Like it or not, Gastón Giménez is back with the Chicago Fire, something I reported was likely as far back as September. I had the same feeling then as I do now: the Fire should have kept the Designated Player slot open, and aimed as high as they could to find a replacement.
The Fire are very aware of the narrative surrounding Giménez’s poor 2021 season, which is why Georg Heitz used the word “motivated” in his statement, and the club released the video of Giménez where’s he’s talking about “enthusiasm” and “desire” heading into next season. Giménez was very good in 2020—arguably not DP level good, but he was a quality player nonetheless. But during stretches of 2021, his play was uninspired. He was way off the mark of even a lower-level DP in MLS.
So what does this mean for 2022? There are a few ways I can see this playing out. Two of them could end up making this deal a good bit of business for Chicago, but one scenario would be very bad.
Scenario 1: Giménez stays, and actually thrives
Giménez was at his best at Velez in Argentina playing under Gabriel Heinze, who seems to be a borderline lunatic. Raphael Wicky was the polar opposite—a kind, thoughtful, guy who refused to lead with fear. I don’t think Ezra Hendrickson is a Heinze-style manager, but he seems to be better in the “leader of men” department than Wicky. Maybe Ezra will light a fire under Giménez to get him back to his old level.
Federico Navarro’s addition will certainly help, too. Giménez was billed as a defensive midfielder when he arrived in early 2020, but after two seasons here it’s apparent he’s not good in a ball winning role (although he can make some pretty great deep lying passes). With Navarro and his “three lungs” running down every ball, that should free up Giménez to play as more of a No. 8. If the Fire bring in a DP-level No. 10, then we might have something here.
Plus, Giménez has gone through a lot in his personal life over the last couple seasons—he moved abroad during a pandemic, got married, and recently became a new dad. Maybe he’s finally ready to have a renewed focus on the team and his play.
Scenario 2: Giménez is sold over the summer
The fact that the Fire gave Giménez a new, two-year DP deal, rather than just picking up his one-year option, could prove to be smart. Heitz has said the club regularly gets calls about Giménez’s availability. If Giménez isn’t cutting it, the Fire could sell him over the summer, and actually recoup some of the money they spent on him. The summer window might prove easier to bring in a DP replacement, too.
In other words, maybe this ends up being a stopgap deal to prevent losing him on a free transfer, which would be OK assuming the Fire don’t tank the first part of the season.
Scenario 3: Giménez is bad, but the Fire do nothing about it
Here’s the scenario that has many fans worried: Giménez has a poor 2022, plugging up a valuable DP slot. But, Heitz and Co. stick with him, and the Fire are right back where they started near the bottom of the league.
A club source who is at training everyday is adamant that those Twitter rumors about Giménez being regularly late aren’t true. Still, Giménez spent stretches of 2021 playing nowhere near his best, and he was suspended for one match toward the end of the season for breaking a team rule. Even if the “late to training” thing isn’t true, Giménez still did himself no favors in the perception department.
This third scenario could prove to be another monster setback for the club, and the Fire are long past the point where they can afford setbacks. Let’s hope, instead, that this plays out one of the other two ways, and the Fire finally make some progress.