The Transfer Window. Some might call it silly season. Rumors pile on top of rumors. Fans float out the names of giants who will likely never ever play in the MLS. The faithful of clubs like the Chicago Fire who are wallowing at the bottom of the table become hopeful that one or two transfers at the right position(s) can right the ship and put the club back on course. The littlest comment made by a key player turns into a rumored signing that will likely never occur.
All of these facts are true about a typical transfer window and remain true, to an extent, for this one. The difference for this one for the Chicago Fire is that the rumor mill is very quiet. No one seems to have any actual ideas. There have been few players directly linked to the Fire. Fans have put together their dream acquisitions as they would in a typical window but the Fire themselves are keep their lips sealed as tight as a drum.
Despite the lack of rumors out there it is clear that the Fire are up to something, and are planning an acquisition of some sort. The evidence is apparent with the release of forward Orr Barouch on June 11th , the head-scratching release of forward Giuseppe Gentile (who was already on loan) on June 30th, and the recent loan of long-disappointing forward Juan Luis Anangono. With 3 forwards out, the Fire have only brought in one additional forward in Matthew Fondy to replace them - and he only projects as an off-the-bench depth move.
But what are the Fire up to? The general sentiment in the Chicago Fire fan base is that any acquisition will be underwhelming and that the Fire's bankroll (and therefore the team's ability to bring in a quality DP) remains as tight as Midas's fist. It seems likely that the Fire plan to bring in another forward to replace the three spurned options. We do know that the rumored loan of Tottenham Hotspur forward Cameron Lancaster was a bit premature given that he was released by the Spurs and he is not the likely replacement at this juncture. He would have likely been an underwhelming option to begin with and not the difference maker the Fire are looking for anyway.
So who are the Fire targetting? A classic No. 9 who can hold the ball? The always-needed central attacking midfielder who can control the ball and solidify the attack for the men in red? Defensive help? It seems likely that at least a forward is a target, given the releases the team has made, but there are enough other holes in the roster to suggest that any number of positions could be the target of Frank Yallop's planning at this point.
Without a rumored direction to point to, fans are left to guess, hope and speculate. So why don't we do that with some style here? Here is some of the speculations I have seen mentioned. Most of are far-fetched pipe dreams - but hell, it's the transfer window, after all! So let's dream with some gusto. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
This is one of my favorite speculations I have heard among fans and one that has popped up now and then in the press over the last year or so. Wouldn't it be nice to see the German-born US National Team star playing in the US? How about in Fire red?
I'll admit I was a little lukewarm on Jones when I was watching him in qualifiers and other international matches. During the US's 2014 Brazil World Cup run, I became sold. His pace and work rate throughout the cup were impressive and he showed himself to be a strong contributor on the attack as well as in defense. Jones played with a intensity I would love to see in Chicago Red and White (and sometimes blue). Jones patrolling the Fire midfield would have a significant impact, and would provide Harry Shipp and Mike Magee some quality boots to work with
This rumor is not totally far-fetched, as MLS did lend some credence to the rumor that Jones is considering a move to MLS - and the Chicago Fire were one of the teams in consideration. Jones did live in Chicago as a child, and I have heard a rumor that in an interview Jones once said Chicago was his favorite city in the US, but I have been unable to find that in writing anywhere. Here's hoping it is the case, because I would love to have Jones here in Chicago!
Since it is silly season, Javier Hernández Balcázar, who is better known by his nickname Chicharito, would be a fine acquisition for the Men in Red. This is a name that has popped up in the Hot Times discussion section. The Manchester United Striker and Mexican national recently rejected a move to Southampton as 'too much of a step down.' Chicharito's rejection of Southampton makes an MLS move seem unlikely, but hey, a kid can dream.
At age 26, Chicharito is in his prime and has 86 goals in 232 professional appearances as well as 36 goals in international play. If there is any striker available on the open market that would make an impact on MLS, this is the guy - and as he is a pacy poacher, his game would seem an ideal fit for an offense built around Harrison Shipp's silky through-balls.
