UPDATE (Jan 2): A new report suggests the transfer fee may be closer to €1.5-2 million. While that’s at least a bit more reasonable, it would still require the Sounders to use a Designated Player spot and Erceg seems an unlikely candidate to fill that spot. For all his recent scoring prowess, he’s still 28, unproven outside of the Croatian top division, and doesn’t really play a position of need for the Sounders.
A relatively quiet offseason on the rumor front finally sprung to life on Thursday, but some cold water was thrown on the rumor almost as quickly. It started when a Croatian newspaper said the Seattle Sounders had already submitted a €6 million transfer offer for winger Ante Erceg of Hajduk Split.
Putting aside the price tag — which would be a record fee for the Sounders — Erceg is an intriguing player. He’s naturally right-footed, but plays mostly on the left wing and seems comfortable with both feet. Finding consistent minutes for the first time in a few seasons, he has really come into his own in the past two years, scoring 26 all-competition goals in that time, including 13 goals and six assists in less than 2,000 minutes this season. His nine league goals are second in the Croatian top division, behind only past Sounders target Hillel Soudani.
There are a few reasons to be a bit skeptical of this rumor, though. First off, the report has been strongly challenged by another Croatian outlet, which claims that the only offer for Erceg is a somewhat underwhelming one from Denmark’s Brondby IF (€500,000 annual salary plus €1 million transfer fee).
There’s also the reported fee. While it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see the Sounders pay €6M for someone, it seems unlikely they’d spend that kind of money on a 28-year-old who has spent basically his whole career in Croatia. Although Croatia’s top division is considered to be roughly on par with countries like Greece, Denmark and the Czech Republic, the Sounders have expressed a preference to bring in foreign players who have spent a bit more time outside their comfort zones. This reported fee would also be well above Transfermarkt’s estimate (closer to €1.75M).
As a point of comparison, consider the Sounders got Victor Rodriguez out of La Liga on a free (albeit for a higher salary).
That said, Erceg is the type of player who would make a ton of sense as a TAM-level signing. If the Sounders can get this done at the right price, he looks like someone who could add some needed elements to the attack.