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Juan Fernando Quintero is an Expensive Risk Orlando City Needs to Take

The young Colombian could set an MLS transfer record if his Orlando City move comes to fruition.

Colombia v Cote D'Ivoire: Group C - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The speculation has been swirling for weeks now. Juan Fernando Quintero’s future is reportedly going to be revealed this weekend, from the source himself. A move for the former prodigy is in the works in some fashion or another, the question is the final sum for his new team.

The consistent number thrown around by outlets in Colombia and Portugal has been €10 million, something that Quintero’s current club, FC Porto, is keen to collect. And according to most sources, Orlando City is his destination. The most recent link came from Balon Dividido, ESPN’s Colombian soccer program:

“Juan Fernando Quintero's destination is going to be Orlando City of MLS. The confirmation will be this Saturday when his contract expires with [Deportivo Independiente Medellin]. What do you think about this development regarding the creative midfielder?”

While Orlando is the club most heavily linked to Quintero, these links are still just rumors. But it is a fact that the Colombian is surplus to requirements on the north Portuguese coast and has been told that he’s allowed to leave. So why is Porto asking for so much money?

There are a lot of moving parts that make up that valuation. The Dragons purchased Quintero for €9.5 million ($10.85 million) over two separate transactions with Pescara of Serie A in 2013 and 2014. Porto actually disclosed the purchase price on both occasions, sending out a release when it purchased 50% of Quintero’s rights for €5 million before purchasing the remainder for just €4.5 million 18 months later. Chances are Porto will have to take a hit to cut ties with Quintero, but why was a 20-year-old midfielder worth so much to begin with?

Quintero was billed as Colombia’s next bright star after taking over on the youth international stage. In 2013, he dominated the South American U-20 Championships, earning the Golden Ball in a tournament that included Barcelona’s Rafinha, AS Roma’s Juan Iturbe, and a host of current MLS players, including Atlanta United starlets Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez. Quintero, along with teammate Cristian Higuita, won the title with Colombia.

Quintero followed that up with a strong U-20 World Cup that same year and between the two tournaments amassed eight goals and five assists in 13 matches. He became renowned for his long-range free kicks and sublime through balls, eventually earning links with Manchester United and Fiorentina before finally securing a move to Portugal. At 21, he made a national name for himself when he was called up to the Colombian first team for the 2014 World Cup, scoring the eventual game-winner in his first World Cup appearance against the Ivory Coast and securing Colombia’s place in the knockout rounds.

Since then, the shine has worn off Quintero’s star. After 64 appearances with Porto between 2013-2015, he was loaned out to Ligue 1 side Stade Rennes. Quintero made only 12 appearances for the mid-table side, scoring once. He returned to Colombia on loan again this year with Deportivo Independiente Medellin, where he once again set his home country on fire with eight goals and six assists in just 15 matches.

But it has become increasingly evident that Quintero does not have a future in Porto, with his parent club cutting his loan spell short with the intention of selling him permanently. This is partially due to Quintero not panning out as the next James Rodriguez as he was once labeled and also due to Porto’s constraints under FIFA Fair Play, an effort by soccer’s governing body to reign in unwieldy spending by European clubs. The Portuguese giants have been sanctioned for the upcoming UEFA Champions League and will also be on probation in regards to their spending. The club may only operate at a maximum deficit of €30 million this year, meaning it needs to squeeze every penny out of outgoing transfers to fund additions to its squad. So, Quintero is for sale but he will not come cheap.

It won’t help that several clubs are circling around, with Villareal and Sevilla linked as recently as April. FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio claims that Orlando is unlikely to meet Porto’s asking price of €10 million ($11.4 million) and that the transfer fee was a sticking point in negotiations between the two sides.

It makes sense, given that kind of money would break MLS records. Michael Bradley’s move from Roma to Toronto was set to top out at $10 million back in 2014 and the only other transfers that come close are Almiron’s $8.5 million move earlier this year and Jermaine Defoe’s expensive switch to Toronto back in 2013. According to Transfermarkt, Porto’s valuation might even shatter those numbers by several million.

So it’s a risky situation for Orlando City, which could miss out on its man if it isn’t willing to meet the Dragons’ valuation. But there’s a heavy amount of expectations placed on a player that expensive, especially for a team that needs attacking help like the Lions do. On one hand, Orlando is still buying potential. Quintero is only 24 and still has room to grow. It’s encouraging to see Almiron and Martinez come over to the U.S. and perform well above the competition given that Juan’s ceiling has been considered higher for years.

In a vacuum, however, it might be difficult to stomach a nearly $3 million difference between Quintero and Almiron even with the Colombian coming off a great start to 2017. But Orlando isn’t just buying potential, it’s buying his ability to nail free kicks from as far as 30 yards away and his creativity that could spark a resurgence in the Lions’ attack, a quality upgrade in midfield from a talent perspective.

If Jason Kreis, Flavio Augusto da Silva, and the City front office decide that he’s worth the asking price, the signing could come as soon as this weekend. That may leave a sour taste for the quoted fee, but it’s important to remember that an asking price is just that. Porto could cave in due to a small number of offers or Quintero’s desire for a fresh start. But given the Portuguese side’s need for cash, the creative dynamo will be expensive for any MLS side.

It’s a quintessential high-risk, high-reward move if it is indeed Orlando City making the move. But is it any riskier than Atlanta paying near-record prices for players that have never been tested in the UEFA Champions League or the World Cup? This is the direction MLS is trending in — young talent with a high ceiling. Orlando has a chance not only to jump on board but take on one of the brightest talents the league has seen.

The bottom line is, if Quintero pans out, the Lions could be bringing in the next great MLS star. That’s a risk they should be willing to take.