The Chicago Fire’s 18-year-old goalkeeper, Gabriel Slonina, has been in talks with several European clubs including Chelsea, per multiple reports. However, according to sources, no agreement has been reached yet, and a decision has not been made on his future.
Slonina, who has played every minute in MLS this season for the Fire, has been one of the most talked about names on the transfer market this summer. He has the second most clean sheets in all of MLS, earning 7 shutouts through the first 19 games of the 2022 season.
It’s no shock that top European clubs are taking notice, and that has led to Gaga being in the news quite a bit recently. Chelsea and Real Madrid, the two most recent European champions, have long been seen as the two frontrunners, while other clubs such as Wolves, Southampton, and Bayern Munich have all been reported to have expressed interest.
Since Real Madrid’s offer for Slonina in early June was rejected by the Fire, Chelsea have emerged as the favorites to sign the goalkeeper. In fact, in recent days, there have been reports that a “verbal agreement” had been reached with the West London club to sign Slonina. However, no formal offer has yet been made by Chelsea to the Fire, and no definitive agreement has been reached as of right now. The transfer is far from a done deal, and there is plenty of time for other clubs, including Los Merengues, to submit another offer. Nonetheless, Chelsea remain in discussions over Slonina, and Stamford Bridge remains a very possible destination for the teenager.
How would a Slonina sale affect the Fire?
Even if Gaga is sold in this summer transfer window — which is the expectation, as reported by the Athletic — he would more than likely be loaned back to the Chicago Fire for, at the very least, the remainder of this MLS season. With an estimated price tag of around $10 million, he would smash the record for a sale of Fire player, set by Ignacio Aliseda this winter ($3.6 million). It would be the fourth most expensive transfer for a homegrown player in MLS history, only beat by Ricardo Pepi (with whom Gaga shares an agent), Brenden Aaronson, and Alphonso Davies.
A sale would also open Pandora’s Box: the MLS roster rules and regulations. Regardless of the exact fee, the Fire would receive around $1.1 million in General Allocation Money, and the rest of the transfer in cash. The Fire would also likely need to trade for the #1 spot in the MLS allocation order in order to loan Gaga back to the club, as FC Cincinnati currently holds that spot.
Long term, the Fire should not feel too bad about losing their starting goalkeeper. After all, his ready-made replacement, fellow 18-year-old Chris Brady, is already working to push Gaga for his spot in the lineup. Brady, who has excelled for Chicago Fire II this season and recently won the Golden Glove at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, is viewed as the successor to Slonina at the Fire. He is another player who surely could make the jump to Europe at some stage; the Fire turned down interest from Belgian champions Club Brugge earlier this year.