It was reported several days ago that Sebas Mendez was the subject of a $7 million bid from Ecuador’s LDU Quito, a bid that Orlando City summarily rejected. LDU director and executive committee president Esteban Paz stated in an interview that talks between the two teams never got particularly far, and that the Lions rejected the aforementioned $7 million offer. On the face of it, this story is pretty cut and dry but as is usually the case there’s more going on if you dig beneath the surface, so let’s grab our shovels.
Let’s get a few things out of the way up top — $7 million dollars is a lot of money in Major League Soccer. The highest transfer fee an MLS team has paid to acquire a player was Atlanta United shelling out $16.5 million for Pity Martinez, according to Transfermarkt. There aren’t particularly good recent examples of MLS players being bought for a fee in the neighborhood of $7 million. Zack Steffen cost Manchester City $9.12 million, and way back in 2008 Villareal paid $7.41 million for Jozy Altidore. If Orlando had accepted a $7 million bid for Sebas Mendez it would be the fifth highest transfer fee ever for an MLS player leaving for another league, right between Altidore and Matt Miazga.
I should note before we go further that as of writing this article on Thursday night The Mane Land hasn’t received confirmation that the bid lodged by LDU Quito was in fact for $7 million. I bring that up because I, along with several of my colleagues here at TML are rather skeptical that the team would be in a position to turn down that amount of money should it be offered to them. This team in particular could do a lot with $7 million, so while I have no doubt that Orlando did indeed reject a bid for Mendez, I find it very hard to believe that the number was actually that high.
The bigger point though, is that Orlando rejected some sort of money for Mendez, and wants to hang on to him. That alone tells us a lot about how the front office views Mendez — as a key piece of building a successful Lions team. Rather than getting several million dollars for the 23-year-old defensive midfielder, Orlando liked enough of what it saw last year to want to hang on to him. OCSC also has a couple options at defensive midfield already on the roster, if this was about money then the Lions simply could have cashed in on Mendez and put their chips on Uri Rosell or Andres Perea. Instead, the club chose to turn down the money and bet on Mendez.
On last year’s evidence it’s a bet with a decent enough chance of paying out. Sebas was especially effective during the first third of the season, after which his performances started to flag a little bit. He got in a bit of a habit of passing laterally and back towards his own goal too much and opposing teams seemed to cotton on to that. However, that isn’t to take away from what he is at his best — an energetic, hard tackling defensive midfielder capable of winning the ball back and starting attacks from his own half. He definitely still needs to develop; Oscar Pareja will probably hope to get more than 20 games out of him this year, and a better eye for a key pass in the opponents’ half would go a long way towards helping the team offensively. At the end of the day though, he’s still only 22 years old and last year was his first season in a new league. If he takes a step in his sophomore year, then turning down whatever was offered for him may well turn out to be well worth it for Orlando.
In the end, good young players aren’t always the easiest to find, with Orlando in particular not having the best luck in that area, and as long as the bid lodged for him wasn’t astronomical I don’t have a problem with trying to develop him as part of a young core alongside the likes of Ruan, Joao Moutinho, Benji Michel, and Chris Mueller. This is a team that is in desperate need of a solid, stable foundation, and the rejection of the LDU Quito bid seems to indicate that the front office believes its got a key part of that foundation.