he was meeting with Stoke officials to “cement” the deal. On Monday, the team announced he’d been acquired on a one-year loan.
“On this one, it’s a pretty complex deal and like all of our deals, we’re really not going to talk about the terms of them or the money or any of that,” Sakiewicz had said from London in a telephone conversation Saturday. “We have him for long-term and we’re looking forward to that. He’s going to be a centerpoint of our midfield.”
The loan includes an option to buy, which in effect, will knock down the transfer price MLS will have to pay for a player under contract. Negotiations between MLS and Stoke City regarding details dragged out the process; both Sakiewicz and head coach John Hackworth said contractual terms with Edu were sorted out early, prompting speculation that MLS had balked at his salary.
Commissioner Don Garberhas denied reports of MLS blocking the deal on the basis of Edu’s salary, and said at the SuperDraft figures of $1.2 million-$1.4 million were “probably on the low end.” (Media reports have since suggested Edu's annual salary will be in the mid-six figures range.) The conditions of the loan deal will probably offset some of the fee MLS will eventually pay, and Sakiewicz’s references to the deal as “long-term” imply MLS controls his rights and if this is a loan, it is so in name only.
Of course, the league encourages speculation and mis-reporting by byzantine procedures. It hasn’t burnished its image by paying big transfer fees for Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradleywithout acknowledgment. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if those fees are to be paid back by the teams to MLS, which guards its convoluted finances secretly.
The Sounders can pay back the Dempsey fee, supposedly $9 million, when Fredy Montero -- currently on loan to Sporting Lisbon – is sold outright, for a fee that is estimated to be in the range of $12 million. Normally in a transfer, the team receives a larger percentage of the transfer fee than does the league, but a simple reversing of that formula would compensate the league for Dempsey and still leave Seattle with a few mil to play with.
TFC doesn’t have a player worth anything close to the reported $10 million MLS paid for Bradley, but since the total outlay for Bradley, Jermaine Defoe and Gilberto is reportedly just short of nine figures, it might be on an installment plan. Though MLS has tweaked its financial formulas several times since starting play in 1996, it still spreads much of its revenues and expenses among the 19 teams.
While fans and journalists often focus on salary and transfer fee separately, teams – and in this case, MLS – evaluate the total cost of such transactions. A few years ago, Everton didn’t buy Landon Donovan solely because, as speculated, it couldn’t pay him $2 million-plus over four seasons; instead, it couldn’t afford that salary plus a transfer fee in the range of $15 million that MLS would probably have demanded.
Loan fees are often part of such deals as Edu’s and if not paid directly to MLS, such a sum could be part of “a pretty complex deal,” as Sakiewicz said, by which the transfer price is reduced.
Rangers paid MLS nearly $4 million for Edu’s rights from Toronto FC in 2008 and after the club went into bankruptcy, he moved to Stoke in August of 2012 for “an undisclosed fee” according to some reports. Other accounts described him as a “free agent”; most likely is that Edu and his representatives negotiated a buyout of his contract, and thus technically Rangers released him so he could sign with Stoke. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya and defender Carlos Bocanegra also left Rangers in the wake of its financial meltdown.
Whatever the specifics, Edu joins Dempsey and Bradley and Michael Parkhurst -- whose rights were acquired by Columbus in a trade with his former club, New England -- in the wave of Americans coming home.
“It’s a win-win deal for everybody,” said Sakiewicz. “He’s excited to come back to MLS and we’re excited to have him. Positionally, he fits us perfectly. He’s exactly what we need. It’s good to bring these guys back to MLS, and I think you’re going to see more of them in the future.”