The performance of Philadelphia Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro during the 2019 Major League Soccer season convinced the front-office personnel at the club that keeping him was a necessity.
Sporting director Ernst Tanner revealed Monday that the process to keep the 26-year-old on a permanent basis began in the summer.
“You probably know we started the process in the summer. It was not an easy deal, as it always is when there are a couple of parties sharing in,” Tanner said in a conference call with reporters.
“It was absolutely necessary that we have an agreement with Metz,” Tanner said. “It was also absolutely convincing how Jamiro played that everybody felt he is the player we really needed to spend the extra money that we are usually not.”
The biggest obstacle to tackle was negotiating down the option to buy in Monteiro’s loan deal from French side FC Metz.
Initially, Monteiro was brought in a short-term loan, but it was eventually extended to a season-long loan spell with the Union.
The Union were able to negotiate the purchase option down to $2 million, which is the club’s transfer record.
“We needed to agree with Metz because the final transfer fee is much lower than the option we had,” Tanner said. “Of course, we needed to agree with the player and his representation and that also took quite a lot of time.”
“I’m not very fond about talking about figures,” Tanner said. “The option was significantly higher than what we finally paid. The option was quite a significant amount higher.”
The other significant portion of the Monteiro transfer was the three-year deal the player signed with an option for a fourth year.
Tanner saw the long-term contract as a key asset in order to keep the midfielder in Philadelphia and make him a cornerstone of the squad.
“If you want to be successful in football, you need to have continuity in your roster and in your staff as well,” Tanner said. “As we see Jamiro as one of the key players in our roster, it is good to have him here as long as possible.”
“That was the major reason why we did that sort of contract,” Tanner said. “With good players, there is always a lot of interest of other clubs, in particular when you fetch somebody over from Europe, you really should lock him down, or otherwise he is gone and that is not what we want to have.”
In the 4-4-2 diamond formation, Monteiro can play all four midfield positions, and he can be positioned in the No. 6, No. 8 or No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 look that the Union used on occasion last season.
Monteiro, Alejandro Bedoya and Brenden Aaronson are the three likely starters for the four midfield positions for the Feb. 29 opener versus FC Dallas.
Offseason signing Jose Martinez, who was brought in from Venezuela’s Zulia FC, is a contender for the other position, but Tanner was not firm in the Venezuelan’s spot in the Week 1 starting lineup.
“I see Martinez more as a project on a long-term level,” Tanner said. “He’s a good player without any question. I was down there and saw where he was playing. At the same time, we are doing something totally different here, and in addition, he needs to learn the language and adapt to the lifestyle. It’s quite demanding, and in terms of the roster, we should have at least eight players for four (midfield) positions.”
The defensive midfield and back line are parts of the roster Tanner identified that need the most help after conceding 50 goals while finishing third in the Eastern Conference in 2019.
Tanner confirmed the arrival of a few more additions in the coming weeks, including one that may be finalized in the next few days.
“In this moment, we are surely signing a couple more players,” Tanner said. “We are quite close to other positions, but we are in addition looking for a center back and try to get more stable in defense. I don’t want to have a second seasons where we have more than 50 goals against. That is not what we would like to do, and if we can avoid that, we can be even more successful in the future.”
The goal is to have depth at every position on the roster, which would help the Union deal with international absences, injuries and other issues that may arise.
“With all the supplements we are getting now, we are probably an even better team than last season, but at the same time with all the new players, it always requires some time to get everything together,” Tanner said.