Happy MLS Transfer Deadline Day! Or, MLSTDD! And how better to celebrate such an exciting occasion than by pointing out the misfortune of the few, the sad, the relegated! That's right, I'm talking about European league relegation. While Garth Lagerway and the Sounders front office burn the midnight oil shopping for shiny new international players, a handful of relegation-bound clubs in Europe are doing the opposite, making preliminary budget cuts--deciding which players stay, and which ones must go to the highest bidder. Let's take a journey across Europe's worst first-division clubs of the 2015-2016 season, looking at potential targets for the Seattle Sounders along the way. But first, a little bit about the promotion/relegation system.
What is "promotion/relegation" in soccer terms?
Promotion and relegation is a process where clubs are transferred between upper and lower divisions based upon their performance for the completed season (wikipedia).
As most know, with relegation come some harsh financial realities. Generally speaking, clubs that play at the highest level enjoy more fanfare compared to geographically similar clubs playing at lower levels. The combination of ticket sales and television ratings can strongly influence corporate sponsorship. The promotion/relegation system has the power to deeply impact all three revenue streams that clubs enjoy. More to the point, teams that become relegated to lower divisions lose their economic ability to retain skilled players, often resulting in any combination of financial instability, player loans and player transfers at knock-down prices. A commonality in the pro/rel world is the almighty relegation release clause found within player contracts.
Relegation Release Clause - If the player's club is relegated and another club makes an offer that meets/exceeds the amount stated in the clause, the offer must be accepted by the player's club.
These clauses have the effect of protecting a player from having his wages reduced, and/or being stuck on a lower division team. High profile players with leverage at the bargaining table tend to have these clauses. The usage of release clauses in player contracts vary widely among leagues and clubs around the world. Contract details are usually kept between a player and the club (sometimes leaked), making it difficult for fans to speculate a player's future in the event of relegation.
So, that's the quick and dirty of the promotion/relegation world. Let us now take a look at a few European leagues with pro/rel whose seasons end this weekend. From those leagues, we will highlight a handful of players from teams that are either "locked in" or are "at risk" of relegation heading into the final weekend. Cue a navy blue yacht slowly cutting through the fog towards a European port with a dapper Garth Lagerway casually leaning over the bow railing smoking a big cigar.
Ligue 1 (France)
In France, the relegation mechanism is as simple as the bottom three teams drop to the second division. No playoffs, just straight to the guillotine.
Troyes: Locked in.
No standout DP targets.
Reims: At risk.
Prince Oniangué, 27, CM -- A two-way midfielder who is a force defensively and at 6'2" is a good target on set pieces. He has a big price tag and has never ventured outside of France. It would be a long shot.
Gazélec Ajaccio: At risk.
No standout DP targets.
Toulouse: At risk.
Oscar Trejo, 28, CAM -- Sooo badly do I want this guy on the Sounders. Highlight shows Regattin busting down the flank and centering it to Trejo for the goal.Contract expires in 2017.
Adrien Regattin, 24, CM -- short, physical and speedy, two-way midfielder. Not the creator that Trejo is, but he'd look great next to Ozzie. Contract expires this June. See above for highlight.
Tongo Doumbia, 26, CM -- He's 6'3" and has the tools to do everything a box-to-box midfielder is asked to do at a high level. On top of that he gives you heading service on set pieces. Good luck marking him. Contract expires in 2018.
Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro, 23, CM -- The most valuable midfield piece according to transfermarkt. Like Tongo, except shorter, faster, and younger. Racked up 4 assists (same as Trejo) and 12 yellow cards! Here's a howler from Akpro
Wissam Ben Yedder, 25, CF -- Not a creative attacking midfielder, but one of the few recent Sounders rumors was the scouting of Mr. Yedder. He is truly Toulouse's shiniest piece coming off of a banner year where he scored 22 goals across all competitions, but if the Toulouse ship sinks, the young striker may be considered too expensive to keep. Highlights.
In the Bundesliga, the worst two clubs get relegated to Bundesliga 2, and the third-worst team enters a two-leg playoff with the third-best team from Bundesliga 2.
