Scouting NYCFC's Next DP Signing

By NYCFCWatch
Nov. 22, 2016

With Frank Lampard’s departure and Andoni Iraola’s retirement, New York City FC have two rather substantial holes to fill in midfield. Patrick Vieira will need to replace Lampard’s goals and Iraola’s ability to control midfield either with new additions or with increased contributions from players he has on his roster.

Claudio Reyna is believed to want to sign a younger designated player to use Frank Lampard’s designated player spot which is a departure from the club’s brief history of signing European stars in the twilight of their career. Here is where the fun begins, we can begin to speculate what type of player fits into the system. Reyna himself has said in the past that he wants to build his club up the middle, forming a spine of the team. His thought process helps us understand why NYCFC’s highest paid players were a striker and three central midfielders in Villa, Pirlo, Lampard and Diskerud. Keeping Reyna’s comments in mind, one can assume he will focus on signing another central midfielder, both to replace Frank Lampard and to give Vieira more options in midfield.

There are many players available for NYCFC to sign, between the limitless amount they can spend on a designated player and the sheer vastness of the global talent pool, the only real limit is CFG’s willingness to spend. We have already seen NYC bring in players from lesser known leagues in Costa Rica, Colombia and even India, so in order for us to evaluate their options the search has to truly be global. Keeping with NYC’s global scouting reach, we will be looking at players currently plying their trade in South Africa, England, Norway, Mexico, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Chile, The Netherlands, Russia, as well as several Free Agents.

The following list is by no means comprehensive, and is merely a suggestion of names and types of players Claudio Reyna and his team should be scouting. The focus of the search was to find players that fit the following categories: being on the right side of 30, the ability fit in well to Vieira’s 4-3-3 or 5-3-2 system, someone with excellent passing abilities and most importantly, someone without injury concerns. While CFG could spend $30 million, one assumes they will try to sign a player on a free transfer or a minimal transfer fee so we have to look for players with expiring contracts, players who surplus to requirements, or players who are undervalued.

(The player price valuation and contract length are all sourced from Transfermarkt)

The first group of players fall into either the central forward or winger category. In this scenario Patrick Vieira would be able to move either Jack Harrison or Tommy McNamara to their more natural midfield positions giving the team a much younger and dynamic midfield.

Keagan Dolly LW/CAM/RW (Mamelodi Sundowns) h/t @NYCFCstatline
Contract length unknown

Positives

23 years old and no injury history

Has incredible pace

Can shoot from distance

Captain of South African Olympic squad

Negatives

Relies on his left foot too much 

May not win physical battles at 5'7"

There is interest from La Liga clubs which could drive up price


Jurgen Damm RW/LW (Tigres) 4 mil 
Contract through summer of 2020

Positives

24 years old

Excellent pace

Great first touch

Good passing & vision

Fighting for minutes

Negatives

Not a real goal scoring threat

A long time left on contract, no need for Tigres to sell


Bjorn Mars Johnson CF (Hearts of Midlothian FC) 450k
Contract through summer of 2019

Positives

25 years old

Low wages (would not be a DP)

American (no international spot needed)

Great in the air

Great pace

Similar player to Shelton, can help push each other

Source close to player says MLS is on the radar

Negatives

Seems to have hit a plateau, not much room for improvement

Happy in Europe and getting good playing time

Hearts is doing well, no urgency to sell



Ibrahim Affellay (Stoke City) 5mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

30 years old

Comfortable in a 4-3-3

Great technique, could help teach younger players

Great passing and first touch

Could be had on a free transfer this summer

Negatives

Coming off a severe knee injury

Past injuries are a concern

Never lived up to expected potential


Jay Rodriguez LW/CF (Southampton) 13 mil
Contract through summer of 2019

Positives

27 Years old

No longer has a starting spot

Has expressed interest in a loan or transfer

Plays well in a high press system when motivated

Negatives

Not the best defensive work rate

Missed several months over last 3 years with injuries

May not want to leave England/Europe

Southampton want a loan with a £2 million fee instead of a sale

Joshua Gatt RM/LM (Molde) 300k
Contract length unknown

Positives

25 years old

American (no international spot needed)

Super fast & great agility

Negatives

Concerning injury history

Has not show interest in leaving Europe

Joseph-Claude Gyau LW/RM (Borussia Dortmund 2) 100k
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

24 years old

American (no international spot needed)

