At the beginning of February, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber came to Vancouver for the Whitecaps Season Launch party. During that event, Garber discussed the need to bring high calibre Canadian internationals to MLS. With little credible support, Garber’s comments led some to conclude that the Vancouver Whitecaps were making a pitch to bring Canadian Atiba Hutchinson to the organization.
Last week, Hutchinson’s current squad, Besiktas (Turkey), reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League with a 5-2 aggregate victory over Olympiakos. Hutchinson played the full 90 in that match, lining up in the #8 spot in a 4-2-3-1 formation. While Besiktas sits first in their domestic league (Super Lig), they hold a slim two-point lead over Istanbul BB. Finishing first in their domestic league means automatic qualification for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Finish second in their domestic league, and Besiktas enters two stages earlier (third qualifying round).
As Hutchinson plays an integral role in Besiktas success, it was evident that IF he were to join the Whitecaps it would not be until the summer. Given Hutchinson’s importance, there were questions around how large of a transfer fee would be required. To that point, Garber had stated that MLS would be willing to assist in obtaining top Canadian internationals. Finally, Atiba has already played 34 matches this season, and we can expect that he will play around 10 more before all is said and done. After playing a full season in Europe, would Hutchinson have enough left in the tank to be impactful this season?
Atiba Hutchinson renewed his contract with Besiktas last summer, until June 2018. Therefore, any transfer to the Caps this summer would require a substantial fee. However, former Province reporter, and still bad-ass with connections, Marc Weber suggested today that MLS would not assist in bringing Atiba to the league.
It is possible that a 34-year-old Canadian international, who has probably suited up for the National Team for the last time, is not the type of Canadian Garber was meaning when he suggested in February that MLS is looking to bring top-end Canadian talent to the league.
Personally, I would love to see Atiba here and I feel that he could be that 1 or 2 players the Whitecaps need to be serious contenders. However, right from the beginning I was skeptical of this rumor. I tried to validate the rumor but everyone who seemed to be fueling the claim could not provide anything that credible. Of course, at this stage, there would be very little beyond hearsay and many Whitecaps signings are not known until the last second, so maybe it is not that surprising that no one could provide anything credible to support the claim. That doesn’t mean that there were not truths to the rumor.
There may still be truth to the Whitecaps trying to obtain Atiba Hutchinson. It would be foolish for them not to be pursuing him, given the team’s needs. However, a rumor with little credible support for validity was dealt another blow today. Unless MLS changes its mind, or the Whitecaps suddenly pony up the money to acquire a player, it appears the dream of Atiba Hutchinson wearing the Whitecaps uniform will remain just that, a dream.