Word out of Belgium is that Standard Liege's Jonathan Legear is contemplating breaking his contract and moving to MLS.
By the sound of things, the suggested move is more threat than promise: L'Avenir reports that Legear wants a better deal, and those ever-in-the-know unnamed sources have suggested he will get one from MLS if his current club won't comply with his request.
Non-specific "MLS" offer used as leverage by player in contract dispute with European club? It wouldn't be the first time.
But the threat to quit seems real enough. Axel Lawaree is the Sports Advisor to Standard Liege. That sounds like a made up position, but is apparently quite real, as is Mr. Lawaree - and he's not happy with Legear:
We do not understand this reaction.How can a player who comes from nowhere and did not play a single ninety minute game can he make demands?
A little context: Legear doesn't quite "come from nowhere". He is from Liege and came up through Standard's academy, before transferring to Anderlecht, where he turned pro. He won league titles with Anderlecht, and the 2010 Belgian Super Cup that was the first trophy Sacha Kljestan won with the club. At that stage in his career, he was a young attacking player for one of Belgium's top clubs with a couple of national team caps to his name. He had a promising future.
And then he moved to Terek Grozny in 2011. The move to the Chechnyan club didn't work out so well: he made just 22 league appearances in three seasons, and attracted most attention for crashing his car.
Legear denied his blood alcohol level was anything more than "slightly above the legal limit". In 2009, he drove a car into a house.
But he's a soccer player, not a driver. Unfortunately, his soccer playing has stalled in recent years. He left Grozny in January 2014 and landed back in Belgium at KV Mechelen, but only managed three league appearances in an injury-troubled spell at the club. A proposed move to Olympiacos in May 2014 collapsed. In November 2014, he signed for Blackpool. By December, he had been told he could leave. In January, he was once again without a club.
In fairness to Legear, his troubles at Blackpool were largely caused by the fact that the manager who wanted him - Jose Riga - was sacked before he arrived at the club. Riga was replaced by Lee Clark, who took over 24 hours after Legear officially signed for the team. Clark described the player as someone who "works hard" but needed "a lot of work on the fitness side": not part of the new coach's plans for his squad.
The coach who brought Legear to England, Jose Riga, had returned to Belgium to take over Standard Liege. The player followed him, accepting a one-and-a-half year contract (with option for two more years) on terms that reflected the fact he had not played much soccer since leaving Anderlecht back in 2011. Here's Axel Lawaree again, as reported on Standard's club website, talking about the Legear deal in February 2015:
We would like to give Jonathan a second chance. Tests have shown that he’s physically OK. Now only the future will tell. He will have to work hard to progressively reach his best form. It’s up to him.
And here's Legear commenting on the same deal in the same report:
I would like to thank the management of Standard for offering me this opportunity.I didn’t need time to think. The financial aspect is not so important as far as I’m concerned. I would now like to concentrate solely on working to reach my best level again and thus justify the trust Standard has put in me.
Good times: a Liege man offered the chance to rebuild his career by his local club.
Now, scarcely four months after everyone seemed to be happy with the arrangement, Lawaree is understandably unhappy at the suggestion Legear wants a raise or he's out.
He was offered a last chance and that's how he thanks us
In support of Lawaree's reported indignation, Legear has played 63 minutes over three appearances for Liege since signing with the club - he is hardly a key player.
In support of Legear's alleged eagerness to get a better contract or take a "lucrative" offer from MLS: his current deal is reportedly around $5,500 a month. The rumored offer from North America is said to be "significantly higher." How much would any MLS club be willing to risk on a 28-year-old who hasn't been a regular or reliable first team player since 2011 is a reasonable question, but it's not unreasonable to imagine it might be more than $66,000 per year.
Which MLS team might be willing to offer an increase on $66K to see if they might be the lucky team to coincide with Legear's fulfillment of his potential? He was linked with Montreal Impact shortly before he signed for Blackpool, but the Canadian club does not seem to be on the rumor mill's radar at the moment. Indeed, it would appear just one MLS side is worth even tentative mention by the Belgian press: the New York Red Bulls.
Dhnet.be, for perhaps no better reason than a club name always helps a rumor story, reports (via Google Translate):
Not gettingto which he aspired in terms of contract, Jonathan Legear therefore seems ready to break its commitment with the club of his heart to go find what he is looking elsewhere.
Moreover, it should be in Major League Soccer where he received an offer (Red Bull New York?).
Yes, that is one of the flimsiest links to RBNY we've seen so far this silly season: not merely unsourced, but in parenthesis with a question mark.
Is there any truth to the rumor? We'll have to see whether it persists. Legear, for his part, has sought to dismiss the entire story - including, it would seem, the on-the-record reaction of Mr. Lawaree:
N'écoutez pas les rumeurs. Je suis un joueur du Standard!
— Jonathan Legear (@LegearJonathan) June 6, 2015
Translation: Don't listen to the rumors. I am a Standard player.
Fair enough. Mr. Lawaree's reaction is not a rumor, but we take your point, Jonathan: perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. We trust the facts will reveal themselves in due course.