Could be had on non-DP wages and free this summer

Great pace and ability on the ball

Negatives

Coming back from several knee injuries

Has shown interest in staying in Europe

Likely still several months away from full fitness

May want to stay at club who renewed his contract through injury

Paul-Georges Ntep LM/LW (Stade Rennais) 10 mil
Contract through 2017

Positives

24 Years old

Club is willing to sell him before his contract ends

Blistering pace & great ability on the ball

Decent first touch

Negatives

Hasn't played outside of France before

Has interest from several large European clubs

Would be a large transfer fee

Andre Claro ST/LW (Vitoria Setubal) 1.75 mil
Contract through 2017

Positives

25 years old

Can play anywhere up front

Puts himself in excellent positions to score & poach goals

Negatives

Passing could use work

Hasn't played outside of Portugal before

Key contributor to team, which may not want to lose him

Federico Macheda ST/LW/RW (Free agent)
Not under contract

Positives

25 years old

Can play anywhere up front

No injury concerns

No transfer fee needed

Could be signed as a non-DP with allocation money

Negatives

A reclamation project that never lived up to expectations

Still has interest from smaller European sides

Has only been average throughout his journeyman career

Samir Nasri LW/RW (Sevilla on loan from MCFC) 18 mil
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

29 years old

Excellent passing and dribbiling ability

Has expressed interest in moving to MLS

Under contract with a CFG side already & could be a free transfer this summer

No longer part of national team, so that isn't a concern for Nasri

Negatives

Doing well at Sevilla who may look to buy him

MCFC may want to sell him to recoup their losses

Relationship between Nasri and CFG may be complicated


Arjen Robben RW/CF (Bayern Munich) 11 mil
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

Can play anywhere up front

Still has excellent pace

Great passing and comfortable on the ball

Could be available on a free transfer this summer

Negatives

32 years old

Growing list of injuries

Overwhelmingly favors his left foot

May want to stay in Europe to stay in national team picture

Fernando Torres ST (Atletico Madrid) 10 mil 
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

A move guarantees him more playing time

Short injury list

Good dribbling and passing abilities

Familiarity with Villa, and could be eventual replacement

Available on a free transfer this summer, might be open to January move

Negatives

Declining goal scoring production

32 years old

Allegedly has large offers from Chinese league

Klass-Jan Huntelaar CF/ST (FC Schalke 04) 4.5 mil
Contract through summer 2017 (plus a 1 year option)

Positives

Would be instant additional goal scoring threat

Can still play a full 90

Available on a free transfer this summer

His pace has fallen off considerably

Negatives

33 years old

Coming off a serious injury with history of knee injuries 

Has fallen off in terms of his talent

Would likely be here for only 1-2 years




The next group of players are attacking midfielders in the mold of Kevin De Bruyne, players who can score and create scoring opportunities through creative play. In this scenario Patrick Vieira is happy with his current complement of forwards and he directly replaces Lampard’s goal scoring ability from midfield.


Remy Cabella CAM (Bordeaux) 8 mil
Contract through summer of 2020

Positives

26 years old

Can play on the wings as well

Can speak English and has played abroad before

No longer a first choice starter

Negatives

Just joined Bordeaux this summer so they're unlikely to want to sell him yet

Defensively poor at times

Not a prolific goal scorer

Still has 3 1/2 years left on his contract

Mehmet Ekici CAM (Trabzonspor) 6.75 mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

26 years old

Great passing ability

Penchant for scoring

His technique is great, came up through Bayern's academy

Excellent at free kicks

Negatives

Defensive lapses at times

Has become a key player, Trabzonspor may not want to sell

Keisuke Honda CAM/RM (AC Milan) 7 mil
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

30 years old but still playing at a high level

No longer starting, fighting for minutes

Has business interests in the US & has expressed desire to move to MLS

Could likely be available this January

Minimal injury history

Excellent passing & dribbling ability, can open up the midfield

Negatives

Hasn't played much recently so fitness is a concern

Would like to still play Champions League football

Lucas Lima CAM (Santos) 9 mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

26 years old

Great pace & great touch

Can be had cheaply this January

Great work rate defensively

Negatives

12 Caps for Brazil make him a hotter commodity 

First touch passing could be improved

Tries to do too much at times

Has stated he wants to go to Europe in the past

Nicolas de la cruz CAM (Liverpool FC Motevideo) 650k
Contract length unknown

Positives

19 years old

Immense goal scoring threat, even from range

Explosive on the ball with great technical ability

May be able to sign as a non-DP

Negatives

Has never played outside of Uruguay before

Has said he's in no rush to leave his club, will wait for right offer

Important player for his club, will take a good offer to pry him away

Still a raw talent

Mathieu Valbuena CAM (OL) 3.5 mil
Contract through summer of 2018

Positives

Comfortable in a 4-3-3

Can play on the wing as well

Fighting for playing time

Very little missed time due to injuries

Negatives

51 caps for France, may want to play for them again despite no call up in 2016

32 years old

Omar Abdulrahman CAM (Al-Ain FC)
Contract through February 2018 (essentially one year left)

