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A History of Sporting KC Transfer Fees Paid

Sporting Kansas City are rumored to have only paid a few transfer fees in the clubs 27 year history, but business is picking up lately.

SOCCER: JUN 26 MLS - LAFC at Sporting Kansas City Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022-23 Sporting Kansas City and Major League Soccer offseason continues to slowly move forward with the promise of it picking up with this week’s expansion draft and next week’s deadline for contract options and bonafide offers coming due. Once those dominos fall, we’ll have a much better idea of what moves Sporting KC still need to make to solidify their team for 2023.

One of the big moves they can still make is acquiring a third Designated Player. As we at The Blue Testament explained earlier in the offseason, SKC have opened up a DP slot and have some roster freedom they haven’t had in some time. It’s not a full DP spot because the team is limited by their already signed U-22 players, but they could theoretically pay big for a DP in 2023 as long as they fall into the “Young DP” category. Otherwise, they can sign a non-transfer fee player to a high Targeted Allocation Money deal (or a lower TAM deal with a more modest transfer fee).

MLS has complicated roster rules.

TL;DR — SKC have some flexibility to potentially spend on a third player. Either unlimited amounts on a Young DP or much more restrictively on a slightly older player. (For a full, detailed breakdown, head over here.)

A Note About Fees

With some flexibility in their 2023 roster build, it felt helpful to look back at Kansas City’s history of spending on transfers. However, there are a few things worth outlining first.

First, transfer fee information is often sketchy at best. There are all sorts of motivations of those releasing information. Sporting KC never say specific dollar amounts, though they make reference to players being the largest fee in history. Players and agents have an eagerness to inflate numbers to make them sound as valuable as possible. Keep that in mind when looking at some of these.

Also, when we can’t find fees elsewhere, we’ll rely on Transfermarkt. They list their transfers in Euros, but usually I’d convert them to dollars. What is tricky is that today, the dollar and the Euro are almost at a perfect 1:1 exchange. Go back a few years and maybe a Euro was, on average, about 1.2 dollars per Euro.

Trying to find currency exchange rates from around the actual transfer is probably more accurate, but who is to say all the fee is paid at once and not over installments or even years? So we’ll just use today’s conversion rate for simplicity and know that it likely impacts the number a bit. Another thing to keep in mind.

All of this is a very long way of saying, I’m not converting the numbers at all since it’s basically 1:1 today.

The Biggest Fee Ever — Alan Pulido

The last time Sporting KC missed the playoffs, they went and made a big splash. The biggest in club history. There is a lot more reporting about this fee than any of the others. Some had it as low as $6 million (almost certainly wrong) and others had it as high as $10 million. Transfermarkt comes in at $8.4m in today’s dollars. However, it should be noted, Transfermarkt had that fee at $10.83 million back in 2019 when it happened. So factoring in a 2019 conversion rate, it’s possible it’s towards that higher end.

The return on investment has been a bit poor for Pulido. When he’s healthy he’s been remarkable, but a series of unfortunate events has meant he’s rarely been healthy.

Who’s Number 2? — Gadi Kinda

What could be kind of surprising is that the second highest transfer fee ever paid by SKC is for Gadi Kinda. All three DPs* currently on the roster had fees attached to them, as well as six of the 10^ fees paid in the club’s history still actively on the team. Wild!

As for Kinda’s fee, it was originally rumored at $3.7 million. That’s what TM has today as the number. But at the beginning of 2022, they had it at $4.07m. Probably some conversion math, either way he finishes second.

*Kinda is probably not a DP in 2023 for complicated reasons.
^It could be 10 fees. Maybe as many as 12. It’s a little gray.

#3 — Omar Bravo

I can’t find anything to substantiate this fee, but Transfermarkt has Bravo coming to Kansas City from La Liga side Deportivo de La Coruna for $2.7m. And that’s way back in 2011, so with inflation it’s surely more.

