Major League Soccer and Spanish club Villarreal have agreed to a fee for the transfer of New York Red Bulls striker Jozy Altidore. The final price, not reported in the official MLS announcement, will reportedly be a record for a US-developed player — $10 million USD.
Villarreal finished 8 points behind La Liga champions Real Madrid. That finish earned Villarreal an automatic berth in next season’s Champions League group stage. How much of that Altidore will experience, however, is uncertain. According to Spanish sports daily Marca, Villarreal have plans to loan the 18-year-old Altidore to Recreativo de Huelva, who finished 16th in Spain’s top flight last season.
Altidore’s $10 million transfer fee is a record for an American player, surpassing the $5 million paid by Fulham for Eddie Johnson. Fulham reportedly paid $4 million for Clint Dempsey. It is also rumoured that the fee could end up being more, depending on Altidore’s performance and whether Altidore is subsequently sold by Villarreal. A part of the transfer money is likely to be distributed from MLS to the Red Bulls for player development, which the club could use to obtain new players once the league’s transfer period begins on July 15. The MLS league office ‘owns’ the vast majority of the player contracts and negotiates transfers for players. They then redistribute funds as they deem appropriate.
The 18-year-old Altidore, whose speed, strength, finishing ability and potential have already made him a star in the United States, must still negotiate a contract with Villareal and pass a medical exam to complete the transfer. Altidore has been a mainstay for the Under-23 team and he is expected to be a major part of the U.S. Olympic team’s campaign in Beijing. However, a move to Villarreal may jeopardize his availability should his new club refused to release him for the tournament.
Altidore, who is of Haitian descent but grew up in Florida, has also impressed at the international level for the United States senior national team. He made his debut for the senior national team as a substitute in a game in South Africa late last year, and he scored a dramatic header against Mexico on Feb. 6 of this year.
Altidore made his professional debut for the Red Bulls in 2006 and scored 18 goals in 29 games in his first two seasons. This year, with the Red Bulls off to a mediocre start (3-3-3), though Altidore still leads his team with three goals in eight appearances.
The deal had been rumored for weeks, and there had been speculation that MLS had received offers from other European clubs. Reading of the English Premier League were interested during the January transfer window and Altidore has been observed in the past by scouts from some of the world’s top clubs, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid.
It will be interesting to see Altidore’s career progression should the transfer go through. If he stays with the team and is not loaned out, will he play a part in Villareal’s Champions League campaign or will he be a squad player? While he has mentioned he wanted to move to a European club, the amount of playing time he would receive was an issue for Altidore, as the prospect of going to a big club just to sit on the bench (as has happened to Freddy Adu) had little or no appeal.