1/4/22 Update: It appears there is smoke from this rumor. A second report has come out that says Robert Voloder isn’t joining Maribor as they prepare for the season because he’s headed out on transfer. Nogomania says, “the transfer is about to be finalized.” Additionally, other sources have confirmed that NK Maribor triggered their purchase option from FC Koln, so he is theirs to sell.
Usually, when it’s a single report, these things don’t come true. But when the reporting continues, it’s usually something. Look for more on Voloder soon if/when something is announced.
This story was originally published on December 28, 2021.
While it’s unlikely that much concrete news will come out in the week between Christmas and New Years, it doesn’t stop the silly season train from chugging along. The latest rumor comes from NogoMania that Sporting Kansas City are targeting a 20-year-old German center back, Robert Voloder.
The German spent the first half of the Slovenian season on loan with NK Maribor, who were top of the table before the winter break. According to the article, Maribor made the loan move from FC Koln (Bundesliga) permanent for between 50,000 and 100,000 Euros. It’s not often a team buys a player and then immediately flips them again, but it could happen. If a sale were to be made, Koln apparently retain a sell on percentage, but that would seem to up what Kansas City would need to pay for him.
Volodar is a left footed CB, though he’s played on both sides of the backline, which would seem to put him more inline with replacing Andreu Fontas, who is out of contract after the 2022 season. Fontas is on $1 million per season and the 20-year-old would have to be much cheaper (or would he?), though the story says he was the “best defender” of the season for Maribor.
Interestingly, NK Maribor have experience in making deals with MLS, just last season sending Zan Kolmanic to expansion side Austin FC.
If the information about Voloder’s transfer is incorrect, then his loan is set to expire in the summer of 2022 and his deal in Koln runs out in the summer of 2023. He started and played 100 percent of the available minutes in this past half season, adding two goals over his 1,800 minutes played in league play (he added another 360 minutes over four starts in UECL Qualifiers).
The German also had eligibility with Bosnia-Herzegovina and has played for both countries youth setups, though more recently has featured for the Germans with the U20s.
How Does this Fit for Sporting KC?
On the surface, center back isn’t a position of need. Andreu Fontas and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin are entrenched starters who both make north of $1 million per season. However, they are aging. Fontas is 32 and Isi is 30. Plus, Isi struggled to stay healthy in his only season with Sporting KC and Fontas struggled with health in his first two years before being a revelation in 2021.
With Fontas being out of contract after the upcoming season, Sporting do need to look at the future. If they can acquire Voloder on a reasonably low transfer fee with a salary that isn’t as out of control as his counter-parts, it would really fill a need. He could be a starter for the long-term, or at least be flipped for a nice profit in a few years. The spine of a defense is of the utmost important. Look no further than the years where SKC lacked two quality CBs. Having a third could complete the depth chart.
Also, it’s not impossible he can play left back when you look at his highlights below. Though I doubt that’s his long-term home.
On the money front, another twist is the U-22 Initiative. This would also presumably be a chance for SKC to take advantage of the U-22 initiative for the first time. Meaning they can pay a decent (technically unlimited) transfer fee and pay him up to $612,000 per year with it only counting minimally against their salary budget and the fee having no impact. If one of Kansas City’s current three DPs can be bought down (and Russell looks to fit this description) then KC can sign up to three U-22 players.
Here is a highlight package from when he was just 17 (imagine how much better he is now). Even at that young age, he had quite the long switch in his game, which SKC have used consistently from their center backs, fullbacks and defensive midfielders. He also seems to pass the ball well and either appeared to be lined up as a left back (or drifting way forward) at a couple moments throughout the video. He also didn’t lack pace, which is something the Sporting defense could always use.
Personally, I really like this. I think I’m guilty of getting excited about highlights and potential as much as the next guy, but some “highlights” aren’t even that impressive, especially for defenders. These were (though he holds the attack onside a few times before making a recovery play).
For what it’s worth, Voloder follows Sporting KC on Instagram.
Thanks, as almost always, to fellow Blue Testament writer Mike Kuhn, for finding the rumor first.