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Report: Algerian striker Mounsef Bakrar headed to NYCFC

NYCFC are reportedly spending $2 million to sign the 22-year-old striker from NK Istra 1961 in Croatia's top division.

Is a new striker finally on the way to New York City FC?

A report from Croatian sports outlet Sportske Novosti claims that Mounsef Bakrar, a 22-year-old Algerian forward with NK Istra 1961 in Croatia’s top flight, is coming to NYCFC.

New York City will pay a $2 million transfer fee (€1.8 million) to secure Bakrar’s services, according to that same Sportske Novosti report. Istra 1961 would also reportedly get a percentage of any future sale of Bakrar by NYCFC and its deep-pocketed City Football Group owners.

Bakrar was said to have been on the verge of a loan move to another Croatian side, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, but that deal looks to have fallen through, possibly because NYCFC came in as the highest bidder. Dinamo Zagreb was reportedly going to pay a €400,000 loan fee for Bakrar, with an option to buy the young striker outright for an additional €1.1 million.

Bakrar just completed his first season in Croatia’s top division after leaving ES Sétif in his native Algeria on a free transfer.

That first season playing in a European league saw Bakrar appear in 31 league matches (18 starts) for Istra 1961, chipping in with eight goals and two assists — including the screamer of a goal in the tweet below. He also made appearances for Algeria’s youth squads.

This would not be the first time NYCFC turned to the top league in Croatia for help at striker, and in fact feels a bit like transfer history repeating itself. Back in the 2019 season, you may remember, NYCFC began play without a clear replacement for the recently-departed David Villa–until Héber arrived from HNK Rijeka for a reported $2.5 million fee.

The players and their individual profiles are very different, as Héber was 27 at the time of signing for NYCFC and had already played professionally in Brazil, Armenia, and Croatia. Bakrar is five years younger and only has one year of professional experience in Europe, though he did play two seasons in Algeria’s first division.

Aside from the simmering Taty Castellanos outgoing transfer saga, the summer silly season has been off to quiet start as far as juicy-yet-substantive NYCFC rumors go. There’s been lots of random speculation (see: Iké Ugbo of fellow CFG club Troyes and his supposedly telltale luggage) and innuendo about NYCFC transfer targets, but little to no clarity has emerged indicating who, exactly, NYCFC sporting director David Lee is looking to sign this summer.

It’s entirely possible this report of Mounsef Bakrar will prove to be wide of the mark, as many other NYCFC transfer rumors have before.

The player, though, does seem to fit the profile of attacker NYCFC might be after. He’s exactly 22 years old and thus will fit in NYCFC’s currently open MLS U22 Initiative roster slot, and he’s someone who established himself at a young age in a decent European league, making him a realistic candidate to thrive against MLS defenders.

An eye will be kept on the progress, if there is any, toward the completion of Bakrar’s NYCFC transfer, and we will update accordingly as news develops.