PORTLAND, Ore. — Amid swirling rumors of an impasse between the Portland Timbers and Diego Valeri in contract negotiations for next year, the Timbers’ all-time leading scorer is staying mum on his future for now.
Pro Soccer USA asked Valeri after Wednesday’s draw to the New England Revolution if he wanted to return to Portland next season, and he deflected.
“I will talk about all this, about my contract situation, after the regular season or after the season is done,” Valeri said. “We have a couple of important games to play so it doesn’t make sense for me. Respecting my teammates, our supporters — I don’t think it’s a great idea to talk about that. For me too, I want to be focused on finishing the regular season. It doesn’t make sense. We will talk about that later when the season is done.”
Valeri’s current contract runs through the end of 2019, and the Timbers have an option to extend it into 2020. But Valeri reportedly had sought a longer extension, which would keep him on as a Designated Player. The Timbers, however, have made an offer that would allow them to buy down his contract with Targeted Allocation Money, or TAM, which would free up roster space for a new DP.
Valeri’s current salary is around $2.4 million, according to figures released by the MLS players union, and to get his contract to a level that could be covered by TAM, per MLS rules, he’d have to accept a pay cut to get under around $1.5 million. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman first reported the news of the impasse over Valeri’s contract.
Asked about the prospect of Valeri returning next season, Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said that’s what the club wants.
“There’s no doubt that we would love for him to stay here,” Savarese said Wednesday. “I personally would love to have him again for many more years and to retire here. He’s a quality player, he’s done a lot for this club, and today he again performed at a great level. Right now, it’s about what he’s been doing, helping us to try to make the playoffs, so that’s a conversation we can have furthermore because everyone wants him to stay here.”
The Timbers Army, the supporters group that fills the north end of Providence Park during games, apparently wants Valeri to stick around, as well. During Wednesday’s game, the Timbers Army chanted for Valeri, replacing the words of one of their usual chants with “Diego Valeri!”
Valeri said he hadn’t heard the chants in the opening minutes of the game, but he was appreciative.
“I didn’t, but it makes me happy,” Valeri said. “They know how I love them, and that’s it. There are no more words. They’ll always be – they are the reason why we play and why want to win trophies and why we keep working.”
After the game, Valeri was seen visiting the capo stand in the north end where the Timbers Army is led in chants, which is not a spot players typically visit after games.
At 33 years old, Valeri has continued to make a significant impact on the field for the Timbers. Although his eight goals so far is his lowest since 2015, he has notched a career-high 16 assists already in this regular season.
Valeri, the Timbers captain, joined Portland in 2013 from Lanus in Argentina and he has gone on to become the all-time leader in both goals (76) and assists (81) for the Portland Timbers, going all the way back through the many iterations of the club starting in 1975.
The Timbers have two games left this season as they head to Kansas City this weekend before finishing at home against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 6.