The Chicago Fire have signed a slew of young players from South America in the last year-and-a-half, and in many of those cases, sources described those players as longer-term projects, not necessarily guys who were expected to step in and start right away.
Federico Navarro is not one of those players. The club’s latest signing, who joined from Argentina’s CA Talleres for a transfer fee that could reach $5 million if incentives are met, is expected to jump in and compete right away in defensive midfield.
He may be just 21, but Navarro has been a regular at the No. 6 role for Talleres, with 52 appearances (42 starts). He’s described as being a very hard working, aggressive player who covers a lot of ground. One media member in Argentina joked that Navarro has “three lungs” for his ability to run so hard for so long.
Navarro’s been on the Fire’s radar for more than a year now. Back in May, Hot Time asked sporting director Georg Heitz about him, who said at the time that “nothing was close.” The Fire finished the deal just before the MLS secondary transfer window closed this week, with his contract falling under MLS’s U-22 “young money” initiative. He’s the second such signing for the Fire, with striker Jhon Jader Duran set to join the club this off season.
Navarro’s contract runs through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026. Since it falls under the U-22 initiative, it will minimize his impact on the salary cap, giving the club more roster flexibility. The signing will mean Gastón Giménez and Álvaro Medrán will be able to play higher up the pitch for the remainder of 2021, although it’s unclear whether either of those guys will be back with the team next season.
The signing again proves owner Joe Mansueto isn’t afraid to spend money to help the club. If Navarro does step in and make an immediate splash, Heitz will be able to file this one away as a success. If not, Mansueto should be asking serious questions about how his money is being spent.
The 12th place Fire are 10 points behind the 7th place Columbus Crew at the season’s midway point, so grabbing a spot in the MLS Playoffs seems like a pipe dream. But, this signing, if it turns out as expected, should give fans some hope heading into 2022.