Andre Blake has been the subject of transfer rumor speculation seemingly since the day the Union drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2014.
There was another round of it on Monday. Goal.com's Ives Galarcep reported that English Premier League clubs Crystal Palace — owned by 76ers owner Josh Harris — and Brighton & Hove Albion made "multi-million dollar offers" to acquire Blake after he led Jamaica to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Both potential deals fell apart for the same reason: Blake isn't eligible for a United Kingdom work permit because Jamaica isn't in the top 50 of FIFA's global ranking of national teams.
It is a capricious way of judging whether a player is good enough to play in the Premier League. Blake has long since proven with club and country that he deserves a shot. But the system's purpose isn't to reward worthy players. It exists to push English teams to either play English players or sign foreign players with star power big enough to drive global television ratings.
Jamaica hasn't been in the top 50 for more than 10 years. The Reggae Boyz got as high as 57th after reaching the Gold Cup final. They're currently 61st.
It's not just about cracking the top 50 once, by the way. A team must get there and stay there for a while in order for players to be eligible for U.K. work permits.
This begs the question of whether Palace and Brighton knew that their bids were doomed from the start, even with headline-worthy amounts of money on the table.
The answer isn't entirely clear.
English teams interested in a player from a lesser nation can appeal to a panel run by England's Football Association. Factors include the transfer fee and wage offer on the table and the player's past experience. Even then, the board has a reputation for being predisposed against allowing moves. As Galarcep noted on Twitter after his story was published:
The rule changes of 2015 to which Galarcep refers included a tightening of the standard from the world's top 70 teams to the top 50. If the old standard was still in place, the offers this summer could have gone through — and in all likelihood, there would have been offers in the past, too.
Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in March and again in May that the team hadn't received a substantive offer for Blake from abroad. Jim Curtin said the same thing in late July during the Gold Cup.
The reported offers for Blake came after the Gold Cup ended. Prior to that, the last known offer of any substance for Blake's services came from Belgian club KAA Gent in 2015, before Stewart arrived in Philadelphia.
"I knew everything all the way, and it's such a tough situation," Blake told Goal.com. "But I can't get too worked up over it, even though it's a very good opportunity I'm missing out on. Maybe it's not time yet, or maybe it wasn't meant to be."