After Minnesota United’s front office spent seven months in a dogged — and sometimes doubtful — pursuit of Emanuel Reynoso from Buenos Aires club Boca Juniors, an unnamed Brazilian club tried to swoop in last month.
Loons technical director Mark Watson, who led the negotiations and spent more than a month on the ground in Argentina, admitted Tuesday the third-party’s offer was “fantastic.” Minnesota manager Adrian Heath added that the outside proposal had more money earmarked for Boca Juniors and “substantially more” salary going to the 24-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder.
It was yet another twist in a saga that started in January, appeared to be near completion in late February, only to see it fritter away over the next couple of months before coming back strong earlier this summer. There were complications with the sell-on percentages owed to Reynoso’s youth clubs and other parties, a midstream change in Boca’s leadership coupled with their pursuit of another SuperLiga title and delays from the coronavirus pandemic.
But Reynoso stayed true to his pledge to leave his soccer-centric home country and one of the most-storied clubs in the world to carve out his own path with relative MLS newcomers in Minnesota.
United will pay Boca Juniors a transfer fee of roughly $5 million, which is a club-record high and almost 50 percent more than the Loons paid to FC Copenhagen for central midfielder Jan Gregus in December 2018.
Reynoso will take the Loons’ third and final Designated Player spot allotted for the highest-priced acquisitions in MLS, but his salary is not known.
“I think it’s turned out right for everybody,” Heath said. “The player got what he wanted, we got what we wanted, so let’s hope its the beginning of something very special.”
Heath put Reynoso in the same breath as MLS Argentine standouts in Portland’s Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco, ex-Columbus and now D.C’s Federico Higuain and New York City’s Maxi Morales. “We have a guy that is in that type of bracket,” Heath said.
Reynoso’s contract with Minnesota extends through the 2024 season, and the No. 10 central attacking midfielder could make his debut off the bench as soon as Wednesday night. That game will feature Houston Dynamo playmaker Darwin Quintero, who the Loons jettisoned in a trade last November and believe they’ve now fully replaced.
Reynoso could turn around and make his home debut against Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field on Sunday night.
Reynoso said feeling wanted by Minnesota played a big part in his desire to tell Boca he wanted out, along with playing but not being featured often with Boca. As the process ebbed and flowed, Reynoso’s desire was something Heath said was relayed by Reynoso’s agent.
“Honestly, it was seeing the great interest from the club, whether it was from the coach or Mark, both did a great job,” Reynoso said Tuesday through the team’s Spanish translator. “When I saw their interest, I looked into the city, the club, and I liked what I saw. The (leaders) put a lot of work into the club. So, I decided to come here, to this great club because of what I said, the interest and desire. I’m coming to give my all and to be in a good spot.”
Landing on that mutual spot took some time, something Watson knew it would take during his first trip to Argentina’s capital in mid-January.
“Knew it wasn’t going to be a quick 48-hour go down, grab the player and hop back on the plane,” Watson said. “The thing was that Boca really wasn’t ready to get rid of Reynoso. He is a top player and very highly regarded with the staff.”
Heath said there was one point about halfway through the process that United’s leadership thought Boca would keep Reynoso. “They weren’t trying to move him out,” he said.
And during the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring, Watson said they started to look at other players on their list.
“I would continuously go to Adrian and ask, ‘What do you think? This is really challenging,’ ” Watson recalled. “ ‘Do we want to do something different? Or do we want to keep going?’ We had a lot of belief in the player and we felt good about his age and his profile, his technical ability … versatility.”
Heath credited the commitment of United FC owner Bill McGuire and the other partners for seeing this transaction through despite the virus-caused economic slowdown. “It’s a huge commitment in current times,” Heath said.