Orlando City has formally announced the signing of former AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino.
"Antonio is a player that we really admire, who can be effective in a number of different positions, which gives us great depth," said President Phil Rawlins in a press release. "His vast experience in the Serie A will be invaluable for our team as we aim to make the MLS playoffs in 2016."
The announcement comes after weeks of rumors linking the 30-year-old Italian to Orlando, who had to beat out D.C. United, among other clubs, to gain his services.
Though terms of the deal were not confirmed by the club, Orlando Sentinel reporter Paul Tenorio says Nocerino is expected to be on a multi-year contract with the Lions, making less than $900,000 per year (which Orlando reportedly offered while DC still owned his rights) and in the range of United's reported offer of around $600,000 to $700,000. Nocerino's discovery rights were acquired from United for a combination of General Allocation and Target Allocation funds in the $200K-$250K range, according to this article from our sister blog, Black and Red United.
While the exact amount Orlando is giving D.C. remains unspecified, we do know that it is a combination of general allocation money (GAM) and targeted allocation money (TAM) which is thought to be between $200,000-$250,000 total. If accurate, it would be almost the amount that the Chicago Fire received from the Montreal Impact so the Impact could sign Didier Drogba, and almost as much as the $250,000 in general allocation money that an MLS franchise earns in GAM for missing the playoffs each season, at least according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was recently posted on the MLS Players' Union website.
While some may scoff at paying as much for Nocerino as Montreal Impact paid for Drogba, the reality is that a second tampering charge within one year likely would have carried with it at least as stiff a penalty, if not a much dearer one. In short, the price for Nocerino's rights went up when the tampering issue came up, if the numbers are accurate.
With Orlando City's three Designated Player slots already locked in, Targeted Allocation Money could be used in this situation to get Nocerino below the maximum roster charge.
Before Orlando could officially agree to terms with the player, they first had to agree with DC to acquire Nocerino's MLS Discovery Rights. According to the Washington Post, Orlando sent an undisclosed amount of allocation money to DC, which had been considering filing tampering charges to the league after the Lions supposedly submitted a formal offer to Nocerino while DC was still in the process of negotiating -- a big no-no in MLS.
The addition of the veteran will provide more experience in the Orlando City lineup.
"Nocerino is an energetic and hard-working box-to-box midfielder that can provide an immediate impact within the squad," Head Coach Adrian Heath said in the release. "He has a tremendous amount of experience playing at the highest level and his ability to play numerous roles in the midfield will be an incredible asset for us this season. We're looking forward to working with him."
Nocerino's arrival creates a bit of a logjam an a already thick spot on the depth chart at defensive midfielder. Cristian Higuita and Darwin Cerén are coming off a 2015 season that made the two among the best defensive midfield duos in MLS. Cerén signed a four-year contract extension to remain with the club just last month.
Kaká, who played with Nocerino at AC Milan during the 2013/14 season, certainly isn't going anywhere, and a healthy Kevin Molino figures to have a place in the starting lineup when he returns. Carlos Rivas also has a starting spot on the left wing that he won't want to give up easily after putting together a promising finish to the season last year.
Nocerino's preferred position is in the defensive midfield, where the Italian could be placed, which would send Cerén -- the club will hope to capitalize on Higuita's high value with the goal of selling him in either the upcoming summer or winter transfer windows -- to the bench. As bad as that may seem for the reigning MLS Latino Player of the Year, injuries, suspensions, international call-ups -- the Olympics, specifically, where Higuita and Rivas could go with Colombia -- will leave plenty of opportunities for rotations through the lineup. And Higuita is on a yellow card suspension for the season opener.
At the very least, Nocerino is a big depth addition for the Lions, who can use him at a handful of different spots in different situations.
Also important to note: Nocerino's signing puts Orlando City with 12 international players on their roster -- Aurélien Collin, Devron García, Higuita, Kaká, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, David Mateos, Rafael Ramos, Rivas, Bryan Róchez, Adrian Winter and Nocerino -- with only 10 spots available. The club would either have to gain a spot or two through trades, or by loaning some players to OCB for the entire season.
Per Tenorio, Orlando City is expecting multiple players to receive green cards during the season, which would also change the international quota for the club.