The latest name to make MLS rumor rounds is Mexican international Carlos Vela, currently playing in La Liga for Real Sociedad. Vela has reportedly been eying a move to MLS since last summer, but according to a league source, Real Sociedad won’t sell until the summer of 2016.
The name might not mean much at the moment, specifically because Vela isn’t being directly mentioned with Atlanta United FC. However, there is a small detail that could make this very interesting for AUFC supporters. The timeline to Vela’s potential MLS move fits what AUFC President Darren Eales has repeatedly said would likely be the months Atlanta begins signing players.
The 26-year-old has 47 caps and 14 goals for the Mexican national team, making him one of the more ideal candidates for AUFC. His marketability to the Hispanic community would be invaluable and his recent stretch in La Liga would certainly attract those who follow European soccer. Vela could also potentially attract members of El Tri to join Atlanta United FC in 2017 or later. Outside of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, there's not a more recognizable Mexican player in world soccer. The amount of attention he'd draw from the Latino market would be huge benefit to an expansion club such as AUFC.
There are at least two MLS teams with first dibs to Carlos Vela. The Colorado Rapids would have the Right of First Refusal in the event that Vela decides to play in MLS. The Chicago Fire would be next on the list. AUFC could offer the Colorado Rapids $50,000 in Allocation Money in exchange for the rights to Vela, which would be a good deal considering the new and tradeable $800,000 Targeted Allocation Money Atlanta would receive in 2017.
A player like Vela would also come at a very high cost to any team that signed him. According to transfermarkt.com, the forward’s current market value is set at $18 million euros ($19.6 million USD) and is under contract with Real Sociedad until the summer of 2018, adding a relatively high transfer fee to the equation. The fee could potentially be amortized throughout the life of the contract under the Special Discovery Player rule.
It also very likely that Vela's hefty transfer fee would have to be approved by MLS owners and paid for by the league as they often do with high profile players they hope to lure in.
Side note: Vela has a brother, Alejandro Vela, who plays with Minnesota United FC, which is also slated to enter MLS in 2017, only fueling speculation to the early rumors.