Signing Chicharito would be a complete coup for any MLS side, but for the Fire he would provide something invaluable that hasn't been seen since the time of Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo - namely, a Mexican international whose game and name put people in seats at Toyota Park. Sure, this transfer is never going to happen since the transfer fee would probably go way above budget - but boy, would it be nice!
These rumors have kind of cooled off, but in early June Ibrahimović was rumored to be eyeing a possible move to MLS. The 32-year-old Swedish striker would make a excellent acquisition for the Fire and as a forward he would fill the role that the Fire just created space in. Ibrahimović is touted as one of the best finishers in the game - something that the Fire could certainly use - and he is the type of player that could rip MLS to pieces when on form. He has scored 310 goals in 581 professional appearances and has been prone to heroics throughout his career
Ibrahimović has played for a variety of professional clubs in a variety of leagues over his career including Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona and Milan. If he is seriously considering a possible move to the MLS I would hope that Frank Yallop has looked up his agent's number and has begun to sell him the finer points of living in Chicago. The reality is that a player like this is much more likely to go to a higher profile MLS club [because, apparently, the Fire are a small-market team playing in the nation's third-largest market - ed.]. However, that is no excuse for not trying.
Can anyway say defense? I caught two of the Algerian matches this world cup including their elimination to Germany and was very impressed with the play of Madjid Bougherra. If there was one thing that the Algerians excelled at in their 2014 campaign it was defense and Bougherra was a huge part of that. Clearly mistakes in the back have been a huge part of the Fire's failure to achieve this season and the 6'3'' center back could be a solution. He was a huge part of Algeria's survival past the group stages in this World Cup which should not go unnoticed. He has played for a number of professional clubs in his career including Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Rangers. The Philadelphia Union have been rumored to be targeting Bougherra. Why not swoop in and steal him from the conference rivals?
How could I do a self respecting transfer hearsay session without mentioning Robinho? Robson de Souza the star Brazilian forward most recently playing for Milan would certainly provide the Fire with star power. Robinho has scored 155 goals in 496 competitive appearances and has played on the big stage with clubs such as Milan, Satos, Manchester City and Real Madrid. There is no doubt that Robinho would change the Fire's dynamic at forward and would be a clear difference maker. Rumored to be headed to MLS, Robinho has sparked a three-club bidding war that includes Orlando City, New England Revolution and your very own Chicago Fire. Realistically he is likely to sign with Orlando City and play with former teammate and fellow Brazilian Kaká. But if you're Frank Yallop, why not throw your hat in the ring?
Juan Agudelo was suggested as a wish list option by Hot Time In Old Town editor in chief Sean Spence in the comment section on the blog, and I agree he would be a wonderful pick for the Fire. In his short 4-year career the forward started in New York, was traded to Chivas USA, traded to New England (who never cashed in on a transfer), signed with Stoke and was then loaned on to FC Utrecht after being denied a work permit in England. After Stoke failed to get a work permit again in May 2014, he again became a free agent. Agudelo, who is still only 21 and is projected by many as a future starter for the US national team, continues to have so much potential at forward. Why not check to see if he is sick of fighting the battle for playing time abroad and offer him a contract? He can always be transferred later to Europe for a profit. Likely another long shot but worth mention on this speculative list.
Ok, I confess. I threw this one in for a friend who has led an underground tongue-in-cheek campaign to bring Joey Barton to Chicago. However, lets talk about this possibility. The 31-year-old midfielder currently plays for the Queens Park Rangers and has played for Manchester City, Newcastle United and Marseille, among others. At his age he would be the classic Premier League retiree making his last dance in the United States.
Would he help the Fire? Sure, why not! Would he feel wanted? With the internet campaign than has spread like wildfire over the last couple of season, how could he not? Joey, please respond!
In closing, I admit than any of these transfers happening for the Fire are highly unlikely. Left with very few concrete transfer rumors to chew on this was the list I put together for my own stimulation and enjoyment. Do you have any options either more or less outrageous than mine? Please feel free to add yours to the comment section.