Welcome back everyone with another edition of the offseason notebook.
It took a while to get across the finish line, but Deiber Caicedo is officially a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps. With this move, the club has filled one of their all-important young designated players spots, which is admittedly still something that MLS has not been entirely clear on, but should help the Whitecaps introduce players such as Caicedo with a limited impact in terms of the salary cap.
For a full breakdown of who Caicedo is as a player, I suggest you check out Caleb’s deep dive (if you haven’t already), as he details the young Colombian’s profile through pretty much every statistical metric available. While that piece will give you a good idea of the player individually, my focus in terms of this signing is going to be more directed towards what it means for the club in a broader sense.
Specifically, I think that this Caicedo project will be vital to how the club is viewed as a talent developer. Despite their well publicized interest in young players, this most current regime has had very little success in developing players they’ve acquired internationally. Yes, the sample size is pretty small, and the time frame has been relatively short, but it hasn’t exactly been a Mona Lisa so far. Hwang In-Beom was looking for a way out the moment he joined the club, Joaquin Ardaiz was a complete non-factor, and even Ranko Veselinovic, who looked like a can’t miss prospect, struggled mightily in his first year in Vancouver.
With more time for the coaching and development staff to find their feet, the Whitecaps can't afford to whiff on Caicedo. Even if he struggles to progress, the Whitecaps will probably make money off this transaction. But that won’t constitute a successful venture in my mind. The club needs to prove that it can be a breeding ground for talent destined for Europe and players, agents, and other clubs need to see evidence of this. In that way, Caicedo represents a massive opportunity. He could easily be the first in a long list of success stories, but he could also make it much more difficult for the club to bring in top young talent if things go poorly.
Secondarily, Caicedo will have decent sized shoes to fill. David Milinkovic (who has all but officially departed from the club) was in my view the second or third best player on the Whitecaps last year, and didn’t carry a significant price tag for the production he was providing. If Caicedo doesn’t hit the ground running, it will be easy to wonder why the Whitecaps didn't just save themselves 2.5 million dollars and focus their resources on other areas. There’s a difference between making a good signing and making the right signing, only time will tell which one this turns out to be.
Speaking of signings, it looks like the Whitecaps are in the running for one of the world's top pending free agents, Brazilian midfielder Otavio. After Tom Bogert dropped this bombshell a few days ago, Axel Schuster did very little to dissuade the rumors during his availability Tuesday morning.
Vancouver Whitecaps' Axel Schuster on offer for Otavio:— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) January 26, 2021
"I don't want to confirm anything. We want to approach the best possible profile... it's a good tactic not to speak so much."
He alluded to the fact that the offer is still on the table (as I reported Saturday night) https://t.co/ZeE0xuDdYl
What makes this target so interesting is not only that Otavio would instantly become the second most valuable player in MLS, but also that his contract situation opens the door for the Whitecaps to acquire him at a discounted rate. Porto won’t get anything for the player if they simply allow him to leave at the end of his contract this summer, and the Whitecaps are in a relatively unique position where they can offer the player a prominent role immediately. Does this mean that the Whitecaps are frontrunners? Not necessarily. With clubs like Leicester City and AC Milan in the mix, it could be a tough sell, but if the player values a prominent role and wider exposure over a bigger club, then perhaps the Whitecaps can make an offer that is difficult to refuse. Things move pretty quickly in this business though, and since I wrote the first part of this article, Portuguese outlet “Record” has released a story indicating that Otavio had “zero” interest in MLS and “didn’t even want to hear the proposal of the Canadians”. Now these outlets do have a way of sensationalizing whatever they have heard, so it’s worth taking all of this with a grain of salt, but it doesn’t look good for the Whitecaps on the Otavio front.
This takes us to my final note in transfer news, which is a bit of an interesting story. Back in April, I wrote a piece on potential transfer targets for the Whitecaps based on agent connections, specifically targeting players represented by agencies Axel Schuster had already done business with in Vancouver.
This brought me to Nemanja Glavčić, a 23-year-old Serbian midfielder with a unique skill set (for more on the player, check out that original piece), who is represented by the same agency as Ranko Veselinovic and Leo Owusu. I didn't think much of it at the time, other than it seemed like an interesting fit, until earlier this week it picked up some chatter in the Croatian media. Now I’m not fluent in Croatian so I only have translations to go on, but it seems that both Glavčić himself, as well as Slaven Belupo’s Director, Zvonimir Šimunović, have commented on the possibility of a move overseas, specifically to the Vancouver Whitecaps. I doubt there’s any smoke to this fire (although his contract does end this summer and this is much more doable than some of their other targets), but if the Whitecaps are actually interested in picking up Glavčić on a TAM deal, I’ll be looking for a finders fee. In all seriousness though, I think he’d be a nice acquisition, especially if the team falls short on some of their other targets.
All about the first touch from Nemanja Glavcic in the best goal of Slaven Belupo’s demolition of Istra. pic.twitter.com/jneJjLuWGf— Richard Wilson (@timomouse) October 17, 2020
What have you thought of the Whitecaps’ recent moves and rumored movements? Let me know in the comments!