It appeared that D.C. United was planning on making Luciano Acosta a long-term centerpiece for the club, but those plans may be upended by European giants. Per Steve Goff of the Washington Post, Paris Saint-Germain — flexing the financial muscle that comes with Qatari Sports Investment as their ownership group — has submitted an offer potentially as high as $10 million for the 24-year-old midfielder. Goff’s report notes that Acosta has left United’s preseason camp in Florida for Europe to speed up a possible physical, as the UEFA transfer window closes tomorrow, January 31st.
UPDATE (12:54am, 1/31/2019): Black and Red United can independently confirm that negotiations over a transfer are ongoing.
The move, if these figures hold true, would bring in a transfer fee over three times as high as the club’s previous record, an estimated $3 million that Anderlecht exchanged for Andy Najar back in 2013.
Acosta surely drew plenty of interest after a spectacular third season in MLS, producing a 10 goal/17 assist season that earned him a spot on MLS’s Best XI. The arrival of Wayne Rooney certainly didn’t help draw more eyeballs to the club in general, but Acosta’s performances in 2018 were remarkable both in terms of ability and in terms of producing in meaningful moments.
That increased attention has apparently translated to real interest, as this offer isn’t even the first multi-million transfer rumor attached to La Joya today. First, The Athletic’s Kristian Dyer reported that Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli’s offer of $6.2 million was rebuffed, with his colleague Pablo Maurer adding that United was going to offer their #10 a salary averaging roughly $2 million per season over the next four years. Soon afterwards, Goff reported some different details, saying the Saudi interest involved Al-Hilal and a bid of $7.5 million.
The suddenness of the potential move, the price tag involved, and the level of clubs involved — Goff mentioned that Manchester City and another unspecified Premier League club are also in the running — are all stunning developments for United fans, and Acosta’s departure could derail Ben Olsen’s plans for a 2019 season that seemed promising in a way that this team hasn’t experienced in over a decade.
However, eight figures for Acosta is probably comfortably above the “we can’t turn this down” line for the Black-and-Red, and it may well be that Acosta’s value as a player is at its zenith right now. He’s within the age range big European clubs prefer to target, and we have no idea if he can sustain his 2019 form (most of which came in a torrid run during the home-game-heavy second half of the season). There’s also the real danger of Acosta being unable to get over the rejection of what would be a life-changing move for him and his family, and with his contract up at the end of 2019, this is the moment United has to either make a sale or offer him a Rooney-level contract.
United fans may be able to cling to one glimmer of hope that the popular Acosta isn’t done in the District. Goff made sure to mention that PSG, who are wealthy enough to essentially engage in speculation in the player market, could purchase Acosta but loan him back for a year while gauging his ability to compete in Ligue 1 or be sold for even more money elsewhere. The hypothetical arrangement would be similar to what the Columbus Crew and Man City are doing with Zack Steffen, who will play in MLS until the summer window opens before completing his $9 million move to England.
That said, PSG could easily loan him out to another club in France, or to other European clubs. For example, among their many loanees, they currently have Spanish forward Jese Rodriguez and Argentine midfielder Giovani Lo Celso playing in La Liga with Real Betis. This has increasingly become an option for Europe’s wealthiest clubs, and unless PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel thinks Acosta can walk straight into his star-studded first team, it could well be his preferred option.
Acosta’s departure, should it happen immediately, would complicate United’s plans for this season. With Rooney the lone forward on the roster, new acquisition Lucas Rodriguez would likely get a long look as the #10, assuming Olsen retained a 4231 formation after last year’s success. However, the money coming in would make it possible to sign a potential star forward and drop Rooney underneath, while the loss of a Designated Player would make it much easier for Dave Kasper to strike a deal with Velez Sarsfield for Yamil Asad, who had previously appeared to be a player the club couldn’t retain.