Shock waves reverberated through the New York Red Bulls landscape last week when Saudi Arabian club Al-Taawoun announced the signing of Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra with a flashy social media video. The Argentine attacker had been connected to various parties since the end of the 2020 MLS season, with a departure appearing more and more likely. The issue as stated through various media channels was a contract extension of which the player’s representation claims to have not been formally notified of.
The quiet escalation of the situation continued over this past weekend. On Saturday, Al-Taawoun confirmed the arrival of Kaku in Saudi Arabia. He reportedly signed a three-and-a-half year contract after passing his medical examination. In a further statement of the club’s confidence in the permanence of Kaku’s signing, they sent attacker Mitchell Duke on loan to A-League outfit Western Sydney Wanderers in order to comply with league foreign player regulations.
The day after the initial announcement, the Red Bulls released a statement to Michael Lewis of Front Row Soccer asserting their continued ownership of his contract rights.
“We are aware of the announcement made by Al-Taawoun FC,” said a club spokesman. “The New York Red Bulls exercised a club option in Kaku’s Major League Soccer contract for the 2021 season, and he remains under contract with Major League Soccer and the New York Red Bulls.”
The Red Bulls reiterated this position yesterday when reached for comment by Once A Metro.
Despite this rigid stance from Harrison, Al-Taawoun and the Saudi Arabian soccer community remain steadfast in their assessment that the deal was “well-studied” and above board. According to the Diwaniyah television program, the club believes “all contracting procedures are completely sound from a legal standpoint.” Kaku’s signature was deemed “valid” particularly with regards to the refusal to accept the activation of the contested contract extension.
“I am not aware of the details of the American club’s request,” said president of the Saudi Football Association Yasser Al-Mashal. “I trust the legal cooperation procedures, and I do not think there is a mistake. All the affected parties have the right to appeal the decision of the Dispute Resolution Chamber, and all clubs are fully aware of their obligations and responsibilities towards any contract concluded with the players, and we support all clubs in their cases, but the contractual obligations end with settlement or payment.”
If the Red Bulls maintain their stance while Al-Taawoun and its regulators are of the opinion that the signing is legally in the clear, then the two sides might be at an impasse. Similar past incidents involving unilateral option years in MLS contracts led to new clubs eventually paying fees for Cyle Larin and Camilo Sanvezzo, but the likelihood of Al-Taawoun meeting the reported $12 million fee Red Bull has demanded for Kaku is slim at this level of escalation. Perhaps a future trip to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is in the future, with the potential for litigation that could lead to a history-making decision on the exercising of option years and the manner in which they are spelled out in contracts.
But whatever path the Red Bulls and MLS choose to take, the clock is ticking as Kaku inches closer and closer to fully-sanctioned competitive action with his new club. Al-Taawoun’s next match is Saturday, February 13th against Al Qadsiah. Dawri Plus reports the Argentine-Paraguyan midfielder has “started home quarantine procedures” and “will undergo more physical tests” with the possibility of appearing in the next match.