For months the discussion around Sporting Kansas City has centered on the club’s striker, Alan Pulido. He’s in a contract year and the ‘will he or won’t he’ re-sign debate has been ongoing. I had personally come down on the side of bringing him back but as a non-Designated Player. Well, it looks like part of that desire may be coming true.
Mexican journalist Kery Ruiz is reporting for outlet Football Transfers that Sporting KC are on the verge of signing a new two-year deal with their center forward for a whopping $4.4 million per season.
🚨 Alan Pulido
Chivas y Cruz Azul no podían competir con la oferta de Sporting. La diferencia fue de casi el doble de lo que ofrecía Cruz Azul y casi el triple de lo que le ofreció Chivas.
Además le prometieron que el proyecto lo mantiene a él como figura principal. pic.twitter.com/ciSP5Dya7e
— Kery Ruiz (@KeryNews) August 11, 2023
Per Twitter Translation:
“Chivas and Cruz Azul could not compete with Sporting’s offer. The difference was almost double what Cruz Azul offered and almost triple what Chivas offered.
They also promised him that the project keeps him as the main figure.”
The numbers are eye opening! If they are accurate, that would double his pay from the first four seasons with the team where he earned $2.2 million per season. So much for coming back on a discount after missing much of the time he’s been in Kansas City with injury.
Chivas and Cruz Azul were said to be interested as well, but they were reportedly far outbid. The “almost double” line makes it feel a bit like an overpay.
Explaining the Financial Ramifications
The response on Twitter (or should I say X?) has been surprisingly positive. There are outliers, but the general consensus seems to be he is really talented (when healthy) and its unlikely Sporting KC would find a good replacement for him since the transfer market can be incredibly hit or miss.
Part of that could be the context I added there and will add here.
In 2024, Pulido would be a Designated Player if he made $1,683,750 or a billion dollars. It doesn’t matter. It only matters to the ownership group writing the check. I was personally hoping to get him under that threshold, making him a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) player and freeing up a spot for SKC to go out and sign another DP.
Here is a quick explainer on Designated Players (DPs) for those interested.
If the price had risen above that $1.7m number, then the salary budget ramifications are the same. He’ll hit the budget at $683,750 and the team will have used one of it’s three DP spots occupied for the next two seasons.
Erik Thommy fills another spot (though he is under that threshold to be bought down based on the 2023 numbers) and Gadi Kinda is the team’s other DP who is out of contract after the season. Even if he re-signs, if he’s anywhere near the $918k he made in 2023, he won’t be a DP, so there will be plenty of flexibility to still make moves, including a potentially massive one. I hear Neymar is looking for a club.
Does This Move Make Sense?
Alan Pulido will be 33 years old around the start of the 2024 MLS season. Meaning he’ll nearly be 35 by the end of his contract. Prior to the 2023 MLS season, he had missed more than half the games he was under contract for due to injury. He actually missed a good chunk of the 2023 season still recovering from a surgery that kept him out all of the 2022 season.
Now that he’s healthy, he’s absolutely producing. In 20 games (18 starts) he has 10 goals and three assists in league play. The 10 goals are a high in all his seasons in KC and Sporting still have nine games to go. He’s scoring every other game, so that’s good for another four or five goals if that pace continues. He also added another goal in the US Open Cup.
If he stays healthy and keeps producing, he’s a perfect fit for this team as it’s currently constructed. But it’s a huge if. Even before arriving in Kansas City, he had a history of missing time. Though all those injuries (besides that broken arm) were relatively minor and short-term.
Staying healthy isn’t the only concern. Father time, as they say, is undefeated. Strikers tend to peak at much younger ages and it’s always a possibility Pulido declines. Then again, he’s a workout monster and seems to be getting better with age, like a fine wine.
Other, Cascading Impacts of this Move
Two things jump right out at me. One about coaching and one about Willy Agada.
First, it would seem that Peter Vermes’ job is safe. If you are letting him spend a rumored $8.8 million over two years on one guy (SKC had a total 2023 outlay of $15.4 million in 2023) you’d think he’d have a chance to put that vision to work. It’s no sure thing, but when his team has been healthy, they’ve been pretty good. The problem is they are rarely healthy which is partially aided by the age of the roster, how hard they practice, and sometimes their lack of rotation. We’ll see if they miss the playoffs in 2023 and how that impacts things going forward.
Second, Agada seems to be relegated to being the backup. He’s on a super team-friendly deal and he scored immediately upon his return from injury so it could be a good build towards the future. Let Agada sub into games consistently and shoulder some load. You get a change of pace and take some of the work off of Alan. Then Agada is ready to be the man in two more seasons (though I suspect he thinks he’s ready now).
So, what do you think of the move? Let’s discuss it in the comments. Also, on a personal note, I was out of the country for two weeks but I’m back and hopefully the content will ramp up accordingly around here. I’ve missed you all.