Is Davide Chiumiento worth designated player money? Should the Vancouver Whitecaps bring him back? Goal.com's Martin MacMahon weighs in.
Before reports emerged that the player had met with Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie last weekend, perhaps to discuss a potential return after being sold to Swiss side FC Zurich in July, that question seemed merely academic.
But with a Chiumiento comeback now being touted as something quite possible, it’s more than just a hypothetical debate among zealous fans – if the diminutive Swiss-Italian does return to the Whitecaps, it will likely be for DP money.
Under his previous contract with the club, he made $300,000 in 2012 – at that price he was certainly a star for the Whitecaps that seemed fairly compensated.
While Chiumiento had moments of brilliance and ingenuity, there were also periods of inconsistency, and – certainly in 2011 – spells when it seemed he lacked the professionalism required of a DP, most notably when he admitted to a local newspaper that he weighed 10 pounds over his ideal playing weight.
But to be fair to the 28-year-old, he seemed to turn a page under Rennie. The former Juventus trainee seemed to apply himself more under the Scottish tactician, displaying increased fitness levels and a greatly improved work ethic without the ball.
If his $280,000 salary in 2011 seemed about right as he displayed creativity and inconsistency in equal measure, Chiumiento’s $300,000 earned in 2012 as he worked to greater affect seemed a bargain.
During his final season with the ‘Caps, he finished as the top passer among players in advanced positions, with 513 completed passes, and also generated the fifth-most chances for teammates – this despite his transfer in July.
If the player wishes to return, and the Whitecaps feel he is someone they want to build around for the next few years, then giving him an extra $100,000 plus, on a multi-year deal, doesn’t seem like a terrible gamble to take.
Chiumiento is marketable for his personality as much as his on-field dynamism, and for a team still trying to sell soccer to many casual fans, if he has to be given a few dollars more than he’s technically worth from a playing perspective, it will likely still be worth it for the fans he’ll attract to the team.
But beyond being an entertainer, the attacking midfielder made the Whitecaps a better team when he played, mainly through setting teammates up for opportunities and being able to maintain possession in offensive areas of the pitch – something that seemed impossible for his former teammates after he left for Europe.
When Chiumiento was on the field, there was an unpredictability that was difficult for opposing teams to defend. After he left, the ‘Caps often looked flat in attack, often bypassing the midfield with long balls from the back – whether this was defenders lacking faith in their midfield teammates, midfielders not being assertive enough in demanding the ball from defenders, or simply a medieval tactic from Rennie, it’s difficult to argue the Whitecaps did anything but plummet in offensive potency following his departure.
Right now, Rennie insists publicly it was just about catching up with his former player – but it’s difficult to imagine the coach making the same move to cut Chiumiento loose for a minimal fee had he a time machine and a chance to do it again.
Even if both sides are ready to pull a U-turn on the divorce, there will be hoops to jump through – the biggest one being he’s only a few months into a three-year contract with Zurich. Even if an agreement was made with the Swiss club, Vancouver no longer owns his MLS rights, meaning the ‘Caps could face competition with other teams if he were to make a North American comeback.
Is Chiumiento worth that hassle? While conventional wisdom says never look back, he’s a proven MLS player, is entering the prime of his career, and the fans adore him.
It’s time to show Chiumiento the money, hold up the hand and admit an error was made in letting him go, and do what’s necessary to get him back in a Whitecaps jersey for 2013.