Last Word On Sports' Mitchell Tierney has done something quite impressive. In one report, he has managed to diminish the rumor that Ambroise Oyongo might be traded to Montreal Impact, and has simultaneously brought forward a new one: Ambroise Oyongo might be traded to a club in Europe.
Ouch. Thanks, Mitchell.
Tierney's source is impeccable: Nicolas Onisse, Oyongo's agent. He simply states that he hasn't yet heard anything official from the New York Red Bulls about possibly dealing his client to Montreal, but adds that there is interest from "more than one European club" and that he expects to meet with RBNY execs once Oyongo has finished up his Africa Cup of Nations' commitments.
First, let's acknowledge that Ali Curtis has some busy times ahead.
If he's got a date with Onisse and Oyongo for whenever Cameroon is done with AFCON, the earliest possible day for that would be January 29, since the Indomitable Lions' last group stage match is January 28. We also believe Curtis is due to have a chat with Tim Cahill, for whom Asian Cup might end as early as January 27.
Last we heard about Ali, he was getting close to Terrence Boyd at Papa Red Bull's family reunion in Qatar.
Cahill is in Australia. Oyongo is in Equatorial Guinea. Most of the big leagues in Europe will close their transfer windows around February 2nd. The agents might be the only people in those meetings not severely jet-lagged. Hope Papa isn't keeping you up too late, Ali - you need to start banking some sleep.
It is, of course, entirely possible that RBNY is negotiating with Montreal without reference to Oyongo's agent. It would be a shabby way to treat a player who is currently riding high as one of the unexpected stars of African football's showcase tournament, but the current RBNY regime has not made any great effort to suggest it has any affection for concepts like respect and loyalty. MLS is a single entity: presumably it can flip players between its own clubs without reference to agents, since there isn't any renegotiation of a contract involved.
It isn't any great surprise to learn Oyongo has European suitors: he only fell RBNY's way because an attempted move to Lille in France fell through, and he will have been noticed by any scouts monitoring Cameroon's AFCON qualifying campaign, or RBNY's 2014 season. Further, he is, of course, now a much higher-profile name than he was before he outfoxed Mali's defense and calmly rescued his country from an opening-game defeat at AFCON.
But Oyongo's future may have been up in the air before he made his name so memorably against Mali. Earlier this month, in an interview with LionIndomptable.com, he was asked whether he intended to have another season in the US. His response:
Très franchement c’est une question à laquelle je ne saurais répondre. Il y’a des personnes qui sont mieux placées que moi pour répondre et temps opportun, elles le feront.
Translation: "Frankly, I cannot answer that question. There are others better placed than me to respond, and, when the time is right, they will do so." [Better translations will be received with thanks.]
The timing of any European offer doesn't seem right for a move this January: surely the point of an agent is for him to be available to execute the big deals if you are occupied with playing international soccer matches? Waiting for AFCON to finish implies Oyongo, or at least his agent, is not too concerned about this transfer window (if Cameroon makes the final, it won't be finished with its football until February 8).
Perhaps, however, this news provides some explanation for why RBNY is allegedly contemplating shipping Oyongo out to Montreal: if he's not a player they think the club thinks it can hold on to for any great length of time, then it is well advised to explore what longer-term acquisitions he might afford as part of a trade. (Oyongo is now officially under contract with RBNY/MLS, though we don't know the terms of the deal. Could be no more than a year.)
He is a talented and versatile player with a rapidly rising profile and an engagingly modest take on it all (that interview with LionIndomptable.com is worth a read). He still has a lot of work to do if he is to become a top-tier player in whichever of the three or four positions he is able to fill turns out to be his best - but he knows that, and he will surely be an asset to the team if he sticks around for 2015.
A player of growing market value can also be an asset to a team trying to build a squad around a 300-page business plan.
If Oyongo has options, then so too does RBNY. If the team is committed to better developing young players, then this is the sort of situation it needs to be good at: prevent a guy from making a move he wants to make, and you develop a reputation for stifling careers; let him go too easy, and you're a soft touch in the transfer market, unable to advance the club regardless of the success of your player development programs.
And, of course, every player who leaves has to be adequately replaced to the net benefit of the squad.
No pressure, Ali, but we may all be looking back at whatever happens to Ambroise Oyongo as the bellwether for the Curtis/Marsch era.