An interested club makes a bid to the potential seller which gets accepted. The buyer then talks to the player who is convinced of the move as well so the transfer happens. In a football transfer free of geopolitics, which is the case with most moves, that’s how a transfer takes place. Jesus Ferreira’s case is not free of geopolitics.
Eyes rolled recently when it was revealed that MLS stepped in to cancel Jesus Ferreira’s transfer to Spartak Moscow.
Ferreira’s team, FC Dallas, had accepted a $13 million fee for the striker and Ferreira was ready to move but MLS nixed it.
Why did it happen, and what authority does the MLS have to step in like this and cancel a transfer that had the agreement of all parties? We discuss-
The Russia question
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the Ukraine-Russia war, as the latter would want to term it, the country has been banned by many sporting organisations across the world. FIFA and UEFA have suspended Russia from their competition “till further notice”, which is why there are no Russian clubs in the Champions League this season.
The country’s relation with the USA has never been less than uneasy anyway. Therefore, when Spartak Moscow came in for Ferreira, it was going to be a non-starter for the league for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, after the Russian invasion, Spartak Moscow was sold to Lukoil, a petrochemical company with close ties to Vladimir Putin through the co-founder Leonid Fedun. The USA was never going to send an American player to be on the payroll of a Russian club with close ties to Putin.
Secondly, safety concerns would abound, especially after Brittney Griner’s capture in Russia and subsequent release cost the USA a deadly prisoner exchange in return.
While there is absolutely nothing to suggest that the mid was made with nefarious motives, Jesus Ferreira has simply been in great form recently, the country can be forgiven for erring on the side of caution considering the historical precedent.
This leads us to…
Can MLS cancel deals like this?
Yes. Unlike European leagues like the Premier League or La Liga, no single person owns a club in the league.
In simple words, MLS is the single entity under which every club functions in the USA style of sporting structure. While the Premier League cannot stop Manchester City from getting even stronger if they buy Mbappe tomorrow, MLS retains the authority to do so for its clubs.
There’s historical precedent too, of the same kind. MLS cancelled the deal between New York Red Bulls and Lokomotiv Moscow for Cristian Casseres Jr in 2022. The deal would have netted New York RB $5 million. Ultimately, they had to settle for just above $1 million as the player went to Toulouse.
All the legalities of any transfer in and out of the MLS go through their office and needs the league’s approval.
In Ferreira’s case, the complex web of geopolitics meant that approval was never going to arrive.