However, I will contend the amount is plausible for one reason. During the Alan Pulido signing, Peter Vermes indicated the team had spent about $4 million in total transfer fees before that move. To get to that number, we need this $2.7m to make the math work.

The Young Money Trio

Next, instead of going in order highest to lowest, let’s address the big moves from last offseason that substantially raised the amount of total fees Sporting KC have paid. The team signed three U-22 Initiative players, Robert Voloder, Marinos Tzionis and Logan Ndenbe.

When we first reported the numbers, which feel more accurate as inflation, exchanges rates, etc., mess with things, they were something like this:

  • Marinos Tzionis: Up to $2.26m (TM only has it at $1.36m today)
  • Robert Voloder: $1.98m (TM has $1.8m today)
  • Logan Ndenbe: As low as $1m but up to $1.5m (TM has $1.36m today)

Either way, these are significant investments, thought it’s worth noting Sporting KC could have spent an unlimited amount of money on these fees and gone for bigger players, though the risk is high on young guys. One limiting factor in why they didn’t get bigger stars is their contracts cap out as the roster max ($612,500 in 2022), so certain caliber players wouldn’t play for that or less.

It should also be noted they are all three compensated fairly well, considering only Ndenbe was a semi-regular starter. You are paying for potential.

Gerso and Croizet

Signed in back-to-back seasons, first came Gerso Fernandes and then he was followed by Yohan Croizet. Neither lived up to their billing (though Gerso came closer) but both were rumored to have been signed for about $1.5 million (TM has Croizet at just $1.2m today). They both would have reasonable salaries and just their transfer fee (like Kinda’s for the last two seasons) would make them Designated Players.

Remember when Croizet was supposed to be the Benny Feilhaber replacement? Ironically free transfer Felipe Gutierrez probably took his job before he ever secured it and it’s questionable they’d have even signed him if they’d have gotten Gutierrez first.

The Steal — Johnny Russell

The current team captain and leader Johnny Russell is a Designated Player now, but not because of his transfer fee. No, it’s his large salary and play on the field earning consistent raises year-over-year. His fee was reportedly only $280,000. Partially because he was six months away from being able to walk on a free transfer, but SKC threw down a bit of cash to ensure he arrived before the season.

Minutia and the Unknowns

There are a few more players that need to be addressed. First, Claudio Bieler. The Designated Player joined for an undisclosed fee ahead of the 2013 season. He only made $200,000 that year, so clearly his transfer fee made him a DP because the max budget charge in 2013 was $368,750. It’s wild that Bieler was a DP at $200,000 and today 18 players on the roster make that much or more.

Not to be left out is 2022 summer signing Willy Agada. No fee is disclosed and TM doesn’t list him, but he was under contract and surely a least a nominal fee was paid to get him, though we don’t really know for sure.

Next up, Zoltán Hercegfalvi. Before there was Zlatan in MLS, there was Zoltán. He was a Hungarian forward who originally came on loan and then was thought to be coming on a permanent transfer but things fell through. TM still lists him as a $100,000 transfer, though that could have just been a loan fee.

Speaking of Hungarians, Krisztian Nemeth is listed by TM as well, but that “fee” was an intraleague trade with allocation money, therefore it has no salary cap implications and doesn’t fit with these other transfers from leagues outside of MLS. If we have to add all the trades inside the league, it gets really messy because GAM is actually more valuable than ‘real’ money because of it’s ability to manipulate the salary budget.

Usually at this point in a story I’d drop in a table (and if demand is there I can go back and do it), but there is just such a variance in what the fee is/was per player. I’m not sure how I’d display it.

However we shake it out though, Pulido is more than double the next guy on the list. I’m interested to see if SKC sign a third DP in 2023. Personally, I bet they don’t. It seems more likely that Erik Thommy, the team’s third highest paid player, is a DP in name only and then they leave themselves flexibility in the summer, considering it worked out so well last year to make big summer signings.