Although the Seattle Sounders exercised their 2022 contract option on Raúl Ruidíaz, negotiations over a potential extension appear to have hit a snag. The issue is apparently significant enough that Ruidíaz is making it known that he is ready to leave, according to Pulso Sports’ Nick Negrini.
Hay que agregar que Raúl Ruidíaz es muy claro en su posición de irse de Seattle. No quiere quedarse en @SoundersFC de ninguna manera.— Nick Negrini (@NickNegriniG) December 1, 2021
This is a far cry from where things stood only about a month ago, when it looked as though the Sounders and Ruidíaz were reasonably close to an agreement.
For their part, the Sounders are at least putting on a good public face. Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey called the conversations he’s had with Ruidíaz’s agent “cordial” and “professional.” Lagerwey also made it clear that the Sounders hope to sign Ruidíaz to a longterm contract but fully expect to have their DP forward in 2022.
“We’ll work together to try to get a good resolution for everybody,” Lagerwey said during an end-of-season press availability on Friday. “Worst-case is he’s under contract for next year and if we have to solve something for 2023, we will. But our preference is to try to work out a deal. We want to keep him here with the Sounders long term.”
Ruidíaz is coming off his best season since moving to the Sounders in the summer of 2018, tying the team record for regular-season (17) and all-competition (19) goals. Ruidíaz now has 61 goals in his Sounders career, second only to Fredy Montero (68) in franchise history.
But Ruidíaz, 31, is also coming off a season in which he missed most of the last two months with a hamstring injury. While he remains one of the league’s top goal-scorers, the Sounders surely have a limit as to how much they’re willing to pay and for how long they’re interested in extending him.
At the heart of all this is the unilateral team option, something that has been challenged —successfully in some cases — by several players over the years. Two recent examples are Cyle Larin and Kaku, both of whom effectively ignored those options to sign with new teams overseas. In the case of Larin, Orlando City still got about $2 million from Besiktas, while Saudi Arabia’s Al-Taawoun FC has so far avoided paying any fee to the New York Red Bulls but the case is still going through the legal process.
Several Liga MX teams have reportedly expressed interest in Ruidíaz but even at his current salary of about $2.1 million he’d already be among the Top 10 paid players in Mexico. It’s unclear if there’s a particularly robust market for Ruidíaz overseas in Europe or Asia.
This is starting to look a bit like the situation surrounding Obafemi Martins, who effectively forced his way out before the 2016 season. Martins went as far as to threaten to sit out if the Sounders didn’t agree to transfer him to China’s Shanghai Shenhua F.C. The Sounders ended up collecting about $3 million, but weren’t able to really put that money to use until the following summer when they signed Nicolás Lodeiro.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible that this is merely the next stage in negotiations with Ruidíaz, as he sees if he can get the Sounders to come up from whatever they were offering. Ruidíaz has been extremely good for the Sounders and they know that he’ll be very difficult to replace, especially if they want to do it before Concacaf Champions League begins in about 10 weeks.
Correction: This story originally stated that the Red Bulls had collected a transfer fee for Kaku.