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Kaku standoff continues as club and player assess options

After initial rumblings last month, the hot stove around the mercurial Red Bulls attacker has cooled off

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Now in its second sequel, The Neverending Transfer Saga continues to limp along.

At the moment, New York Red Bulls playmaker Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra appears to be staying put. The Paraguayan international spoke with Argentine publication Queremos Del Sur and provided some insight into the current transfer dealings. The news is that...there is no news, with clubs failing to submit a high enough offer.

“Other teams have called me and have also gone to Red Bull but no agreement was reached,” said Gamarra. “There were several clubs that wanted to take me and could not finalize the negotiation.”

The last update of a potential move was on December 27th. Súper Deportivo revealed Club Tijuana of Liga MX offered a fee of three million dollars with an additional $500,000 in incentives and a 20% sell-on clause. This revelation came on the heels of a report from ESPN Digital that named Xolos and “some Arab and Argentine teams” as potential suitors.

The now-26-year-old began his career with Argentina Primera División club Huracán before moving to the New York Red Bulls in February of 2018. The deal was reportedly worth $6.25 million in exchange for 80% of his rights. While possessing a desire to once again play in his home country (Gamarra is a native of the greater Buenos Aires area) there is no plan to return in the immediate future.

The Red Bulls clearly rate Kaku’s value at a much higher amount than clubs are willing to pay. In January of 2019, New York reportedly wanted $10 million from Club América. While the desired fee is likely lower after two underwhelming seasons, ownership is not going to let the Designated Player leave at a premium. Any team hoping for a bargain will walk away from the negotiation table sorely disappointed.

Further compounding issues is Kaku’s frustration with his contract renewal. The Red Bulls triggered a team option following the 2020 season, which reports described as a two-year extension. Unilateral contract extensions are controversial, but so far neither the player nor his agent have challenged the deal, pushed for free agency, or forced a deal following in the footsteps of Camilo Sanvezzo or Cyle Larin. As it stands, the Ciudadela native may stick with the club for at least another six months.

When asked about the quality of his current league, Kaku was complimentary. “MLS soccer is growing a lot and becoming very competitive,” he told writer Romina de la Fuente. “I think everything changed when it came to buying players, unlike before they had bigger players, now they have young players with a lot of quality. It became very physical and you have more spaces. It is a very nice experience in a league that is growing.”

Despite the kind words, Kaku seems to want a new experience at a different club. He struggled to fit under the tactics of former manager Chris Armas, coming nowhere close to the production of his first half-season under Jesse Marsch. While the recently hired Gerhard Struber brings direct, vertical tactics more conducive to the desires of the wantaway midfielder, perhaps a clean break would be the best result for both parties.

However, if teams are not going to submit substantial offers, the Red Bulls would be right to stick to their player under contract. While the club might not receive the once-desired $10 million, some sort of profit is necessary to make the transfer worthwhile. According to the 2020 MLS Roster Rules and Regulations, a club can only add up to $1 million in General Allocation Money to the salary cap “after the club has received 100% of its out-of-pocket investment.” If a sum greater than the original $6.25 million cannot be secured – and based on Xolos’ offer, it might not – then New York’s interests would be best served by an intraleague trade for allocation money. That option surrenders a lot of money, which is thoroughly unpalatable from the budgetary perspective of corporate bean counters.

There is still a lot of time left in the transfer window and apparently on Kaku’s contract. A few twists and turns would be of no surprise as we draw ever closer to answering the eternal question of “Will Kaku stay or leave?” At this point, it’s become an almost yearly routine.