CHESTER, Pa. — As Philadelphia Union midfielder Marco Fabian did rounds of interviews Friday afternoon, he had time to embrace technical director Chris Albright, who showed up with his family ahead of the club’s kit release party.
A few weeks ago in Frankfurt, Germany, it was Albright who set the foundation for Fabian’s move to the Union, which became official Friday afternoon.
“ One of the most important people in this deal is Chris,” Fabian told ProSoccerUSA on Friday. “He got to Frankfurt and we went out to dinner together and after that dinner I felt so good because he said how much interest there was in me, the history of the club, everything for the club. After that, I felt so good.”
Albright made a trip to Germany — where Fabian was playing with Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt — after the Union’s scouting department identified the 29-year-old Mexican international as a transfer target.
“His name had floated around a little bit before that and we had eyes on him,” Albright said of Fabian.
Albright said Philadelphia director of scouting operations Kyle McCarthy and scouting analyst Terry McFadden worked with him leading to the deal and “do a tremendous job tracking these guys and do a tremendous job with analytics, doing a lot of ground work to even get us to that point.”
And so when Fabian’s name rose prominently as a potential target, Albright said he reached out to the player’s agent, Lyle Yorks.
“We’ve done deals in the past with Maurice (Edu) and Alejandro (Bedoya), so we have a good relationship,” Albright said. “So then it was, ‘Can we just get Marco on board and can we find a good deal that works for both sides?'”
Albright flew over to Germany in the middle of January to set the groundwork for the deal that landed the midfielder in Major League Soccer.
“The first time, he saw my training in Frankfurt and then we went to dinner,” Fabian said of Albright. “His first words were, ‘We want to take you to Philadelphia. And I know you are in one of the big leagues in the world,’ but he started to tell me about the league in MLS, the history of the last 10 years (of the club), the players they have right now in the team, the training, the coach, how they play here, which formation, the tactics, what I want to do here. It was many things, and it was a great dinner. After that, I felt so good. I felt so comfortable and I wanted to go. That was my answer.”
Said Albright: “From my perspective, what I’m always trying to do is sell players on MLS, sell players on where it’s come from in the last 15 years and then, specifically, sell them on the Philadelphia Union and Philadelphia as a city, a place to live and place to raise kids, if that’s what you want to do.
“I go over there as an ambassador for MLS and the Union to say, ‘You’re a player who has a great pedigree and who has played a lot of places, but we think this is a special place to play.'”
From sporting director Ernst Tanner’s viewpoint, the Union were able to use their relationship with Eintracht Frankfurt to work out a deal, which involved no transfer fee and just a five percent sell-on fee if Fabian, who has a one-year contract with two club options, is moved elsewhere.
“It helped a lot, and it made it a lot easier that we are very familiar with everybody in Frankfurt. And there are also a lot of people in the environment around Marco that I know very well,” Tanner said. “All of them tried to convince him that Philadelphia is the right place to be.
“I think the main part was more that Marco really wanted to come to the United States and join an MLS club. He had, by far, better offers from some other parts in the world. He knew Philadelphia before and that also played a role. He knew the stadium, the training ground, the facility. That played a major role in that deal as well.”
Tanner said despite Fabian’s other offers, he is now committed to bringing a trophy to the Philadelphia Union.
“I’m a winner,” Fabian said. “I don’t want to lose. I come here to win and to make the big, big dreams come true and one of them is to be champion with this team. We need to work every game step by step.”