Add Kei Kamara to the list of Sporting Kansas City players either already moved to, or having been strongly linked with a move to, English Premier clubs this offseason. Norwich City manager Chris Hughton confirmed on Thursday that official inquiries have been made pertaining to the availability and/or asking price for the Sporting KC winger.
This coming from The Guardian - the one UK newspaper known to shoot straight on the regular. Also, including a direct quote from Hughton himself was a nice
high school newspaper level journalistic touch.
Former Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza completed a free transfer to Wigan Athletic in early January, and defender Matt Besler was rumored to be considering something from multiple European clubs. Midfielder Graham Zusi underwent a week-long official trial with West Ham United prior to joining United States national team training camp last week. Kamara also trained with Premier League side Stoke City for a week in December. Neither he nor Zusi were offered contracts following their stints abroad.
That looks to change now, though, for Kamara. In a Thursday press conference, Hughton was asked whether an official offer had been made, which was reported by Sky Sports on Wednesday. If true, signing a player in the final year of their contract often comes at a discount for clubs looking to sign players on the cheap. Here's what Hughton had to say:
"Kei Kamara is a player we have made inquiries about, but any progress remains behind closed doors,"
Simple and straightforward enough. So, where would losing Kamara just a month before the 2013 season leave Sporting KC? To put it simply, in serious trouble.
Only four players - Chris Wondolowski, Alvaro Saborio and Fredy Montero - have scored nine or more goals in each of the last three MLS seasons. Kamara (10 goals, 9 and 11 beginning in 2010, respectively) is the other one. Beyond that, the entire style and philosophy of the way Sporting KC play is epitomized by Kamara and every single one of his physical abilities and talents.
He's big, strong, fast, incredibly direct in his actions going forward, and can jump out of the building. He works his butt off the win the ball back, covers every blade of grass over 90 minutes, and is completely bought into the 'team first' mantra of head coach Peter Vermes. Losing not only its leading goal-scorer for three years running, but also a player who for every two goals he scores himself he creates another with an assist, would be a crippling blow for Sporting.
Kei Kamara is, inarguably, one of the biggest game-changers MLS has to offer.
There were ready-made replacements in most all other positions of the field should Zusi or Besler have gone, even Espinoza who already has, but filling the shoes of Kei Kamara on this kind of short notice would be near impossible for Vermes. I suppose this is truly the problem with having a successful team; it's usually full of talented players. Players that could be earning more money than MLS can offer, and lots of clubs abroad willing to do so.
All of that said, I firmly believe Kamara stays with Sporting KC for the 2013 season. Vermes and Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman already did what they had to to retain Zusi and Besler; I imagine they do the same for Kamara. The interesting part, though, is the bit about 2013 being the final year of Kamara's contract. 2013-14 will be a completely different story.