Hannover 96: Locked in.
Edgar Prob, 26, LM -- German two-way midfielder. Comparable to Bedoya, but faster and a better ball winner.
Stuttgart: At Risk.
Alexandru Maxim, 25, CAM -- 9 goals and 11 assists the previous season; Swansea wants him for £5 million. Highlights
Werder Bremen: At Risk
Zlatko Junuzovic, 28, CM -- Not Zlatan, but Zlatko isn't far off. At a struggling club, he managed to tally 4 goals and 13 assists. A damned assist machine! If WB lose again this weekend, expect to see his name in European transfer news. Highlights
Eintracht Frankfurt: At Risk
Marco Fabian, 26, CAM -- The team has been on a hot streak lately, they may just escape. Atlanta United is supposedly eyeing the Mexican international.
La Liga (Spain)
In Spain's Primera Division, the bottom three teams are relegated to the second division. Currently only Levante is mathematically set to be relegated.
Levante: Locked in.
No standout DP targets.
Rayo Vallecano: At risk.
Jozabed Sánchez, 25, CAM -- contract expires next season but if relegated they might have to part with their most valuable player. 9 goals and 3 assists on the season.
Sporting Gijón: At risk
Jony, 24, LW -- Contract expires in June; Jony may only have 4 goals this season but with 9 assists, he has my full attention.
Getafe: At risk.
Karim Yoda, 27, RW -- He's a true winger. His contract is up in June, and his name is Yoda. Sign him, we must. Highlights
Pablo Sarabia, 23, CAM -- Most valued player on Getafe; on Spain's national team radar; contract good through 2019 but would almost definitely find a new team if relegated. Highlights. Arsenal eyeing him.
Premier League (England)
Much like France, England uses a simple three up, three down pro/rel system.
Aston Villa: Locked in.
Villa spent £55million on 13 new players last summer. Fire sale? I think so.
Jordan Veretout, 23, CM/CAM -- Had a breakout year with Nantes with 7 goals and 7 assists; failed to score with Villa. They overspent on him and likely want him gone. AC Milan is interested.
Idrissa Gueye, 26, CM -- A standout on a terrible team. He has made it clear he wants off the sinking ship. Expect Chelsea or another EPL club to sign him.
Charles N'Zogbia, 29, CAM/RW -- Underperformed on a contract year, he would be a great TAM pickup for a one year prove it contract.
Norwich City: Locked in.
Nathan Redmond, 22, RW -- He was a U-21 England standout, Stoke wants him. Sounders can compete with Stoke, right? Probably better off fishing in South American waters for an alike talent.
Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, 27, CM -- Both Vadis and Jonathan fill the same role; if relegated may have to choose. Highlights.
Jonathan Howson, 27, CM -- He's pretty good at soccer too.
Newcastle: Locked in.
Andros Townsend, 24, RW -- Really polished player. He's fast, agile, great finisher, and creative too. Highlights.
Henri Saivet, 25, CAM -- His touch, his vision, its like he's playing a different game out there. Highlights.
Siem de Jong, 27, CAM -- ex-captain of Ajax, no goals and only 1 assist on 18 appearances/400 minutes this past season; completely underutilized with Newcastle but he'd destroy in MLS. Highlights.
Expiring Contracts (ending 06.30.2016)
Joao Carlos Texeira, 23, CAM, (Liverpool) -- Not quite a finished product to start for Liverpool, but Brighton (loan) fans would love to keep him.
Rubens Sambueza, 32, CAM, (Club America) -- Remember all those goals Club America scored against the Sounders? Yeah, Sambueza was the assist man. He's 32, but it would be a coup if Garth snatched him up for TAM money.
Emerson Hyndman, 20, CM (Fulham) -- The Sounders' future would look very bright indeed if they added the young yank to the already healthy list of 19-22 year olds.
Who would you like to see wearing rave green if you had to pick just one player? If I have a magic wand, I want Werder Bremen's center midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic. Wouldn't that be a delicious twist of fate? Werder Bremen would go from nearly cherry-picking Jordan Morris three months ago to losing their best playmaker. Don't mess with the Lagerway.