After an intense day of following the shifting tides that have turned deadline day into a worldwide phenomenon, D.C. United is right back where they started. Luciano Acosta, the subject of an apparent eight-figure bid from Paris Saint-Germain first reported by the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, has not transferred anywhere as the transfer window in many European leagues closed this evening.
Black and Red United was able to independently confirm negotiations over a transfer late last night, but for the time being at least Acosta will remain with the club.
Acosta was widely reported to be in France with United GM Dave Kasper to facilitate a quick move due to the tight timeframe involved. Throughout the day, news of ongoing negotiations came in, with The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer reporting that United was hopeful about getting Acosta back on loan from PSG for some portion of 2019. French sources offered up possible financial figures. Ben Olsen, meanwhile, confirmed to Goff that Acosta was in Paris before demurring to comment further. Just before 11:00am Eastern, Gilles Favard of French sports paper L’Equipe stated that Acosta was going to cost PSG €7,500,000 (around $8.58 million) and sign a four-year contract.
However, things took a turn as the French transfer window wound down. French outlet Le 10 Sport was first to report that PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel had rejected the deal, preferring instead to bring Adrien Rabiot (who is allegedly being frozen out for not signing a contract extension) back in from the cold. Paris United offered up a similar report, again saying that Tuchel vetoed a deal constructed by club’s sporting director Antero Henrique. Maurer added to his earlier reports with a note that Acosta had gone so far as to go through with his physical, only for the deal to fizzle out.
While Italian transfer site Gianluca Di Marzio began reporting that United and PSG were $1.5 million apart, the figures involved ($13 million for D.C., $11.5 million for PSG) seemed dubious. However, they were lent some credibility after Maurer reported hearing similar numbers, placing the Black-and-Red’s valuation at somewhere between $13-15 million in a report just after the close of the window.
On L’Equipe’s nightly show L’Equipe du Soir, Favard said that the involvement of numerous intermediaries all wanting a cut of the fee pushed the price higher than PSG had expected, especially as their hope had been to simply sign a short-term replacement for the injured Neymar.
PSG had an intermediary of their own involved, and all of these parties wanted a cut. That inflated the price, and all the while PSG had just been pursuing a quiet (for them) six month solution rather than a full transfer. (2/2) #DCU— Jason Anderson (@chestrockwell14) January 31, 2019
Later, Goff’s wrap-up of the day had United willing to sell at $10 million, only to be reticent when PSG offered a deal that could have reached eight figures, but was only worth $7-8 million up front.
Eventually, the transfer window closed, and whatever the exact issues were, there was no transfer. While the details of why the deal didn’t go through remain to be seen, we’re left sorting what we do know: United may well have been doing the right thing for Acosta and for their own financial interests in trying to sell at the prices being bandied about, but their hopes for the 2019 season are better without a sale than with one. Replacing Acosta, even with the money that would have been available, would be mightily difficult considering how well he and Wayne Rooney work as a duo.
On the other hand, it is fair to speculate what having a life-changing, monumental deal like this fall short at the last second will due to Acosta’s spirits. While all accounts point to him being happier with United than at any point in the past, there’s nothing that compares to playing at the highest reaches of the world game. It would be perfectly reasonable for Acosta to be left reeling after such a jarring sequence of events.
United and Acosta will now have contract talks to return to, which could help fix any lingering problems, or exacerbate them. If Acosta feels that United is responsible for the deal falling through, would he be willing to sign a new contract binding him to the club for years? Would he be willing to turn down the chance to leave for free (giving him far more control over where he ends up) as of January 1, 2020? Acosta could, in theory, simply wait until June, court offers from Europe, and sign a pre-contract before walking away for nothing next winter.
That is a potential disaster for United, but it is not assured. Acosta is surely privy to details that no one has reported, and may also end up confident that United would in fact be willing to sell when the price is right, which could in turn drive him to sign a deal that helps ensure that United gets paid in the event of a transfer abroad.