In confirmation of a rumor that rippled through the Twittersphere just 24 hours ago, the website of Spanish club Deportivo Alavés is reporting that 27-year-old Serbian winger Aleksandar Katai will join the Chicago Fire through June 30 on loan, with an agreed fee due at that time if the Fire are so inclined.
If it was just two years ago - in 2016 - the news that Aleksandar Katai is going to suit up for the Chicago Fire would be met with entirely different fanfare. In 2016, Katai was fresh off tearing up the Serbian Premier League (and Champions League qualifying rounds!) with Red Star Belgrade. In a little more than a season there under manager Grof Brožović, Katai scored 23 goals in 37 appearances.
By the end of 2016, Katai seemed in ascendence. He was working himself into the Serbian national side. And he got a big pay raise when Alavés came calling, paying a transfer fee to bring him to Spain. Since then, his playing time has gradually crumbled under a succession of interim managers before arriving at its nadir under the stewardship of new Alavés boss Abelardo Fernández.
No terms of the deal beyond its loan-to-purchase aspects have been released at press time.
Brightside: Creative player who should be motivated
Katai has taken a helluva route to the USA - he was bought by Olympiakos as one of those loan-out puppy-mills (see: Chelsea FC, Udinese) and subsequently loaned to three different clubs in four seasons - he is not a pampered La Liga player. He’s been a creative force in Serbia’s top flight, and an excellent one when surrounded by top talent. And he’s 27 in a World Cup year. If he doesn’t blow minds before spring turns to summer, he’ll never make a World Cup roster. If this guy isn’t almost too motivated, he’s got a problem.
Darkside: Is he a little bit ... angry?
I don’t know how many players have pull-quotes on their Wikipedia page, but Katai is among that number, and it’s an odd one:
“Katai’s problem is not motivation, it’s in his head, because maybe he did not want to return to Serbia. The boy trained for a month and a half until midnight [at Olympiacos], and they still didn’t allow him to train properly. All they did was let him on the training field so he wouldn’t sue them. He is a little angry...”
That’s his former coach Nenad Lalatović, speaking in 2014. It sounds like Katai’s determination turned a bit to fury when he was thwarted - not hard to understand a driven guy being frustrated in that situation, honestly. And this could be a positive within the makeup of a team; guys who want to work hard and hate to lose? Yes, please. But guys who flip out when they get beat for a position? Let’s hope that’s not a concern.