If reports from Mexico are to be believed, the Fire may be about to make the 2016 MLS offseason's biggest move at the first opportunity. Chicago are among three teams linked with Mexican wing forward Carlos Vela, who is apparently ready to sign for MLS in a deal that is scheduled to be announced during Sunday's MLS Cup.
Vela, 26, is one of the best talents of the current Mexican Golden Generation, a peer to players like Andres Guardado and Chicharito. After bouncing around a rather lengthy series of development loans from former parent club Arsenal, he found his feet as a pro with Real Sociedad. In four seasons with la Real, Vela scored 55 goals in 154 appearances, helping the Basque club consistently punch above its weight in La Liga.
Carlos' origin story isn't a whole lot less impressive: Found in rural Cancùn by a Chivas de Guadalajara scout at age 13, within three years he was leading the line for a Mexico boys side that stormed to a U17 World Cup title. Vela, then just 16, scored five goals to claim Golden Boot. Chivas signed him to a senior deal in time to pluck several hundred thousand dollars from a little club in north London called Arsenal, who loaned the kid out all over Spain, favoring homegrown wing talent like Theo Walcott.
Somewhere in those Arsenal years, in the middle of all those loans,was a time when fans of el Tri considered Vela something of a turncoat. Frustrated by his inability to break through with Arsenal, and exasperated by the grinding trans-Atlantic travel required by constant international call-ups, he turned some of those call-ups down. Predictably, Mexico's labile supporters turned against him a bit. Just as predictably, they've welcomed him back warmly as soon as he showed up again and displayed his quality.
The linked story mentions a rumored salary: $8 million per annum. If this is in any way accurate, it's clear Andell Holdings has jumped payroll into a whole new tax bracket within MLS.
Hot (Time) take
There's a lot to unpack here.
The elephant in the room: The first thing to note is that there are three teams mentioned as interested in Vela, and we've been down that road before, haven't we? Chicago were mentioned as the front-runner for both Didier Drogba and Jermaine Jones, and were snaffled out of each late in the game. Or were they ever truly the front runners? Suffice to say that, if the Fire fan the flames of this rumor and then don't come through, they'll be the Club who Cried 'Superstar' ... three times in a row.
But IS THIS REAL OMG: Carlos Vela is proposing to move to MLS at the absolute peak of his powers - an established goal-scorer in one of the best leagues in the world, just 26 years old. And make no mistake, Vela is a thoroughbred, a silky, world-class flyer who sees the game clearly and has the skill to bring his vision to bear. Here's an all-touches video of Vela against Atletico Madrid (surely no slouches!) last year:
How would this work?: If the Fire don't have an outgoing transfer to announce, we are in for an interesting exercise in MLS roster-building this winter. Currently, the Men in Red have Gilberto, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike under Designated Player contracts. They could utilize more of that wild-magic Targeted Allocation Money to buy Igboananike down to a regular senior contract ... but that still leaves a huge chunk of a roughly $4MM salary budget tied up in four attacking players who it's hard to imagine starting together.
How does this rumor make you feel? Take it to the comments. Se habla Español.