The Major League Soccer offseason has come limping out of the gates with the extension until November for teams to announce their roster moves. That doesn’t mean things aren’t happening in the background.
The first rumor of the offseason emerged today from Goal.com. They are reporting that 19-year-old defensive midfielder Igor Jesus is being linked to a move to Sporting Kansas City. He currently plays for Flamengo in Brazil, but he primarily features for their U-20 team.
Goal, via Google Translate, is reporting that Sporting KC, “sent an official document showing interest in the midfielder,” however, it goes on to say that SKC “discarded” the negotiations due to the price. Flamengo has reportedly set a $1 million asking price. Transfermarkt places his value at $165,000. Obviously with a young player, you are paying for potential, but that sticker price was apparently too high.
Just because SKC reportedly turned away from the negotiations, doesn’t mean they are over. Jesus is only under contract through December of 2023, so he can sign a pre-contract as soon as next summer and walk away for free once the year is over. Sporting likely made the offer knowing that was the case.
What Mechanisms Exist to Sign Jesus?
As always, this comes down to the salary Jesus signs for and if there is or isn’t a transfer fee attached. The team currently has open one Designated Player spot, for which they can spend an unlimited transfer fee and salary*. However, an unproven 19-year-old with just 21 minutes in the Brazilian top flight might not be where they want to put that money. He would qualify as a Young DP, which is important as whoever the team signs needs to either be a Young DP or have a salary under the TAM max since they already have three U-22 players.
Speaking of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), that’s another option. It’s unclear how much money Sporting still has to spend in TAM, and it’s very much in flux since several of their TAM players are either out of contract (Andreu Fontas) or have options that can be declined (Nicolas Isimat-Mirin). If they signed him to a TAM deal, his pro-rated transfer fee and salary would have to come in at under $1,651,250 for 2023. Even with a million dollar fee, theoretically this is very possible spread over a few seasons, but the amount of available TAM to spend is in flux.
The next option is a U-22 Initiative (#YoungMoney) signing. Technically all three of these spots are filled (Robert Voloder, Marinos Tzionis and Logan Ndenbe) but any of the current U-22 guys could get moved to TAM deals. However, all their fees are higher than the one that’s too high for Sporting with Igor Jesus, so it’s unlikely.
The most likely outcome is KC want to keep any transfer fee low enough that Jesus is a player they can simply buy him down with General Allocation Money (GAM) or on the lower end of the TAM spectrum (it starts at $651,250 next year).
How does he fit with Sporting KC?
Obviously, defensive midfielder is one of the biggest needs for Sporting right now. Remi Walter started many of the games down the stretch, but he was playing out of position. The only other player on the roster that plays that role is Uri Rosell and he had a season to forget.
In the below highlights, Igor is much more of a technical dribbler and passer than a crunching tackler. He seems quick, but I’m not sure if he’s fast. Defensive midfielder highlights are always sort of weird, so it’s really hard to tell. Overall, there is literally one “tackle” in the highlights and that’s being generous.
The video does show him dropping between the center backs, which is something Sporting KC often ask of their d-mid. However, the sample size is too small to know if he’s got what it takes to fit in MLS. Overall, he drew a ton of fouls because of his quick feet, but that could also be a negative because if he doesn’t get the calls (and MLS is a physical league) then he could be leaving his defenders hanging out to dry.
The Blue Testament will bring you more if anything emerges on this story. Also, if you are doing some additional research, be careful as there is a 21-year-old center forward by the same name who is also Brazilian.