One of the things that Paul Arriola talked about when he signed a contract extension in the middle of rehabbing an ACL injury was this quote:
“The D.C. United organization has been a real family to me. And for them, for the fans, Jason [Levien] and the owners, and Dave Kasper, everyone to really show belief in me after I had torn my ACL, and still believe in me. I think for me the loyalty goes a long way,” said Arriola. “I can’t thank them enough for putting the trust in me, and I’m 100% certain that I won’t let them down.”
Now that we’re staring at the strong possibility that Arriola may be going to Championship side Swansea City presumably on a loan to buy option, there’s a strong case that Levien and fellow D.C. co-chairman Stephen Kaplan, who also serve as co-owners of Swansea, are doing right by Arriola once more. Whether they decide to exercise a buy (again!) on Arriola remains to be seen, but the move has to be seen as one of low risk, medium to high reward for all involved.
So what do Swansea get?
Arriola and Jordan Morris (who joined Swans last week) join a Swans side that is on a eight-game unbeaten streak and currently in second in the Championship. Second means automatic promotion to the Premier League, but at a minimum a playoff for promotion seems in the cards. Now, Swans can use the United States players as a springboard towards promotion and a bunch of money in the process. And if Arriola helps Swans get promoted, he could find himself with part of that windfall on a contingent buy. Even if he’s not, it’s not like Swans are wholly isolated from the football world; Swansea transferred players to clubs in Liga MX, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and the Premier League in last summer’s window. If you recall, Arriola was the subject of interest from the Netherlands and Portugal before signing with D.C. in 2017, and Morris reportedly garnered interest from Germany and Italy before landing in Wales. If Arriola can get some solid playing time in while showing he’s in good health, the possibility of remaining in Europe has to be strong.
So Paul won’t come back?
Continuing the health question for a second, Arriola started 64 of 68 available games with D.C., and Swansea have more than 20 games remaining in the season, including an FA Cup match with Manchester City, with the last game of the regular season on May 8. Add some time on if Swans don’t secure automatic promotion and settle for a playoff spot. He’ll have the chance to get minutes quickly, ensuring he’d be in great shape even if he did return to D.C..
But let’s say he plays all the way through Swans season. Does he then get to breathe for a second before the Gold Cup kicks into gear? Presumably, so he either finds himself getting bought or going somewhere else and getting a summer break before preseason starts for (insert European team here), as the Gold Cup is an MLS-centric affair for the United States. Maybe he returns only to get thrown into a National Team competition. On a “worst case scenario,” he returns to D.C., doesn’t go to the Gold Cup at all and comes back to play MLS regular-season games, in which case you’re looking at July, which which to me would be something that Arriola would force. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I think if Paul Arriola goes there’s not much reason for him to come back.
Well that sucks. So would D.C. get anything out of this?
Arriola leaves a Designated Player spot, along with an approximate $650,000 of salary space open, which would benefit new coach Hernan Losada and give him more choices to bring in players should he and Dave Kasper go that route; D.C. needs to sign at least three players to fill out the salary space now, what’s one more? And sure, not having Arriola for essentially a season and a half, particularly how last season went, isn’t pretty. You’d have to scramble to get a replacement, and given that Losada hasn’t entered quarantine in D.C. yet, a like-for-like is going to be tough to find, so you’re probably looking at seeing how you do with what you have before doing something in the summer, which would put us in Losada’s hands, which is what we all wanted, right? Right?
Nothing immediate anyway. Look at the MLS roster rules for a moment. If a transfer were made permanent, D.C. would receive 95% of the revenue after recouping any out-of-pocket payments. The club could assign $1 million of transfer revenue as General Allocation Money, while the balance can be used to expenses on a current or new DP, or another off-field, League approved expense such as youth development, training facilities (which are being built now), or other unforeseen expense.
But it’s more than that. Let’s use transfermarkt values as examples here, and assume that Arriola is valuated at 3 million Euros, which we’ll use as the buy fee. That turns out to be more than $3 million for a guy who could find himself playing in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe (and let’s be fair, for a guy about to turn 26 who was a regular national team fixture before he got hurt, it’s probably a modest valuation given that he has three more years on his contract). Even at a half million Euros more, the money from an outgoing Paul Arriola transfer could either make up much of the cost to bring Edison Flores in last year. Maybe you get a similarly valued player. Either way, a think a Paul Arriola transfer would likely go down as the most expensive transfer from D.C. United to date. Short term pain, long term gain.
Don’t get me wrong, it sucks to see him go, but the options where he doesn’t come back are strong. I don’t know where the thinking is on it, and I don’t think anyone involved up to and perhaps even including Paul Arriola thought that he would be in this position six months ago. But it’s the right thing to do, and based on their history with the soon to be 26-year-old Arriola, the D.C. United organization is aware of this.