After several weeks of intense speculation, the Philadelphia Union have announced, as part of Wednesday's weekly press conference, the signing of World Cup veteran and former Schalke 04 midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta.
The signing comes in the wake of the St. Gallen born midfielder's two week training stint with the Union and just one week after the Union's first move of the window, the trading of all-time appearance leader Sheanon Williams to the Houston Dynamo.
While not a surprise, there had been reports earlier in the week that Barnetta had returned to his native Switzerland to mull over his options following the training stint, but these were proven incorrect following the announcement on Wednesday.
Barnetta's acquisition was made possible by Major League Soccer's newly introduced "targeted allocation money" mechanism and he, "will officially join the roster pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC)," according to a Union press release. Should this occur before the end of the week, Barnetta could suit up for the Union as early as August 1st's match up against the New York Red Bulls to offer some much needed depth for an ailing Union side.
The 30 year old, who spent one season on loan with Eintracht Frankfurt is primarily a left winger, who has also played in an attacking midfield role for the Schalke, the Gelsenkirchen based club this past season and will add much needed depth to the wide midfield position for the Union following an injury to Andrew Wenger, as well as the aging of French midfielder Sebastian Le Toux. Early reports suggest Barnetta will don the number 85 jersey, in honor of his birth year.
Barnetta is also vastly experienced on the international level as a three time World Cup veteran and has 75 caps to his name as well as ten goals. He is just four appearances short of tying Andre Egli for 10th all-time in the appearance list for Switzerland.
Union Technical Director Chris Albright spoke well of him saying, "He’s a player with a real pedigree who chose to continue his career here in Philadelphia over other options." Albright also praised Barnetta for his experience and leadership skills.
Having played in both the Champions League and Europa League in his time with Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, the Swiss International knows what it means to make a deep run in a cup competition as the Union look to return to the US Open Cup Final for the second year in a row, hopefully with the help of Barnetta.