One of the top strikers in MLS is expected to return to his native country on loan in the next few days.
Somewhere along the way from Seattle to New York to Bogotá, the wires must have crossed. Or perhaps some nuance dropped out of the conversation through translation or poor grammatical construction in a second language. Or maybe, just maybe, the established practices of directly shipping players to Europe needed to bend just a bit for the greater good.
Any of those explanations – plus the help of a number of contributing factors – might well reveal why Fredy Montero is reportedly contemplating a loan move to Colombian side Millonarios. Montero's agent, Helmuth Wennin, even told the Seattle Times on Saturday that he expects to complete the move in the next few days.
Forget about the ramifications of this purported move for Seattle on the field. Sounders FC will find a replacement, preferably one that fits into the small category of special players capable of doing whatever they want on a MLS field whenever they want to do it. The next guy can certainly replace Montero's grand total of zero playoff goals even if he doesn't hit those heights.
No, the ramifications here are financial in Seattle and philosophical in New York. The grand plan for one of the league's prime assets took a sharp left turn somewhere along the way. And now Montero is headed to Colombia trying to reverse course.
If the usual script had panned out as predicted, then Montero would have made the leap to Europe already. Seattle didn't pay Designated Player dollars to the 24-year-old striker to cherish him forever. His permanent move from Deportivo Cali in 2010 operated as a hedge of sorts. Sounders FC stood to gain from his goals and his talents for a couple of years before shipping him off to some foreign land to continue the MLS pipeline overseas and make a tidy profit.
It hasn't happened yet, though not for want of trying. Montero produced 47 goals in 119 appearances during his four seasons in Seattle. He established himself as one of the top players in the league and one of its prime prospects to embark upon a European career. Usually, those traits are enough to seal the deal. They weren't in this instance. Montero never showed the type of consistency required to prompt the type of significant offer necessary for MLS and Seattle to recoup the investment.
With Montero's prospects for a move dimming and Seattle in need of a change to its alchemy to boost its MLS Cup hopes, this temporary move to Colombia presents a way out for all involved parties. But make no mistake: it isn't an ideal option.
MLS imports players from Colombia because the market conditions are favorable. The league swings cushy deals – loans with options to purchase to insure themselves against failures – to bring players to America and then sell them elsewhere if they pan out. It doesn't ship them back there triumphantly after they conquer the league and score goals at will. Unlike European counterparts seeking a rent-to-own situation, Millonarios harbors little hope of stumping up any contractually agreed fee at the end of the term.
Seattle's desire to send Montero back to Colombia on loan says quite a few things about the player and his time in MLS. Mostly, it reinforces the rather troubling trend that success at this level isn't always enough to entice foreign sides to drop millions of dollars on a player. With the league's mixed transfer record in this department over the past year or so and the reduced financial wherewithal among many clubs, it isn't necessarily wise to splash the cash without further proof at an intermediate standard.
In an attempt to persuade those prospective buyers, Montero will try to make his mark in the Copa Libertadores and reprise his role as the top goalscorer in Colombia. He couldn't do enough with one of America's most prominent clubs to win a move. Now he has to make the step up in class and find a way to persuade a European club – and his national team manager, though good luck trying to edge out Falcao for a place in the side – to gamble on his services.
Even if it all pans out in the end, this sort of risk isn't how the matter should unfold. But everyone involved is just a touch desperate to ensure that Montero's promising future slides back on track.