So, farewell then, Davide Chiumiento. After days of speculation, the Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder is back off to Europe, joining his old club FC Zürich of the Swiss first division.
The rumour got started a week ago when Swiss tabloid Blick reported that FC Zürich boss Rolf Fringer was interested in bringing Chiumiento back to the fold (German). If you have been reading this site for really far too long you will recall my 2010 article when Chiumiento signed and his contentious relationship with Fringer:
In May of 2009 [Chiumiento] got into a dispute with journeyman Austrian manager Rolf Fringer when Fringer expressed dissatisfaction with Chiumiento's play (German) and limited the midfielder's minutes in a manner that Chiumiento found unfair (German), including substituting Chiumiento out when Chiumiento thought he was playing quite well. As early as April of that year, the Swiss press was speculating (German) that Chiumiento would leave when his contract expired if not sooner. In spite of these problems and Chiumiento's eventual departure, when he was called to the Swiss team for the first time in March of this year Chiumiento made a point (French) of complimenting Fringer and crediting his coach for his development as a footballer.
By March, Fringer and FC Lucerne were openly stating that they expected Chiumiento to leave when his contract expired (German).
Chiumiento was exciting but unreliable and mercurial. He led the Whitecaps in assists last year but achieved absolutely nothing in the second half of the season. His five assists again lead the team this season, but that is not a first-class number in MLS. Chiumiento is not a factor as a goalscorer. He was perhaps too easily forgiven for his public carping about his coach last year because, well, he's exciting. Exciting, but not always hugely productive; exciting, but with the arrival of Barry Robson redundant. Exciting. But that's not everything.
I liked Chiumiento, both personally and on the field, and wish him well. He seemed happy to play in Vancouver and appears happier to be on his way back home; why shouldn't he be? With Zürich he was a fringe national teamer and with Vancouver he wasn't getting a sniff; back in Switzerland he will enjoy home cooking, greater exposure, and very possibly more money.
Chiumiento was and remains a good, though not an excellent, player. However, the level of distress some fans are experiencing over his departure is completely beyond the pale. The Whitecaps have lost a good player, and we don't yet know what they got in return. But he was far from their best or most important.
Let me be clear: for that one minute in three where Chiumiento was fully engaged in the game and playing well with his teammates, there were very few people like him in Major League Soccer. He was a considerable asset for those times alone. But you could never get 90 good minutes out of him: even if he kept his focus he was never up to it athletically.
I'm not complaining about his "effort", exactly. Most of the time (I say most) Chiumiento ran hard for Martin Rennie. But he also spent a lot of time making the lazy play rather than the smart one, trying to beat too many people off the dribble without regard for whether it was the best thing to help the team. There's a reason three coaches, including two pretty good ones, vacillated between whether he was a starter or a bench player: you just couldn't count on him for that much.
Defensively, Chiumiento was a non-factor. It wasn't that he didn't try, it's that he wasn't good at it. And while people liked to praise Chiumiento for keeping possession in the dying moments of a game, the fact is that while Chiumiento theoretically could have dragged the ball into the corner and killed time, somehow he never did.
One thing that is true: Chiumiento brought an offensive spark no other Whitecap this season has provided. While he wasn't consistent, his moments of sublime creativity brought us a good share of scoring chances. This will be missed, and is the reason I am sad to see him go. However, even in this area I am not pessimistic.
We know from seasons passed that Camilo Sanvezzo can dribble with the best of them: he's no playmaker but if you want a "spark", there it is. The Whitecaps also have quality depth in Russell Teibert and Michael Nanchoff which has looked good in limited minutes, is younger and cheaper, domestic, and chafing for a chance. That's without considering Barry Robson: Chiumiento played on Robson's more comfortable left side, and if the new designated player can get into his preferred position and bring his Middlesborough form to Vancouver then that's our problem solved immediately.
The Whitecaps have proven capable of getting greasy goals, of getting goals through long balls over the top, of getting goals through patient build-up... and of getting goals through Chiumiento beating two guys and laying on a perfect pass. That aspect of our game will be missed, but is neither essential nor irreplaceable.
Best of luck to Davide Chiumiento, a good player who will once again have success in Switzerland. But please, get out of the panic room. The Whitecaps are a long way from sunk because of this.