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Danish striker Mikael Uhre officially joins the Union for a team-record $2.8 million transfer fee

It’s the fourth time the Union have paid a seven-figure transfer fee for a player, with three of the deals coming in Ernst Tanner's tenure as sporting director.

New Philadelphia Union striker Mikael Uhre poses with a jersey at Subaru Park as the team officially announced his signing on January 27, 2022.
New Philadelphia Union striker Mikael Uhre poses with a jersey at Subaru Park as the team officially announced his signing on January 27, 2022.Read moreKim Ahrens / Philadelphia Union

The Union’s acquisition of Danish striker Mikael Uhre became official on Thursday, a few days after the 27-year-old arrived in town for medical exams and final paperwork.

A source with knowledge of the deal said the Union paid Brøndby a $2.8 million transfer fee to sign Uhre, the top scorer in Denmark’s top league for the last two seasons. That easily breaks the Union’s transfer fee record, the $2 million paid for Jamiro Monteiro to France’s Metz in early 2020. Uhre led the Danish Superliga with 19 goals last season as Brøndby won its first title in 16 years.

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“This [is] a very promising and very nice young guy who is desperate to come over and show what he can do here in MLS,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said on a Tuesday afternoon Zoom call with the media that spanned two continents.

Uhre has returned to Denmark to complete immigration paperwork, and the Union expect him to join his new teammates after the squad heads to Clearwater, Fla., this weekend.

» READ MORE: Mikael Uhre looks to be the big-time striker that Union fans have long craved

“He’s a player that works tirelessly on the field, his movement in the box is very good, and his ability to finish plays off and get goals is something that we’re really excited about,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Incredibly happy that he chose Philadelphia while he was being chased by several big clubs all over Europe and beyond. It speaks to the growth of our club that a player of his pedigree and quality would choose us.”

Those clubs, according to various sources and reports, include England’s Norwich City, France’s Saint-Étienne, Italy’s Venezia, and outfits elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Familiarity with MLS

Uhre should fit in well with the Union’s counter-pressing playing style, having played that style of game at Brøndby. Former manager Alex Zorniger, who brought Uhre to the club, knows Tanner well from being RB Leipzig’s manager from 2012-15. Tanner ran the academy at sibling club Red Bull Salzburg at that time.

“I know the system and I love playing that way,” Uhre said, and Tanner added that Zorniger’s name came up in the recruitment process.

“If you want to ask about character, about quality of the player, etc., it always helps if you can ask somebody you really know and trust,” Tanner said. “Mikael told me that he has learned a lot from him.”

Uhre also didn’t have to look far to get advice on life in America. The first thing he did upon hearing of the Union’s interest, he said, “was to call my friend Hany Mukhtar — I think you know him.”

Union fans do indeed know him. Mukhtar was last year’s MVP runner-up with Nashville SC, the team the Union beat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He came to Nashville from Brøndby for $3 million at the start of 2020 as one of the then-expansion team’s big signings. Uhre and Mukhtar played together for a year and a half before then.

» READ MORE: Union sign Anton Sorenson, a promising left back prospect from the team’s youth academy

“He said that the league was really developing and a really good fit for me as a football player,” Uhre said. “That really helped me because I thought it was a great challenge and a league really developing a lot, and with really good players. … I really think that I can take some good steps here in MLS.”

Now he’s looking forward to getting to know Philadelphia.

“I heard that there’s a lot of culture, a lot of history, and I really like to go out and experience that,” Uhre said. “My message to the fans would just be that I can’t wait to see them, I can’t wait to get over there, then they’ll get to know me as a player. I’m not the guy who shouts the loudest or is the biggest person off the field, but I’m going to make my performance on the pitch speak for itself.”

Money talks

This is just the fourth time that the Union have paid a seven-figure transfer fee for a player, following Alejandro Bedoya in 2016 ($1 million), Monteiro, and Dániel Gazdag last summer ($1.8 million). That three of those deals have come since Tanner’s arrival in 2018 signals an increased willingness by the Union’s owners to open the checkbook.

There was also one seven-figure deal within MLS’s allocation money system before Tanner arrived, Earnie Stewart’s trade for David Accam from the Chicago Fire for $1.2 million in 2018. But allocation money deals aren’t direct cash in the way international transfers are.

“This is, as you know, not something we do every day,” Tanner said, “and that’s why I’m even more happy about it.”

Uhre will earn a salary of around $1.5 million this year, the source confirmed after Denmark’s B.T. newspaper first reported the terms. As of now, that’s the second-highest salary in Union history after Marco Fabián, who earned $1.83 million in 2019, his one season here. Monteiro made just under $1.5 million last season and is likely to get a raise this year.

The Union are on track to start the season with three Designated Players on their roster, the maximum allowable, for the first time in team history: Uhre, Monteiro, and Julián Carranza.

» READ MORE: Union sign striker Julián Carranza from Inter Miami

In 2015, the Union had three DPs on the roster in preseason camp — Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, and Young DP Fernando Aristeguieta. But Maidana’s transfer fee was paid off before the season started, so his DP status was removed.

Under current MLS rules, teams get two DP slots and can buy a third for $150,000, with the charge waived if the third player is younger than 23. Carranza is 21, so the Union don’t have to pay the charge.