DeAndre Yedlin will be suiting up for the Seattle Sounders throughout the 2014 season. But after today's news that the Sounders and Tottenham Hotspur have signed a transfer agreement, how long Yedlin will remain in Seattle is not exactly known.
There are, understandably, a lot of questions surrounding the details of this transaction. This is our best attempt to answer some of those questions.
I see Yedlin is still with the Sounders, but that must mean Tottenham loaned him back here, right?
Well, no. Turns out this is a sort of delayed transfer.
Here's how Sounders GM and part owner Adrian Hanauer explained it: "He'll become a Tottenham player at some other point. He was never registered with Tottenham and loaned back to Seattle."
I've never heard of a delayed transfer. Is this just MLS making stuff up?
Turns out no. Although it's not a mechanism we hear a lot about, anyone who has played Football Manager is probably aware of how it works. Basically, Tottenham is locking in their price, gambling that Yedlin's potential transfer cost is only going to get higher.
You think the Sounders sold low?
Hard to say. Yedlin is still just 21, but he's coming off a solid performance on the world's biggest stage. Teams from all over Europe were kicking the tires and, at least according to Hanauer, putting in "serious" offers. If Tottenham hadn't bought now, it's entirely possible that Yedlin could have gone somewhere else and then they might have lost him forever or risked paying many times what they paid now in order to get him.
It's also worth pointing out that Yedlin was hardly an innocent bystander, hopelessly along for the ride. By all accounts, this was a move he wanted, which is totally understandable as Tottenham is probably one of the 20 biggest clubs in the world.
Oh, now you're putting me on. Tottenham is not a big club.
Look, I realize Spurs haven't won a whole lot in, like, forever. But they have a ton of fans, money and exposure. Once you get outside of England, the number of clubs that can even come close to them in all those areas is pretty small.
Fine, but does that make the Sounders a selling club?
To some degree, everyone who's not Manchester City, Chelsea, Madrid and Barcelona are effectively "selling clubs," in that there's always someone willing to pay their players more money than they are. Here's what Hanauer had to say on the matter:
"Every club in the world sells players. It's just a question of weighing the benefits and drawbacks and we ultimately decided this was a good decision for us."
When's Yedlin leaving anyway?
The schedule is not iron-clad, but he'll be with the Sounders at least through the 2014 season. After that it's harder to say. Tottenham said they expected him to remain with the Sounders until the 2015-16 season, but the Sounders aren't guaranteeing anything beyond this year. It's entirely possible that Spurs will decide to loan him to a club somewhere else in Europe for a few months during the winter.
Hanauer talked about this, too: "We've had conversations about it. It's not earlier than the transfer window at the end of our season in January. I don't want to put words in Spurs' mouth, but I think the intent was that they would like to assess where things are at with their club at that time and potential work permit issues with DeAndre and assess how he's been doing with us and whether it's the right time to fit him into their squad or whether they make the decision at that time to let him stay with us for another period of time until the summer window a year from now."
Yeah, becoming a professional footballer (that's what they call it there, don't shoot the messenger) in England isn't as easy as you might imagine. After seeing their league filling with foreigners, the English powers that be decided that in order to slow the influx they'd institute a rule that mandates a foreign player must have appeared in 75 percent of his country's competitive national team games in order to receive a work permit. Even if Yedlin plays in the six Gold Cup games next summer, he'll have only played in 9 of 14 competitive matches. There's an appeals process that allows for "exemplary talents," but nothing is guaranteed.
Well, I heard Yedlin might be able to get a Latvian passport. Would that help?
It would, actually. Latvia is a member of the European Union, whose passport holders don't need a work permit to play in England.
Can Yedlin actually get a Latvian passport?
Impossible to say for certain, but it's apparently a possibility. How is a bit complicated and I'm certainly not enough of an expert to explain it, but let's just say that in the world of soccer -- much like the world at large -- money talks and rich clubs tend to figure out a way to make things happen.
Speaking of money, how much are the Sounders getting out of this deal?
Reports on the transfer fee have ranged between $3.5m-$4m and the Sounders will get 75 percent of that due to Yedlin's Homegrown Player status. Of that 75 percent, $650,000 can be converted into allocation money. The rest? Let's allow Hanauer to explain:
"It provides us with some cash to reinvest in any aspect of our soccer business that we want, whether that’s in our youth side that allows us to develop two or three or four more DeAndre Yedlins or Designated Players or other soccer facilities and infrastructure that will put us in a strong position going forward."
Tell me more about this allocation money.
As you hopefully know, allocation money is used to pay down the salary budget number of players, basically allowing teams to spend more money than the league-mandated budget allows. Even though the league's transfer window is closed, the Sounders could still trade it, use it to sign players who are out of contract or even pay down the salary-budget number of players within the league they acquired via trade.
Ooooh, I like that sound of that. When should we expect the Sounders to use it?
Actually, it might not be that important this year. Hanauer said the team is already sitting on "as much allocation as we could or would spend still this year. That said, I anticipate that as soon as the end of August that allocation money would be available."
Yedlin must be getting a big raise, too, right?
Probably, but not from the Sounders, at least according to Hanauer.
"We're just continuing to pay him what we're paying him. I haven't thought about next year, but we have a contract with the player that pays him a certain amount next year and I don't think knowing that he'd be leaving six months into the year that we'd renegotiate and change that compensation. I don't know what kind of contract he has with Tottenham."
Did the Sounders at least try to keep Yedlin before accepting this deal?
They did, but in the words of Hanauer they never applied the "full-court press." Spurs could afford to pay Yedlin a lot more than would probably make sense for the Sounders and they play in the most watched league in the world. Yedlin is living a dream right now and, as much as he might love Seattle, the Sounders seem to have accepted this was the kind of move that makes sense for everyone.
The Sounders get to keep Yedlin as they attempt to win their first MLS silverware, Yedlin gets to test himself against the best players in the world and Spurs get one of the hottest prospects to ever come out of the United States. As disappointing as this may be for many fans, it's also not hard to understand why it was done.