Maxi Moralez returning to New York City FC after terminating his contract with his hometown club in Argentina probably was not on your bingo card.
Yet reports out of Argentina say that’s exactly what is happening. NYCFC look to be turning back the clock to help solve their season-long struggles to score goals, with Maxi Moralez set to re-join Nick Cushing’s midfield after a seven-month spell playing back home in Argentina.
Lautaro Salucho of TyC Sports was first to report that Moralez will be terminating his contract with Racing Club de Avellaneda, the Argentine side Maxi re-joined last December when he left NYCFC after six hugely successful seasons.
César Luis Merlo, oracle of much of NYCFC’s transfer activity during this summer window, echoed Salucho’s report and indicated that Moralez’s contract with Racing Club was supposed to run until December 2024—but that contract is now getting torn up.
It’s a stunning reversal, as Moralez walked away from NYCFC while the club still appeared interested in retaining the creative midfielder’s services. Remember that NYCFC initially exercised the contract option they had to retain Maxi for the 2023 season, but the player chose to return to his boyhood club for what looked like one last hurrah playing in his home country.
Maxi’s return to Racing Club did not play out like the return of a conquering hero, as the midfielder only started six of Racing’s 27 league matches in Argentina’s Primera División, contributing one goal and two assists in league play in just 653 minutes of league action.
NYCFC have often looked like a team missing the metronomic, penetrative creative presence of Moralez in its midfield, though sporting director David Lee did take steps to replace Maxi. Santiago Rodríguez was re-signed permanently as a Designated Player and took Maxi’s old No 10 shirt, and Richy Ledezma was loaned in from PSV Eindhoven-by-way-of-Real Salt Lake.
Neither Rodríguez nor Ledezma would qualify as disappointments who need replacing this season, but neither have been like-for-like replacements for Maxi. That may have been asking too much from the start, as the diminutive midfielder made a convincing case for being NYCFC’s best-ever player during his six seasons in New York.
If Moralez does return, he would become David Lee’s second summer addition to the NYCFC central midfield mix. Andrés Perea just joined on loan from Philadelphia Union through the end of the season, though he’s more of a defensive midfielder or box-to-box No 8. By the end of his time with NYCFC, Moralez had become something of a Swiss Army Knife for 2022 managers Ronny Deila and Nick Cushing, filling multiple roles in the NYCFC midfield as need dictated.
What will Moralez bring to this current version of NYCFC? New York City has fielded one of the youngest rosters in MLS this season, so adding Maxi’s “veteran presence” could be beneficial as the team looks to stage another late-season playoff push.
Moralez is fiercely competitive (see: Maxi vs. Santi last season in Miami), and was a central figure in some of NYCFC’s highest highs as a club, so he brings with him a winners’s edge that might be missing even among the other players who remain from NYCFC’s 2021 MLS Cup-winning squad.
Even if, at age 36, he’s lost a step or isn’t as up to the physical rigors of MLS as he was seven years ago, adding Maxi Moralez would be a huge boost for NYCFC as it plots a way back to the MLS Cup Playoffs from way down in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
UPDATED 11:58 am: In an interview, Moralez spoke of leaving Racing to return to NYCFC and face Lionel Messi.