Positives

25 years old

Can play on the wings 

Has ridiculous skill on the ball

Great touch & technical ability

Excellent place

Negatives

Not too strong, can be muscled off the ball 

Has never played outside of the UAE

Club may hesitate to pay DP wages to another relatively unproved foreign midfielders

Salomon Kalou CF/CAM (Hertha Berlin) 5 mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

Can play as a second striker with Villa or allow him to move to the wing

Speaks English

Relatively healthy

Does better than Villa at holding up the ball

Can be had on a free transfer this summer

Negatives

31 years old

Hasn't been playing 90 minutes lately

Has lost his pace

Isco CAM (Real Madrid) 35 mil
Contract through summer of 2018

Positives

24 years old

Has been losing playing time

Already been linked with moves away from Real Madrid

Excellent vision, great touch, fantastic space

Negatives

Probably most unrealistic name on this list

Would be the biggest transfer fee in MLS history

Unlikely to want to move to MLS as he's still in demand in Europe

A long term target of MCFC, so more realistic he goes there


The next category of players to look at are just straight forward central midfielders. These players are unlikely to score bags of goals, however they are crucial at spreading the ball out from the back. Central midfielders like these are crucial for NYCFC in a post-Pirlo world.

Leon Gortezka (Schalke 04) 15 mil
Contract through summer of 2018

Positives

21 years old

Great passing

Great touch

Experience in big matches

Negatives

Regular starter who Schalke will not want to lose

Not too creative

Will likely come with a large price tag

Clement Grenier CM (Olympique Lyonnais) 4.5 mil
Contract through summer of 2018

Positives

25 years old

Not getting playing time for Lyon

Negatives

Long injury history & coming off recent injury

Has never played outside of France

Fausto Rossi CM (Free Agent)
Not under contract

Positives

25 years old

Excellent fundamentals

Can play box to box but is comfortable in attack as well

Has been linked to MLS in the past

Negatives

Has allegedly been on trial with Sporting KC recently

Has been out of contract since summer so fitness is a question mark


Thomas Bruns CM (Heracles Almelo) 2.5 mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

24 years old

Can play on either side of the field

Good first touch and ability on the ball

Excellent shot power

Negatives

Hasn't played outside of the Netherlands before

Team captain, Heracles would be reluctant to give him up

Has a propensity to pick up cards

Oscar Salas (Club Deportivo Olympia)
Contract length unknown

Positives

22 years old

Might welcome a move to a more prestigious league

Low wages mean he could be signed as a non-DP

Great first touch

Shows promise, already capped by senior national and olympic team

Negatives

Hasn't played outside of Honduras before

May have caught foreign attention with Olympic performance

Unsure of quality of Honduran league

Luka Milivojevic CM (Olympiacos) 7 mil
Contract through summer of 2019

Positives

25 years old

Very strong on the ball

Good passing ability

Tactically intelligent

Negatives

Tends to lose his mark at times

Never played outside of Europe

Interest from other European sides to sign him

Cesc Fabregas CM (Chelsea) 45 mil
Contract through summer of 2019

Positives

29 years old

Has been deemed surplus to requirements by Anotnio Conte

Speaks English & has played abroad before

Has already been left out of national team squad, so no concerns of missing out

Negatives

Would be ridiculously expensive

Still wants to play in the Champions League

Chelsea unlikely to let him leave this January

Still has interest from other European clubs

Santi Cazorla CM (Arsenal) 20 mil
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

31 years old but shows no signs of slowing down

Could join on a free transfer next summer

Still a key contributor playing on a high level

Great first touch and skill

Arsenal are unlikely to give him a long term contract

Excellent passing ability fits in well with Vieira's system

Negatives

Injury history is troubling

Has never shown interest in leaving Europe

The final group of midfielders we will look at would be replacements for Andoni Iraola (and possibly Federico Bravo). Central holding midfielders who can play box to box and provide cover for Andrea Pirlo. In this scenario Patrick Vieira sees controlling the midfield as the priority and is comfortable with his options elsewhere in midfield and in the attack. 

Ruben Neves CDM (Porto) 11 mil
Contract through summer of 2019

Positives

19 years old

Fighting for minutes

Strong on the ball

Excellent work rate

Comfortable on the ball and in distribution

Negatives

Passing is a bit poor

Has a €45 million release clause and Porto don't want to sell him.

