When Union sporting director Ernst Tanner started a conference call Monday to discuss re-signing Jamiro Monteiro, he knew who to credit first.
“I would like to thank ownership that this has been made possible,” Tanner said. “This is the biggest transaction the Philadelphia Union ever did in terms of the transfer fee, and in regards of what we have seen from the player last season, I think it is absolutely justified.”
He’s far from alone in that view. And not only was the club-record $2 million transfer fee a fair price, Tanner said it beat the “significantly higher” number the Union and French club Metz originally agreed to when Monteiro was loaned here last year.
Tanner wouldn’t specify the figure, but a separate source told The Inquirer that it was $2.8 million.
Negotiations over a potential sale started last summer, and they weren’t easy. Tanner had to persuade the Union to buy, had to persuade Metz to sell — and to the Union, not other suitors — and had to convince Monteiro to want to be here instead of Europe.
But Tanner never doubted that he wanted Monteiro here. He said it was “absolutely convincing how Jamiro played over the course of the season — that showed to everybody that he’s a player where we really needed to spend that extra money.”
It also helped that Monteiro developed a strong relationship with Union manager Jim Curtin.
“He would not come back if that relationship was not very close,” Tanner said.
The result was a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth, and Monteiro becoming a Designated Player.
“As we see Jamiro as one of the key players of our roster, it is good to have him here as long as possible,” Tanner said. “That was the major reason why we are doing that sort of contract. In good players, there’s always a lot of interest of other clubs, and in particular, when you fetch somebody over from Europe, you really should lock him down; otherwise, he’s gone.”
Tanner isn’t done shopping. He said he’s looking for centerback depth and a defensive midfielder. The latter is likely to be a bigger signing than that of José Andrés Martínez, who was signed last month — and could be announced this week.
“I think we need that quality, in particular in holding mid," Tanner said, adding something more important a moment later: “I don’t want to have a second season where we get more than 50 goals against.”
If you sensed that the Union weren’t hyping Martínez too much at the time, you were right.
“I see Martinez more [as] kind of project, [a] mid- or long-term project,” Tanner said. “He’s a good player, without any question, I was down there and saw [in person]. … In terms of the roster, we should have at least eight players for four positions, you know, and that’s what we are surely not in this moment.”
The roster currently has exactly eight midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Bedoya, Warren Creavalle, Anthony Fontana, Martínez, Monteiro, and new academy graduate Cole Turner. So another addition is needed.
Also, Tanner confirmed reports that much-maligned forward Cory Burke is heading to Austrian club St. Polten on a short-term loan. Burke has been playing in Jamaica’s domestic league ever since he was forced to leave Philadelphia in April due to visa issues.
Tanner knows St. Polten manager Alexander Schmidt well, and sent Fontana and Matt Real there early in the offseason for a training stint.
“The goal is to give him match practice on a higher level than he had so far,” Tanner said, “and bring him back in the beginning of May if possible.”
The Union will thus start the year with five forwards: regulars Kacper Przybylko, Andrew Wooten and Sergio Santos, and young prospects Jack de Vries and Michee Ngalina.
After trading away their first-round pick in last Thursday’s first round of the MLS SuperDraft, the Union passed on all of their picks in Monday’s third and fourth rounds.
They were far from alone. Eight other teams passed on at least one of their late-round selections.