In a quick-developing story on Friday, Sporting Kansas City announced the transfer of forward Krisztian Nemeth to Al-Gharafa SC in Qatar.
The idea of Nemeth leaving Kansas City, while always a possibility throughout the offseason, didn’t pick up traction until that morning, when Dom Dwyer posted a farewell message to his teammate on Twitter. The tweet was quickly taken down, but several hours later, the deal was confirmed.
As expected, Sporting KC fans didn’t take the news well.
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But believe it or not, the sky isn’t falling. At least not yet. Fandom often blinds people to the fact that professional sports are a business, and this move, in essence, was a business decision made by both parties — one that also emphasizes Kansas City’s small-market status.
While Kansas City as a destination has made strides to appeal to the 20- and 30-somethings, reality is it doesn’t have the same market share as Los Angeles, Seattle or, yes, even Toronto. The advertising money isn’t the same in Kansas City, nor is the media exposure, which, to no surprise, many athletes quite enjoy.
In large part, being a professional athlete is building your own brand. Building a platform to cash in on. Athletes enjoy careers that, if fortunate, last 15-20 years. Most, however, fizzle out in a decade. The point being is this (as said ever so eloquently by NBC Pro Soccer Talk’s Andy Edwards): GO GET YOUR MONEY WHEN YOU CAN.
Nemeth was unquestionably lured to Qatar by a large sum of money, an amount that Sporting KC almost certainly couldn’t counter, even with all that Targeted Allocation Money laying around somewhere within the confines of Children’s Mercy Park. In a perfect world, the forward would remain where his career was invigorated to the point of reemerging with the Hungarian national team and becoming one of Major League Soccer’s top playmakers. But, again, sports are a business, and Nemeth cashed in on his success to the top bidder.
There’s also this:
Here are some other thoughts on Nemeth’s surprise transfer:
▪ Nemeth was paid $250,000 last season, and even a significant pay raise in 2016 — let’s say for fun, up to $500,000 — was likely nowhere near what Al-Gharafa SC offered him per year. Sporting KC’s ownership understands its restrictions as a small-market club, so expecting them to spend an unwisely amount on one player — almost certainty to the determent of the team’s core — wasn’t ever going to happen. In the end, Nemeth wanted to go where the money was, and Sporting KC wasn’t going to risk shaking up its tried and true formula to keep one player.
▪ Looking at the 2016 season alone, Sporting KC may have been wise to pull the trigger now on a major transfer fee for Nemeth. He was going to miss upwards of one to two months this summer for the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament. Add in an expected knock or two throughout the grind of the regular season and Nemeth was probably only going to appear in 25 league games at best. Buy low, sell high, as (some) stock experts say.
▪ Let’s not forget that Nemeth joined Sporting KC on a free transfer. “When players don't want to be here, we try to maximize the opportunity," Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman recently said on Twitter. The club did so with Nemeth by netting what reports say is a $3 million transfer. Of course, one-third of the fee will go to the league, but the deal is a classic case of low risk, high reward, as well as some good business on the part of Sporting KC.
▪ Peter Vermes and Heineman are not exempt from criticism by any means. Nemeth’s absence leaves Sporting KC without its top playmaker and questions as to who will back-up Dwyer at striker. But the instant reaction has been overblown a bit. The club addressed depth by signing Justin Mapp and Brad Davis. Neither can replicate what Nemeth did last season, but it’s far from an awful reserve plan. In addition, there are five weeks until the 2016 season kicks off. To give some context, Marcel de Jong wasn’t signed until March 2, 2015. There’s still considerable time for Sporting KC to search for a replacement, and one may not be needed until the summer transfer window where the MLS season really starts to count. Knowing Vermes’ track record and scouting expertise in countries like Hungary, finding another diamond in the rough isn’t all that far fetched. (He did find Soni Mustivar after Oriol Rosell left for Portugal).
▪ There’s some truth to this tweet sent to me following the Nemeth news:
The Royals’ rise to success has been attributed to several factors, but most notably the club’s ability to draft and develop prospects well while keeping an eye on players who could use a fresh start — Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales and Edison Volquez to name a few. Sporting KC has been able to the do same, and should be expected to do more now with the creation of Swope Park Rangers.