News of Alan Pulido’s season-ending knee injury broke last week. Within that article, The Blue Testament’s Chad Smith posted a tweet from Manuel Veth who dropped a fascinating transfer rumor. For those of you who weren’t invited to the Veth household for the holidays, Manuel Veth is a writer for Transfermarkt, covers the Bundesliga for Forbes, and has a podcast that is undoubtedly less fun than the Shades of Blue Soccer Show.
So in the wake of the Pulido news, he tweeted that Sporting Kansas City was shopping in Europe for a striker and had bid for a player in the Swiss Super League.
That’s brutal. But it would also explain why #SportingKC have been actively shopping for a striker in Europe. They have made a bid for at least one player playing in Swiss Super League. https://t.co/cER4td2wkH— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) January 11, 2022
First, a quick bit about the Swiss Super League. The Swiss Super League is the top tier of soccer competition in Switzerland. Comprised of 10 teams, the league is typically dominated by either FC Basel or BSC Young Boys. According to UEFA’s country coefficients (some convoluted mathematical equation), the Swiss Super League is the 14th best league in Europe. While the top teams compete in the Champions League or Europa League, the Swiss Super League is largely seen as a developmental league for young players looking to make the jump to one of the bigger European leagues. Players like Mo Salah cut their teeth at clubs like FC Basel before being sold to Chelsea.
#SportingKC cannot add another Designated Player (DP) even if Alan Pulido goes on the injury list and they have budgetary space for it. Confirmed with MLS.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 19, 2022
Originally, I erroneously thought they could, but just were choosing not to.
MLS rules are hard.
Originally, it appeared maybe SKC could add another DP, but Chad got confirmation from the league that’s not the case. So Sporting Kansas City is functionally capped at $1,612,500 (the Targeted Allocation Money limit) or would be required to sign a player under the U-22 initiative.
Probably not going to happen
After Veth’s tweet, someone replied suggesting that USMNT forward Jordan Siebatcheu aka Pefok, could be the guy. Veth put a quick end to that rumor with a succinct, “Not him.”
Not him— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) January 11, 2022
It also highly unlikely that Brazilian forward, Arthur Cabral, could be the replacement. According to Transfermarkt, Cabral is valued at €15m and has 27 goals across all competitions for FC Basel. Cabral doesn’t fit under the U-22 initiative and would most certainly occupy a designated player spot.
Same goes for Jean-Pierre Nsame. The 28-year-old Cameroonian striker for BSC Young Boys is valued at €7m and is signed through June 2023.
Also unlikely is Sabastiano Esposito. On loan from Inter Milan to FC Basel. His market value is $6m and he’s signed through 2025.
Players on expiring contracts
One option for SKC to pursue is making a transfer offer for a player on an expiring contract. With six months or less left on a contract, players are free to negotiate pre-contracts with new clubs. Often, the club the owns the player’s rights will take a small transfer fee to get some sort of monetary windfall rather than let their player leave on a free.
One option is Assan Ceesay. Ceesay is a 27-year-old striker from Gambia who has 11 goals in 17 appearances this year for FC Zurich. He is valued at €1.5m and his contract expires in June of 2022. A potential complication for getting a deal across the line for Ceesay is that he’s currently at the African Cup of Nations tournament competing for Gambia. Negotiating a transfer mid-tournament is uncommon and Ceesay is likely more focused on winning for his country than securing a move to the United States.
That said, his production this season is incredible and worth trying to make a move happen even in the middle of the AFCON. This season Ceesay is averaging 0.74 goals per 90 minutes and 0.33 assists per 90. His G+A-PK per 90 minutes is 1.0. For some context, that means he’s either scoring a goal or getting an assist per game. Alan Pulido’s G+A-PK/90 last season was 0.50. Ceesay could be an exceptional pickup.
For the record, AFCON ends on February 6th.
Another option is Grejohn Kyei of Servette FC. Kyei is a 26-year-old striker from France with one cap for the French U-21 team. Kyei has scored six goals in 16 games for Servette after joining the club from Stade Reims in France. Kyei is valued at €1.5m, down from last summer when he was valued at €2.5m. Advanced data on the Swiss league is hard to come by, but Kyei has a better G+A-PK per 90 minutes than Alan Pulido.
Potential U-22 signings
To qualify as a U-22 signing, the player may not turn 23 during the first year of their contract. Player salaries are capped at $612,500 per year but there is no limit on transfer fees.
One potential U-22 option for Sporting is Kaly Sene. Sene is a 20-year-old from Senegal who is currently playing for Grasshoppers on loan from FC Basel. He’s valued at €1.8m and can play anywhere across the forward line, but primarily as a striker. Sene previously played for the Juventus U19 team and was later loaned by FC Basel to Cyprus club Omonia (current club of rumored signing Marinos Tzionis. SILLY SEASON). Sene looks to have a lot of potential and has a solid pedigree, plus the all-important positional flexibility.
If Sporting is looking for a high risk-high reward player, Alessio Besio is a 17-year-old Swiss youth international who is valued at €1m. Currently playing for FC St. Gallen, he has two goals in 20 games for St. Gallen, but none this year. If we’re being honest, Besio is unlikely to be a transfer target given his age and lack of production. However, Transfermarkt puts a lot of value on his potential and he’s one for the future.
My last potential U-22 striker is Yvan Alounga from FC Luzern. He’s a 19-year-old Cameroonian forward who has two caps for the Swiss U18 national team. Alounga is primarily a striker, but like Kaly Sene, can play anywhere across the forward line. He is currently valued at €550k but his contract expires in June 2024, which gives Luzern a fair amount of negotiating leverage. Alounga lit up the Swiss U18 Elite League (I’m going out on a limb and calling this a developmental league), but he’s only scored one goal in 37 matches for Luzern in the Swiss Super League.
A couple more names just for fun
Leonardo Campana is a 21-year-old full Ecuadorian international currently playing for Grasshopper on loan from English club Wolverhamption Wanderers (Wolves). His contract expires on June 30, 2023 and he’s currently valued at €1.2m. Campana has three goals in 14 games for Grasshoppers but only has nine total senior goals in his career between clubs in Ecuador, Portugal, and Switzerland.
Another loanee from Wolves is Leo Bonatini. Bonatini is a 27-year-old Brazilian who is currently on loan at Grasshoppers. Currently valued at €900k, Bonatini has scored five times in 13 games for Grasshoppers. Bontaini is perhaps the most prolific scorer on this list, having bagged 81 goals in 252 games over the course of his career. He has goals in the English Championship, the Swiss Super League, the Saudi Professional League, and the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
Finally, Wilfried Kanga is a 23-year-old forward from France. He can play anywhere across the forward line but is primarily deployed as a striker. Kanga is valued at €1m and is not out of contract until June 30, 2024. Kanga has eight goals in 14 appearances for BSC Young Boys after joining from Kayserispor in Turkey. Kanga has five appearances in the UEFA Champions League for BSC Young Boys and previously played in the UEFA Youth League for the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) U19 team.
For what it’s worth, based on the tweet from Manuel Veth, it looks like Sporting KC is trying to pay a transfer fee for a striker. That leads me to believe they are looking at signing someone more in the mold of Bonatini or a U-22 player rather than a player on an expiring contract (though those could be requiring small fees too in order to get the player right away). My personal preference is for a U-22 player like Sene who can come in and develop. He could play on the left, right, or in the middle to help create additional depth for our thin forward core.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.