Can LA Galaxy spend big in the transfer market?
LA Galaxy inevitably attracts attention in the transfer market given its status in MLS and its tradition of bringing high-profile European players to the club. The recent whispers surrounding Aston Villa defender Joleon Lescott illustrate the complications of bringing those moves to fruition in a league with convoluted regulations and salary budget restrictions.
Several reports linked the Galaxy with a move for the 33-year-old center back over the past couple of weeks, but those links crumbled on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 24 hours. Villa manager Remi Garde batted away a Sky Sports report that the Galaxy lodged a $4.3 million offer for Lescott after the 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Saturday, while a Galaxy spokesperson confirmed to FOX Soccer that the club had not lodged a bid for Lescott.
Garde said he hopes to retain Lescott through the January transfer window after the former Everton and West Brom defender emerged as the club captain in Micah Richards’ absence and entrenched himself in the starting XI in recent weeks.
"Not at the moment,” Garde told the Birmingham Mail after Villa’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Saturday. “Joleon is a big part of the team, he is the captain of the team and he is playing every game."
The chase for high-profile targets requires a considerable amount of care given the Galaxy’s complex salary budget situation. Giovani dos Santos, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane currently occupy the Galaxy’s three Designated Player slots and restrict the latitude to bring in players at the top end of the market.
Those realities make the prospect of an expensive move -- such as the denounced bid for Lescott -- unlikely given the current strictures and the salary budget of $3.66 million this season. MLS clubs must account for transfer fees as part of a player's salary budget hit. Clubs can and do use allocation money to buy down fees and wages, but those salves only extend so far. The combination of a seven-figure transfer fee and a comparable wage packet essentially requires a Designated Player tag and rules out a move for a player like Lescott.
Instead of focusing on DP-level acquisitions, the Galaxy must rely upon the general allocation money generated by the sales of Omar Gonzalez and Juninho and the $800,000 in targeted allocation money dished out by the league ahead of the 2016 season to bolster the side. MLS rules and regulations prevent clubs from combining general allocation money and TAM for use on one player, but those funds still give the Galaxy considerable latitude to chase players if the price is right.
AS Roma left back Ashley Cole, Standard Liege defender Jelle van Damme and AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong feature prominently on the list of targets, according to a Los Angeles Times report on Saturday afternoon. In accordance with club policy regarding players who are not under contract with the club, the Galaxy declined comment on the three players. The club has already acquired Emmanuel Boateng, Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee to increase the depth within the ranks.
All of those resources provide the Galaxy with the flexibility to pursue players who make less than $1 million in salary, the limit imposed on TAM signings by MLS rules and regulations. Possible moves for Cole and de Jong are made more feasible by potential contractual settlements with their current clubs to compensate for a smaller salary in MLS, though those negotiations create yet another layer of potential complications in those moves. Cole is expected to cut ties with Roma, according to the Times, and count for approximately $300,000 in salary in 2016, according to an ESPNFC report.
The possibility of landing established internationals like Cole and De Jong at reduced rates illustrates the work carried out by the Galaxy to make the club an attractive destination for overseas players over the past few years. The southern California location plays a significant role, but the Galaxy’s past treatment of players -- from the respect afforded to David Beckham through the willingness to work with players like Stefan Ishizaki and Christian Wilhelmsson when external circumstances prompted their departures for one reason or another -- matters a great deal, too.
It is why Galaxy manager Bruce Arena continues to find players capable and willing to work within the constraints available. It might not always yield a player like Lescott, but it does provide a foundation for the Galaxy to move forward in a bid to improve the side heading into 2016. At this point, it is just a matter of seeing who the Galaxy can tempt to southern California and whether those additions can fuel a MLS Cup run in this season.