UPDATE: So, uh, this is a little embarrassing ... a reader pointed out that this photo appears to have been taken at Brown University. That's in Rhode Island. Of the United States. There are not a ton of super interesting transfer targets currently playing in Rhode Island. Consider this an open thread or whatever else you'd like it to be.
It looks as though Sounders Sporting Director/head scout Chris Henderon is on the move again. Henderson tweeted a photo from his travels to Italy. The tweet is not geotagged, but has all the markings of another digital breadcrumb for Sounders fans to follow.
The last original statue of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius pic.twitter.com/s3mI0A634x— Chris Henderson (@19Hendy19) May 31, 2016
Where is Chris?
The above statue is located in Rome, Italy. Considering that Hendo's past famous landmarks tweets have all carried geographic meaning, I'd say we can focus solely on Rome.
What position is most in need?
If Lodeiro's knee injury has spooked Garth, the Sounders may still be on the lookout for a DP-level central attacking midfielder. However, if Lodeiro is still the main target -- and I think he is -- Henderson would then probably be seeking a TAM-level winger or an attacking midfielder who can fill in at CAM.
So far this season, the Sounders have not gotten the expected productivity out of their wide forward players. With four goals to his name, Morris has been by far the Sounders' most dangerous attacking player this season. If Morris is excluded from the picture, the club's goals from the run of play suddenly look pretty dire. Kovar's right-footed goal last weekend represents the only goal from the run of play scored by a winger. All other goals from the run of play have come from defensive players (Ozzie, Marshall) or the central attacking midfield (Dempsey). That being said, shopping for a youthful winger is probably the best use of club resources.
What clubs might Chris be meeting with?
Keep in mind that the Serie A season has already ended. Chris is not there to attend soccer games and evaluate talent, but more likely to be meeting with club managers, coaches and trainers about players of interest.
AS Lazio, SS Roma and soon to be relegated Frosinone Calcio are the only three Serie A clubs in the greater Roman metropolis. Lazio and Roma are superclubs whose annual roster budgets are roughly equal to the GDP of Palau (Pacific island nation). Players in the Sounders' price and age range are hard to come by! As mentioned before, combing through the rosters of Europe's relegated clubs is a lot like shopping in the clearance section of a high-end boutique store that would normally be waaaay out of your price range. Or even shopping at a car dealership that was just pounded by a hail storm. (No, I like the clearance section analogy better.)
Frosinone Calcio; relegated to second division
Federico Dionisi, 28, CF, €3M (2017) - 9 goals and 4 assists through 32 appearances last season. Fed is a proven goal scorer at every club he has been with in Italy. He mostly plays center forward, but has experience playing on the wings. If Valdez makes noise in Copa America and moves on from Seattle, Dionisi would be a decent replacement. The goals he scored for Frosinone last season showcase his finishing versatility: header, PK, poaching, 1v1 breakaways, chipping, and shots from distance. He looks most comfortable on the counter moving toward goal. He looks for service as opposed to making his own chances in the final third. Whoscored.com highlights several weaknesses that include difficulty holding on to the ball. My biggest gripe with Federico is his trademark goal celebration move (see below). Okay, the more I write about him, the more I don't like him. Seems like more of a San Jose guy.
Aleksandar Tonev, 26, LW/RW/CAM, €900k (free) - Pacey two-footed Bulgarian national teamer (Scouting report). I love this guy's skill set. He seems like a player whom low-budget clubs pine for because he is genuinely versatile. Being two-footed enables him to play either wing effectively. Better yet, he could even be plugged in at CAM as Aston Villa played him several times. Yes, Aston Villa. The poor guy has been on two basement-dwelling clubs in the past few years. It's no wonder his market value has fallen and his personal stats have suffered. I'd really like to see this signing happen. He would be an excellent complementary signing to Lodeiro in that he is fast and could get on the end of Lodeiro passes, or he could serve as Lodeiro's backup. Too good to be true? Sadly, yes. In his 2014 season with Celtic, Aleksandar was suspended several games for using racist language (guardian report). Fifa ratings. some goals he scored.
Raman Chibsah, 22, CM/DCM, €1.5M (free) - A couple caps with the Ghanan NT in 2013, none recently. Loan ended, Raman's contract with parent club Sassuolo expires at the end of June. Sassuolo acquired him in 2013 via €5 mill transfer fee. If he is nearing free agency, it might suggest Raman did not live up to his imagined expectations. Maybe a change of scenery and changing to a lower-profile league like MLS would suit him. The value is there. Signing Raman would be a great long-term investment (gulp), but probably would solve the Sounders' scoring problem. The only video I could find was a wonderstrike from a few years ago. Sofifa ratings.
Salih Ucan, 22, CAM €3M (on loan, option to buy) - He has one more year left with Turkish parent club Fenerbahce SK. The 'option to buy' clause makes me wonder if the Sounders could arrange something with Roma where they buy him and turn around and sell him to the Sounders for a small markup. You don't need to watch long to determine that Salih is special, like Ganso special. He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, his vision is elite, but areas in his game like crossing and defending need development. At Roma, Salih made three late-game appearances for a whopping 39 minutes. Highlights. Fifa ratings.
Miroslav Klose, 37, CF, €1 million (free) - sigh, let's hope not. I don't want the Sounders to sign the next Frank Lampard. Let India's Chennaiyin FC be that club.
Ravel Morrison, 23, CAM, €1 million (2019) - Though only 23, Ravel has moved around the EPL quite a bit having already played for the likes of Manchester United, West Ham, Cardiff (loan), QPR (loan), and Birmingham (loan). In January of 2015 his contract with West Ham was terminated due to issues off-pitch. He wasn't a free agent long before Lazio signed him to a four-year deal. Ravel has enjoyed mild success with England's youth national teams but has since been off his country's radar for the past 2+ years. By all accounts, Ravel is signed to a minimal prove-it salary (by Lazio standards) but hasn't seen many minutes to prove anything. Last season with Lazio he made 4 appearances with for a grand total of 58 minutes. When everything clicks, Ravel can be the best player on the pitch. His technical skills and vision are outstanding. No one questions his talent. With Ravel, it's always been a matter of maturity and work ethic (scouting report). Perhaps this English-born lad of Jamaican descent could use a mentor, like say, Tyrone Mears? MLS would be a good move for him at this point in his career. A reclamation project like Ravel carries great value, but such a move comes with considerable risk as well. He doesn't strike me as a particularly likable guy. Highlights (that music!).
★ ★ ★
So there you have it. A few high-value players that would be excellent pickups for the Sounders in the short and long run. Aleksander Tonev and Salih Ucan look particularly appealing for the tools they would bring. Tonev looks like the best fit, but Ucan looks the better talent. Ravel Morrison has a dark, Slytherin-sounding name and a troubling past to match. He could very well turn out to be nothing but trouble if signed. Then again, he could be the next rising star of MLS. What do y'all think? Who would you most like to see wearing green this summer? Anyone missing from this list (keeping in mind Zlatan has no club affiliations in Rome and Boise is on another continent)?