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Should Sporting KC Trade for Miami’s Matías Pellegrini?

Inter Miami have to get rid of him for cheap, but he cost between $6 to 9 million to bring to MLS.

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SOCCER: OCT 07 MLS - Inter Miami CF at New York Red Bulls
Inter Miami winger Matias Pellegrini (11) celebrates after scoring during the second half of the Major League Soccer game between the New York Red Bulls and Inter Miami on October 7, 2020 at Red BGullArena in Harrison,NJ.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you haven’t heard, Inter Miami CF have gotten themselves in a bit of a pickle. Due to some roster construction shenanigans similar to that of the LA Galaxy a couple years ago (when they ultimately were forced to buy out Giovanni dos Santos), Miami have four Designated Players on their roster. They have Mexican National Team star Rodolfo Pizarro, recent Juventus superstars Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi and multi-million dollar Argentine youth international, Matías Pellegrini.

The problem is complicated, but Miami are basically under investigation for the Matuidi signing who was somehow a Targeted Allocation Money player in 2020 but is a DP this year (kind of like Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s two seasons in Los Angeles).

The point is, Miami have to offload one of their four DPs, and they have to do it by the roster compliance deadline, which will be sometime this week before games start (Update: MLS has confirmed it’s Thursday the 15th). According to Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio on their Allocation Disorder podcast, the candidate is Pellegrini (as it’d be a PR nightmare to release any of those other stars). This is the same Matias Pellegrini who Miami just paid a transfer fee between $6-9 million for before the 2020 season.

Did I mention that he’s only 20 (he’ll turn 21 on May 11th) and he plays left wing?

That brings us to Sporting Kansas City. Should they make a move to acquire Pellegrini, who can probably be had for next to nothing (Tenorio joked a 3rd round pick and a percentage of any sell on fee — Miami’s only ask — something as small as 10%)?

Does he Even Fit on Sporting KC’s Roster?

Not, does he fit positionally (we’ll get to that), but is there room for him in the salary budget? Because Pellegrini had a large transfer fee paid for him, makes a reported $690,000 a year, and has four years left on his deal, he’ll count as a Designated Player, even after he’s traded. Sporting KC currently have two known DPs, but likely three: Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell and probably Gadi Kinda.

The question becomes, can any of those DPs be bought down with TAM? If not, then this discussion is dead as Tenorio confirmed there is no way for another team to make Pellegrini a TAM player, even though they didn’t pay that transfer fee.

Alan Pulido cannot be bought down. He has the all-time record for transfer fee paid for a player on SKC (plus he probably makes a ton of money). Gadi Kinda wasn’t a DP in 2020 (and might not be in 2021) but he was on loan. He has three years left on his deal and a rumored salary of $600,000 and a rumored transfer fee of $3.7 million. If the transfer fee and salary are right, his three-year average is $1.83 million, which can’t be bought down enough.

Russell hasn’t always been a DP, but his last reported salary was just short of $1.5 million. A salary and transfer fee above $1,612,500 cannot be bought down, so it seems that Russell is a candidate to be bought down if SKC so desire and if his wages haven’t increased too much (2020 salary data was never released).

What Does Pellegrini Bring?

So let’s assume there is a way to get Pellegrini into the budget, does Sporting KC even need or want him? Let’s break down the pros and cons.


The first pro is he fits a positional need. He primarily plays left wing, but can play on the right and at center forward. Much of the offseason, primarily because of the loss of Gerso Fernandes, fans and pundits have been asking Sporting to go get another winger, particularly a left winger. Another positive is he’s right footed and Peter Vermes loves to play with inverted wingers.

Plus, Pellegrini is a young Argentinian who has already been sold once for a huge transfer fee. If he fulfill his promise that Miami saw in him, he could be sold on for an even larger transfer fee. If he doesn’t, he still could be sold for a “small” fee of a couple million and a huge profit could be turned considering the lower rumored cost to acquire him.

He also would allow Khiry Shelton to become the first player off the bench at any of the forward spots, or at the very least provide more attacking prowess off the bench if Shelton still starts. It should also be mentioned that Matias is quick — not Gerso quick — but pretty speedy none-the-less.

One final plus is that since Matias would be a Young DP, that would allow Sporting KC to maintain their ability to potentially add up to three U-22 Initiative players, though the rules for that have yet to be fully revealed.


Pellegrini doesn’t come without considerable risks. In his lone MLS season, on a disappointing Miami squad, he had only one goal and four assists. He wasn’t a consistent starter, only starting 12 of his 19 league appearances. Miami are a bit of a disaster, despite all their money being spent, so maybe part of that can be chalked up to that.

Another issue is the simple fact that Pellegrini will occupy a DP spot. If his production stays like it was in 2020, that’s a very important roster spot tied up — and it’ll be tied up for four more years. Of course Sporting could choose to buy him out or try to sell him, but there is always a risk he just won’t grow into the player that Miami believed he would when they paid that big transfer fee and gave him a sizeable contract for such an unproven player. He’s never been a regular starter, only starting 19 games across all competitions in the 2018-19 season and a mere two the year before that.

Finally, Sporting already have a ton of really young guys they are trying to give minutes to, particularly on the forward line. Outside of the presumed starters Pulido (30), Russell (31) and Shelton (27), the rest of the forwards on the roster are very young. The elder statesman on the bench is Daniel Salloi (24) and he’s joined by Wilson Harris (21), Ozzie Cisnersos (17), Grayson Barber (21) and Tyler Freeman (18). When most fans and pundits were asking for a left winger, I think they were thinking someone with a bit more experience (I know I was).

What Should Sporting Do?

For me, the pros outweigh the cons. He can be had for next to nothing and he could one day be worth a ton. It’s hard to imagine not being able to sell Pellegrini at all. Miami got themselves into a situation where they had little time to make a move. With more of a lead up, it’s easy to see Pellegrini at least going for $2 or $3 million but the high end could set an SKC record.

Plus, being in a much better run organization like Sporting KC with a stable coaching staff, will be good for Pellegrini. He probably didn’t envision coming to the United States and ending up in the Midwest, but it may be just what he needs to get going again. Plus he’ll have plenty of Spanish speakers to help ease the transition (Pulido, Espinoza, Vermes and more).

I doubt this deal comes to fruition, but it’s something to watch in the coming days as Pellegrini is going somewhere, even if it’s just being bought out and heading back to Argentina.