Here’s my life: It’s Tuesday around 1, so of course I’m taking the order (soup and salad, natch) of two elderly ladies. They apparently killed the final minutes before entering the restaurant’s doors by crushing and snorting Adderall off the console of their deceased husband’s El Camino, because they are VERY. EXCITED. about the fact that, should they require a second bowl of soup, the entire panoply of my restaurant’s soup menu will be - once again! - thrown open for their perusal.
“Yes, all four of them. You can pick each time. Yes, ma’am.”
And it’s the holidays. There’s lots of people shopping, and almost all of those people eat food. Most of them, it seems, have access to stimulants stronger than caffeine. It’s a demanding environment. Which makes it an inconvenient time to learn that the Chicago Fire, the club I’ve followed with
desperate doggedness increasing impatience since their entry into this league, have seemingly decided to disembark the Fail Bus and give this whole ‘building a credible professional football side’ thing a shot.
As first reported by Guillermo Rivera on Twitter - and then confirmed by basically everyone else with a press pass - the Fire have signed their first offseason transfer target, Legia Warsaw sniper Nemanja Nikolić, to a Designated Player deal. Nikolic leaves Warsaw after an absolutely scorching 18 months with the Polish Ekstraklasa high-flyers - 55 goals in 84 appearances! Eight in 21 European matches! - and reportedly cost the Men in Red around $3 million in transfer fees. MLS was ready with a highlight video. (HINT: Dude can finish.)
This is a simple transaction. The Fire need a striker who will score goals. Nikolić has scored goals, in remorselessly increasing basketfuls, on every team he’s played for. Nobody scores 28 goals in 37 games in a European top flight if they aren’t a goal-scorer. Chicago Fire twitter suddenly was as giddy as my two-top of grannies.
Hot (Time) take
What makes this move interesting is not just the move itself - although signing a guy whose career is a straight-up Roy of the Rovers narrative is a vast improvement over the ‘uhhh, we see a lot of upside’ palaver we’ve grown used to from CF97. What’s interesting (maybe just to me?) is that this is the first Fire deal in quite a while that seems entirely motivated by a will to produce results on the field, and not an uncomfortable admixture of that will with other, lesser wills - the will to accommodate MLS, or the will to speculate on the financial upside of transfer markets, for instance.
So let me make this clear: This is a move made to get better on the field. Full-stop.
The Fire (or MLS, if that distinction matters to you) are paying $3 million to Legia Warsaw for his rights, and he’s 29. No matter what happens in 2017, they’re not selling him for $10 million in 18 months - this is his peak value. And the Men in Red are paying it, apparently because they believe that he’s a piece of a roster that will win some f-ing games. Thank goodness.
I will say that my satisfaction with this deal is being seriously undermined by my SB Nation colleague Jason Anderson (a/k/a ChestRockwell), who points out that
LRT: Chicago is about to spend millions on a 28 year old #9 who has never played at a higher level than Poland & has 3 intl goals in 23 caps— Jason Anderson (@chestrockwell14) December 20, 2016
I have a huge - YUUUUGE - amount of respect for Jason’s knowledge as a scout and soccer mentat, but I have to respectfully disagree, mostly on a technicality. That technicality being International football is almost always a shit-show, so trust club performance. And, y’know, bash the Ekstraklasa all you want, 28 in 37 is bananas. BANANAS.