As you’re well aware of by now, New York City FC and Frank Lampard have decided to part ways heading into the 2017 season. That means that the club is once again in possession of a vacant Designated Player slot.
Right on cue, we have already seen the usual silly season rumors, like Sami Khedira being a potential NYCFC target. Now, an ownership like CFG most cerntainly has the means to pay a transfer fee for a player of Khedira’s stature. However, in MLS, paying exorbitant transfer fees is not typically well received, and their would be difficult salary cap implications to such a deal. That doesn’t mean a move like this is impossible, but rather that pulling it off would be very complicated.
With that in mind, I took a chance at creating my own list of potential Designate Player targets for New York City FC. All of the players here have been listed as having expiring contracts, per transfermarkt.com. In addition, a list like that is extensive, so I’ve whittled this list down to names that I would say the club is most likely to pursue, based on both notoriety, position, and likelihood the player would perhaps consider making the move to Major League Soccer.
Let’s first took at midfield options the club could pursue, as the club will need to not only replace Frank Lampard, but also Andoni Iraola and Federico Bravo as well - players who filled the holding midfield role for the majority of the 2016 season.
Xabi Alonso is currently on a deal that will expire in June 2017, per transfermarkt.com. The Spanish midfielder is currently playing for Bundesliga super club Bayern Munich. He has a been a regular fixture in the Starting XI once again, including making 3 Champions League appearances this season.
Despite having just reached 35 years of age, Alonso has been a strong contributor to the German Juggernauts, and would definitely still be capable of performing at a high level in MLS for New York City. A player of Alonso’s stature checks a lot of boxes for a team like NYCFC, who rely on star power as much as they do hard-working depth.
Will he make the move to MLS? Hard to say at this point. Even though he’s still a mainstay in the Bayern Munich Starting XI, the club is always looking to make it’s next big splash and that kind of move makes it possible they will part ways with Alonso rather than offer him a contract extension. And perhaps fellow countryman David Villa can encourage Alonso to come join him in his quest to secure NYC with its first MLS Cup.
An attacking midfielder for AC Milan and captain of the Japanese National Team, Keisuke Honda is a player who could be a marquee name NYCFC targets this winter. Despite playing regular his home country of Japan, Honda has seen sparse playing time this season for AC Milan.
An attacking player who has played on both wings and centrally, Honda could provide the scoring and playmaking punch the club will be missing with Lampard’s departure. And at just 30 years of age, Honda definitely has a lot of football left in those legs of his. Given that his time at AC Milan has not been much to write home about, perhaps a move to MLS is even more appealing to Honda now. He’ll also be out of contract this coming June, but with the lack of playing time at his current club, perhaps AC Milan and Honda will come to an agreement to end his contract in January, giving Honda to opportunity to join NYCFC immediately heading into the 2017 season.
ALERT: Obligatory Yaya Touré /Manchester City/ CFG / Farm Team reference coming up!
Despite all of the “this is too obvious” factors to this, the fact remains that Yaya is out of contract this coming June, is 33 years old, and despite having played the last few matches for Manchester City, is more than likely not in Pep Guardiola’s long term plans.
While he is temperamental, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that a player with his size and skill would be a monster talent to bring over to MLS. One would hope that Patrick Vieira’s side could have the inside track to signing him once his tenure in Manchester is over. And with most other noted offers seeming to come from China for his services, perhaps coming over to the United States would be a more preferable option for him.
With many players in MLS receiving call-ups from their home countries in Africa, there seems no reason to believe a move to MLS would stop Yaya from receiving call-ups from the Ivory Coast, unlike what has happened to players like Giovinco and Pirlo. The one remaining factor to be seen is whether or not NYCFC would have to wait until the summer for his arrival, or would an agreement be made to allow Yaya to terminate his contract early and come over in the January window.
With recent news that Manchester United plans to pick up Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s option for next season, one of the two big names I had in mind for this section has been taken off the board. However, there is one more who fits the bill and he is none other than:
The former Spain international has enjoyed a small renaissance in his return stint with Atlético Madrid the last few seasons, culminating in a Champions League final appearance last year for the club and filling a key role up top in the defensive/counter attacking style Diego Simeone has honed at Atlético. The 32 year old striker has also shown back in his time with Chelsea and Liverpool that he can be an effective playmaker as well - tallying 55 assists across 312 appearances in the English Premier League.
Another very important factor is his history with David Villa. The two played together for the Spain National Team, winning the World Cup in 2010, and have a well documented friendship to boot. Who wouldn’t want to see them do this again in an NYCFC shirt?