Has never played outside of Portugal

Haris Belkebla CM/CDM (FC Tours) 800k
Contract through summer of 2018

Positives

22 years old

Might welcome a move from Ligue 2 Tours who could be relegated again

Low wages means he can be acquired as a non-DP

Established starter

Smart in tackling so he doesn't pick up too many yellow cards

Negatives

First touch isn't great

Hasn't played outside of France before


Pablo Galdames CM/RB (Union Española) 500k
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

19 years old

Can play in midfield or as a RB (a reverse Iraola)

Good positioning and vision

Excellent first touch

Could be acquired as a non-DP

Uses his body well in one on one battles

Negatives

Undersized for a CDM

Hasn't played outside of Chile before

John Obi Mikel CDM (Chelsea) 11 mil
Contract through summer of 2017

Positives

29 years old

Doesn't figure into Chelsea's plans who are willing to part with him

Minimal injury history

Strong on the ball

Good passing ability

Negatives

Hasn't played for his club in months, fitness is a concern

His pace is severely lacking

Tends to drift out of position at times

Simão Mate CDM (Free agent)
Not under contract

Positives

28 years old

No transfer fee needed

Could be signed as a non-DP with allocation money

Comfortable playing in different countries

Strong on the ball and solid in defense

Good positioning and vision

Negatives

First touch is poor

Has interest from La Liga sides

Yann M'Villa CDM (Rubin Kazan) 7 mil
Contract expires at end of 2017

Positives

26 years old

Can be signed for free this January

Speaks English and French

Wants a move away from his current club

Minimal injury history

Negatives

Wanted by English clubs who are willing to overpay


Yaya Toure CM/CDM (Manchester City) 12 mil
Contract through summer 2017

Positives

Commanding presence in midfield

Great passing

Could be had on a free transfer this summer

Already under contract with CFG

Negatives

33 years old

Likely to miss most of January/February with AFCON

Defending has slipped and pace has fallen off

Recent injury history is alarming, missed 12 matches last year

Cole Grossman CDM (Stabæk) 500k
Contract expires at end of 2017

Positives

27 years old

American (no international spot needed)

Has MLS experience

Key contributor

Minimal injury history

Could likely be signed as a non-DP

Negatives

Likely interest from other MLS sides

Not a world beater by any means

Shawn Barry RM/RW/CB (FSV Frankfurt) 350k
Contract through summer 2018

Positives

26 years old

American (no international roster spot needed)

Can play anywhere on the right side of the field

Great speed and strong on the ball

Excellent crossing ability

Can be signed as a non-DP

Negatives

Has played in Europe since college, may not want to return

First touch could use work



There are many other names out there that I intentionally excluded, players like: Fernandinho and Franck Ribery who are getting extensions. If Pep Guardiola doesn’t want Vincent Kompany I doubt Patrick Vieira would be interested. There’s plenty of other players who are out there who could be signed, Bruno Perrone for example trained with NYCFC last season and with Wilmington ceasing operations for a year, finds himself without a club.

Should Vieira and company not want to search the depths of the USL or mid table Portuguese sides for talent there are plenty of serviceable players who are currently free agents who might be willing to take a paycut to kick start their careers in MLS. 29 year old Martin Caceres could easily be one of the best center backs in MLS should he sign and play a majority of games. 32 year old forward Emmanuel Adebayor has bounced around England and finds himself without a club, though his personality will scare away some suitors.

There are still some relatively well known names out there looking for a club and perhaps one last chance at glory: Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Jefferson Farfan, Jô, Ronaldinho, Dimitar Berbatov, Felipe Santana, Philippe Mexes, the list goes on. While these players certainly wouldn’t be a step in the direction of youth over aging European stars, they could do well in a squad role for a club with several young players that has lost some veterans. Julio Baptista has proved to be a great signing for Orlando City despite his age, coming off the bench and helping provide a spark of energy. If any of those players are willing to sign for non-DP wages then Vieira should do his best to try and find a spot for them.

At the end of this rather long look at available talent, we realize there are dozens of players who are young, healthy, and could be realistically signed by NYCFC (minus Isco). 2017 will be a telling year for NYC as we will find out how much CFG is willing to invest on a DP. Given that CFG have yet to pay a transfer fee for a designated player, one may question their commitment to signing the best available talent, but as we've seen in MLS you don't need the best of the best to win games. 

Do any of these names sound like a good signing? Do you have another name? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.