Sales of Chipotle burritos in Kansas City are going to take a massive hit after Sporting Kansas City announced Wednesday that forward Kei Kamara would be loaned to Norwich City of the English Premier League.
Kamara, 28, who has been the leading goal scorer in each of his three seasons with Sporting KC, will miss the first 10 games of the MLS regular season and could be gone for good if Norwich City offers him a full transfer when the loan ends May 6.
“I get to play other big clubs, like Manchester (United), Arsenal and Manchester City, so it’s great,” Kamara said when reached by phone. “Honestly, just to play in the Premier League — and I hope everybody can understand, too — it’s a dream.
“When you’re younger, everybody dreams about stuff that they really wanted to do. When you get a chance, when you’re offered the opportunity to go to Disney World, you take it. I hope nobody takes offense to me leaving. It’s just a dream every soccer player wants to live.”
In return, Sporting KC will receive “two-thirds of a substantial loan fee to use as allocation money,” the club said in a statement. Allocation money can be used in various ways to extend the league’s salary cap.
The loan deal includes a buyout clause. If, however, Norwich City doesn’t exercise that option, Kamara, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the year, returns to Sporting KC under the terms of an extended MLS contract.
Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman explained the decision to let Kamara test the waters in the world’s most prestigious soccer league to fans in a letter on the team’s website — an unusual, if not unprecedented, move.
“If we are to continue on the track of being a well-respected organization for player development,” Heineman said, “then it will be inevitable that teams will come after our players and that our players will have desires to go test their talents in these top leagues. As an organization, we are never going to begrudge them for it — and we certainly don’t in this case with Kei.”
Kamara, who has 31 goals and 18 assists since he was traded from Houston in late 2009, is the second Sporting KC player to leave for the English Premier League during the January transfer window.
Midfielder Roger Espinoza signed earlier in the month with Wigan Athletic. His contract was up, allowing the Honduran international and Olympic hero to leave on a free transfer, which gives Sporting right of first refusal if he decides to return to MLS.
And that might just be the tip of the iceberg. Midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler also have been linked to transfer rumors, though both are staying put for the 2013 season.
“Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of players that have been sought after within our team,” Vermes said. “We feel that that’s going to continue to happen. That’s part of the business that we’re in. … All the players within our organization are ambitious. We know that we’re probably not the last stop for a lot of them.”
Still, the arrangement doesn’t necessarily end Kamara’s time with Sporting KC.
Asked if he’s played his last game in Sporting blue, Kamara said, “I cannot say I have. I’m only going on loan for four months. I’m looking forward to being back here in the summer time.”
Obviously, that is subject to change if Norwich City pursues a full transfer, but Kamara didn’t talk like a player who’d suited up for the final time at Sporting Park.
“I’ve made myself a home here,” he said. “I can go there and do really well, but if I don’t feel comfortable it may not be where I want to stay.”
With that in mind, he had a message for his throng of distraught Sporting KC fans.
“I love all of my fans in Kansas City,” Kamara said. “They’ve given me everything on and off the field. I can’t thank Kansas City enough, but I’m going out there and I’m going to prove something. I’m representing MLS, I’m representing Sporting and, at the same time, I’m representing Kansas City. It’s not the end of it, that’s all I could tell the people who support me. I’m only gone for four months, and I’ll see everybody again soon.”
Perhaps Kamara’s burrito habit, which is well documented on Twitter, will be enough to draw him back to Kansas City.
“We’ll see, but I’m definitely going to make that two-hour drive and try to find myself a Chipotle (in England),” Kamara said. “That’s for sure.”