The Chicago Fire are bringing Gilberto back to the MLS after missing out on Didier Drogba who is headed to the Montreal Impact.
After weeks of Drogba speculation, the Fire acted quickly after missing out by bringing in a fourth Designated Player in Gilberto thanks to the significant Targeted Allocation Money and Regular Allocation money the club received from Montreal for the opportunity to sign Drogba.
Chicago is rumored to have received roughly $250,000 from Montreal, which was used in part to pay down the salary of either Kennedy Igboananike to open the Designated Player slot for Gilberto.
Gilberto returns to the MLS after spending one season on the ill-fated 2014 Toronto FC team that failed to make the playoffs despite the Designated Player power trio of Gilberto, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe. The Brazilian striker got off to a quick start that season before cooling considerably, ending the campaign with seven goals in 28 games. He also famously got into an on-field scuffle with Defoe over a free kick, which to Gilberto’s credit, he ended up converting into a goal.
After the 2014 failure, Gilberto was loaned back to his home country in Brazil where he played with Vasco de Gama. Once again, Gilberto started hot by scoring nine goals in his first 13 appearances. He has since failed to score, going goalless in his last 12 matches and reportedly struggling to find consistent playing time.
Gilberto made $1.2 million in 2014, according to player union records. It is unclear how much the Fire will pay him for this season.
Hot (Time) Take
Reaction to this roster move has been unkind. For many fans, this has been another example of coming up short on a big opportunity and settling for a player who is not true Designated Player level. I am neither upset or thrilled with the end result.
The truth is Chicago wanted Drogba and it just didn’t happen. The front office offered a fair deal but Drogba was set on Montreal and that’s what happened. To move as quickly and enthusiastically in the direction of Gilberto is slightly puzzling. Perhaps it is a matter of there being no better striker options on the market, but it’s hard not to be tempered in expectations for Gilberto.
Surely the Brazilian has much more long-term potential than Drogba, but whether he lives up to any of that potential at all remains a big question. Gilberto’s lone season did not set the world on fire. His seven goals and five assists in 28 games during the 2014 season were eerily similar to Quincy Amarikwa’s eight goals and five assists in 2014. Gilberto does not have a history of scoring at a strong pace, ranking 64th in MLS in goals per 90 minutes. His goals per 90 minutes is worse than Juan Luis Anangono.
To say this was a home run for the Fire would be a lie. To say it was a complete failure is also overstating. Gilberto does have potential and is more likely to succeed than an Anangono because of past league experience. But like too many Fire Designated Players, there is a whole lot of "if" surrounding this signing. The only certainty is that the Fire need to spend more of that money they saved by not signing Drogba to bolster the roster. Gilberto will not turn a season around by himself.
As far as the seat-filling power of Drogba, Gilberto has none of it. It is far from a game changer in terms of generating fan excitement.