The Chicago Fire have today announced the signing of Argentine midfielder Nicolás Gaitán on a free transfer from Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang.
The former Benfica youth prospect, who came through the ranks at Boca Juniors, joins the Fire just over a year after making a high-profile switch to China alongside then Atlético Madrid teammate Yannick Carrasco.
A brief history
Reportedly a Manchester United target for many years during his time at S.L Benfica, Gaitán eventually made a move to a top European club in the form of Atlético in the summer of 2016 for a fee reported to be in the region of £22.5m.
Statement for Chicago
Whilst this move could be seen to show the sharp decline of a player who was courted by many of Europe’s elite sides just under three years ago, this signing is also somewhat of a statement from a Chicago side who have stuttered to a solitary point from their opening two fixtures this season.
Joining the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolić in The Fire attack; Gaitán offers more of a creative element to the side as they look to push on from last season, which saw them finish second bottom in the Eastern Conference.
Implications for the MLS and CSL
The signing is also something of a statement for the league, who are still trying to wrestle away the ‘retirement home’ label tagged along with it due to the age of many of the high-profile signings to MLS in recent years.
At just 31, it would not be too much of a stretch to imagine that Gaitán had offers from elsewhere in Europe, and his decision to move to the MLS goes to show the growing appeal of the league to players still in the prime years of their careers.
Meanwhile, this comes as the latest blow for the CSL, whose stock has fallen considerably since the initial influx of foreign talent in early 2016.
With the transfer tax imposed on foreign imports to the league and league regulations requiring clubs to field an increasing number of Chinese players, it appears the Chinese footballing revolution may slowly be grinding to a halt.