The wait to welcome Marco Fabián to the Union finally ended Friday afternoon, as the Union sealed the signing of the Mexican midfielder as a Designated Player.
“It’s really a great day for the Union, a great day for all of us, and I think we will have a lot of fun with him,” said Union sporting director Ernst Tanner, who called Fabián “our missing piece.”
Tanner has every right to be happy, and not just because of Fabián’s talent. The deal Tanner struck with Eintracht Frankfurt is quite impressive.
The Union did not have to pay a transfer fee, instead agreeing to send Frankfurt five percent of any future fee should the Union sell Fabián in the future. And the player’s contract is structured to allow for that: it’s a one-year deal with two years of club options.
Tanner said the teams started negotiating the transfer in mid-January, and Frankfurt was willing to release their player without asking too much. Fabián’s contract in Frankfurt was set to expire in June, which meant the German club might lose him for nothing. Tanner described it as “a win-win situation for Frankfurt and us.”
Fabián arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday, and was presented to Union fans at Friday night’s launch party for the team’s new alternate jersey.
“I come to a great city,” he said afterward. “I listened [to] them sing my name … Not just with the fans [but] with the staff, with everybody, I feel like this is my house.”
Fabián’s salary will remain undisclosed for now. As is custom, Tanner deferred to the MLS Players Association’s annual release of league-wide salary data in the spring.
Tanner did admit, though, that it will be the largest salary in Union history, topping the $1.71 million Borek Dockal earned last year.
“I think it was a reasonable deal in terms of his value and what we’ve paid until [now],” Tanner said, referring to the lack of transfer fee.
The value is reflected in Fabián inheriting the famed No. 10 jersey, as befits his role and stature. And while any Union signing at the position could have made a few headlines, Fabián is no ordinary newcomer. Simply put, he is the biggest arrival in the Union’s 10-year history. They’ve never had a player like him before.
The 29-year-old is a genuine star. He played for Mexico at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, and helped El Tri win the 2012 Olympic gold medal. He developed at Chivas of Guadalajara, Mexico’s most popular club, and earned a big-money move to Germany that made him even bigger.
Now he has come to America, and not to some other MLS team with a history of signing big-time foreigners. He’s on the Philadelphia Union. And he’s in the prime of his career, not an aging veteran.
If you think that’s too much hype, well, who else has matched Fabián’s pedigree?
Anyone else — Tranquillo Barnetta, Freddy Adu, Carlos Ruiz, Maurice Edu — trails well behind.
“It’s the most ambitious signing we’ve had,” said manager Jim Curtin, who’s been with the team in various roles since its first year on the field. “As a coach, you want to coach top players, and this is obviously a top player.”