On Tuesday, Sporting Kansas City did something that many fans and pundits thought would never happen. They spent massively on a transfer fee to acquire a Designated Player striker. Alan Pulido will join the club come January and will line up in the middle of the park at CF on opening day 2020.
The fee for Pulido is not only a big move for Sporting KC but a big move for the league overall. His reported transfer fee is one of the highest ever paid to bring a player to MLS. We have to put a bit of an asterisk on this conversation though. It isn’t clear exactly how much was paid for Pulido and it may never be clear. On the high end the reports are in the $9.5 to $10 million range. On the low end it could be as little as $6 million. Either way, it’s a statement from the team and the likelihood is it falls somewhere in between.
According to Paul Tenorio of The Athletic (subscription required), Sporting KC paid “more than double the total amount of Sporting KC’s previous transfer spend over its entire 23-year history.” The total paid before Pulido was $4 million. So that would mean that fee is more than $8 million. Since Tenorio says he has multiple sources, we’ll trust the north of $8 million number for the purpose of this comparison.
Where Does Pulido Rank in the Top 15?
Information on transfer fees can be tough to come by. One source is Transfermarkt but even they are somewhat unreliable. They already adjusted Pulido’s fee up to $10.83 million. That could be based on sources they have that we haven’t seen. What we at The Blue Testament along with our writers doing the Shades of Blue Soccer Show have seen is that Mexican outlets are reporting higher fees and American ones reporting lower fees. Take that for what it’s worth.
Unless otherwise noted, we’ll use Transfermarkt’s figures (though where it’s available, which is in most cases, we’ll try to drill down better). If other figures are used, we’ll link out to the source. Transfermarket has Pulido ranked 4th all-time. However, I’m going to move him down to the $8 million plus range where I think he’ll ultimately settle in, which will push him much lower.
#1 - Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United) — $15 million
While Transfermarkt has it at just $13.99 million the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sports Illustrated and multiple other sources put it at $15 million. That’s what I’ve heard so let’s stick with that.
#2 - Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez (Atlanta United) — $14 million*
According to Transfermarkt, he’s #1 at $16.53 million. A report in USA Today has the fee at just $14 million. The Atlanta Journal Constitution echos the $14 million number.
#3 - Brian Rodriguez (LAFC) — $11.5 million
The fee was universally reported at $11.5 million and then the deal was off and then on again. Transfermarkt puts it a tick higher at $11.74 million.
#4 - Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) — $11.4 million*
While Transfermarkt actually ranks this lower at $10.26 million, all other sources are in the $11.3 to $11.4 million range.
#5 - Brian Fernandez (Portland Timbers) — $10 million*
Multiple sources put the fee between $10-12 million. Transfermarkt says 11.74 million which I can’t support anywhere else (though it falls in that range). I’ve heard the $10 million number repeated the most often, so we’ll stick with that while keeping him above the other $10 million dollar man.
#6 - Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) — $10 million
We’ll him just below Brian Fernandez because all outlets seem to agree on the $10 million number where Fernandez had wiggle room. AS Roma even seems to confirm the number. Transfermarkt had it lower at $8.44 million.
#7 - Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC) — $9.8 million
CDC has this number in Pounds but at the time the conversion rate was apparently around $9.8 million per MLSsoccer.com. Transfermarkt had it lower at just $8.32 million.
[If Pulido is on the high end, which I doubt, he’d slot in here.]
#8 - Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) — $9 million
We’ll keep Dempsey above Pellegrini as the fee seems certain at $9 where that’s the high end for Miami’s first Designated Player. Sports Illustrated confirms $9 million and other sources back that up. Transfermarkt also had this lower at just $7.75 million.
#9 - Matías Pellegrini (Inter Miami CF) — $9 million***
Sports Illustrated has this number at a cool $10 million. However, The Athletic has it directly from GM Paul McDonough saying it’s between $6 and $9 million. There is nothing more definitive so we’ll go with the high end with the caveat that it’s probably somewhere a little lower.
[Pulido is almost assuredly somewhere between #9 and #12]
#10 - Alexandru Mitrita (New York City FC) — $8.5 million
MLS’ official site and trusted Sam Stejskal has this at $8.5 million despite rumors pushing it higher. Transfermarkt did it at $9.12 million.
#11 - Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City) — $8 million +
As detailed above, he’s probably right around here or maybe above Mitrita based on Tenorio’s reporting.
#12 - Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) — $8 million*
ESPN puts this fee “around $8 million.” Transfermarkt puts it at $8.55 million. They’ve been a little off on all the other reports (probably conversion rates of currency). Ultimately, he left for Newcastle United for the biggest fee ever — $27 million.
#13 - Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders) — $7 million
The Seattle Times has this fee at $7 million. Slightly below the $7.25 from Transfermarkt.
#14 - Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy) — $7 million
USA Today and SI both have this fee at $7 million. Then they paid him a ton more in salary, including in 2019 when they paid him to leave to make room for Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who was acquired on a free transfer). Transfermarkt puts the fee at $7.24 so we’ll slot him in below Ruidiaz.
#15 - Andre Horta (Los Angeles Football Club) — $7 million
ESPN tabs the number at “about $7 million.” Transfermarkt says $6.5 so we’ll put him in our final spot.
There are plenty of other players that are right on the edge of this list. Alejandro Romero Gamarra known better as Kaku (and known better to SKC fans as a player who basically assaulted a fan) is north of $6 million. The same is true of Nicolas Lodeiro of the Seattle Sounders. Just outside the list is Carlos Vela (LAFC), Josef Martinez (Atlanta United) and Sebastian Blanco (Portland Timbers). Plus there are a whole lot of other successful players (Robbie Keane) and flops (Lucas Melano) lingering between spots #16 and #25.
The Final Tally
Alan Pulido could be all the way up at 4th. If he was signed for $6 million then he’d be out of the Top 15. Putting him at 11th, based on the data available, feels right. If he’s a little higher or a little lower, he’s still by far the most expensive transfer in Sporting KC history. And expectations are through the roof.
For some context, Sporting KC’s highest fee before this was for Yohan Croizet and reported to be around $1.5 million. Gerso Fernandes was rumored to have a similar or slightly lower fee as well. That’s around $3 million of the total $4 million SKC have ever spent (before Pulido).
Spending doesn’t equal success. The best player on the team, Felipe Gutierrez, was a free transfer. Croizet was clearly not the best player despite being the most expensive before this move. Johnny Russell was reportedly had for a nominal fee of just $280,000. A handful of free Guti’s and cheap Russell’s and this team beats anyone. Let’s hope the fee for Pulido is a big hit and not a miss.