Zlatan Ibrahimovic Giovani dos Santos LA Galaxy MLS 2018FREDERIC J. BROWN

LA Galaxy facing a designated player dilemma as 2019 season approaches

When Guillermo Barros Schelotto was introduced as the LA Galaxy's new coach, one of the things he said he was looking forward to was working with the team's star players. He proceeded to name the team's four designated players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Giovani dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini.

What went ignored is the reality that the Galaxy can't keep all four players. 

When the Galaxy signed Ibrahimovic to a new contract, making him an official designated player — the label that allows the club to pay him well over the league's maximum salary — it gave LA four players on DP contracts, one more than the league allows under its current rules. Now the Galaxy must figure out what to do. 

None of the team's DPs earn a salary that would allow the club to buy down their contract and turn them from a designated player into a TAM (targeted allocation money) player, so the Galaxy have no choice but to unload one of their marquee names, via sale, trade or contract buyout. 

"There's actually interest from abroad for some of them, so we'll discuss it first and foremost with the players and see if that is something they would entertain," Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese told Goal. "Second of all, there is also the possibility of restructuring the contracts or do something. We'll take full advantage of the possibilities. 

"It's not so easy obviously, but we'll have to look into every possibility." 

Transferring out one of their DPs would be an ideal scenario. It would not only alleviate the logjam but would also generate allocation money the team could use to improve a roster that needs some additions to address needs in the team's defense. 

Sources tell Goal that the Galaxy have already been approached with a transfer bid from abroad for Giovani dos Santos, but the Mexican midfielder turned down the opportunity. 

Dennis te Kloese quote GFX

The older of the Dos Santos brothers has endured a largely disappointing tenure with the Galaxy, and the arrival of Ibrahimovic has made him a much less influential figure with the team. Selling him is an ideal scenario, but the Galaxy could also choose to buy out his contract. 

"We have to see where he's at with his head and what he wants," Te Kloese said of Giovani. "Last season there was a while he got injured and things got frustrating. He's a talented player, I don't think there's any doubt about that, but before we can give a definite answer on his future we have to see where he comes from. 

"In the end Juan Carlos Osorio called him to the World Cup and he actually played. Now we'll have to see what his idea is and how he matches up to our coaching staff and our coaching staff's idea of playing style. Before knocking on the door with MLS on what to do about contracts and everything else we'll have to figure out first in a professional and personal way where they stand." 

The Galaxy will need to manage the Dos Santos situation carefully because of the presence of his brother Jonathan, who was originally drawn to the Galaxy by the idea of playing alongside his brother. If the Galaxy do decide to unload Gio it could unsettle Jonathan, leaving the club in a place where it has a decision to make on both brothers.   

Selling Jonathan dos Santos wouldn't be much of a problem considering the quality he can still provide. Offloading both brothers might seem like a drastic option, but it would turn the Galaxy's DP glut into a vacancy, leaving room for Te Kloese and Schelotto to hit the international market and use their cache to bring in a new star player to complement Ibrahimovic and build the team around. 

There is no immediate rush to make a move. The Galaxy have until the start of the season in March to address their surplus of designated players, and as much as one or both of the Dos Santos brothers could be unloaded, the Galaxy could also look to sell Alessandrini or trade him within MLS. Whatever the club decides to do, it won't be established until Schelotto has had time with his new team and both he and Te Kloese have spoken with the Galaxy's designated players to get a sense of what they want to do. 

Dennis te Kloese GFX

"The first and foremost thing is we need to speak to these guys and see where they are in their mindset," Te Kloese said. "To be honest, the team hasn't been good for the past few years. I'd like to have our coach sit with them and see how committed they are going forward. Where they see themselves and where they stand. And now with the coach coming in also he'll have an idea where we can change certain things. 

"I think it will be important when they come together so Guillermo and his staff can assess and evaluate. To be honest, I think there is a need for sure in certain areas, and it will need some creative handling." 

Selling or buying out Giovani dos Santos seems like the obvious solution, but Te Kloese doesn't see things being so simple. 

"It's easy to judge, but it's better to sit down with them and we have a little bit of time to do that," Te Kloese told Goal. "We don't want to hurt their possibilities, but they also have to understand that we have a clear idea where we want to go and we'll make the best decision for everybody."