The circus continues.
Not long after it came into the open that Toronto FC are pursuing Alejandro Pozuelo as a third Designated Player, it now seems that his current club — KRC Genk — are holding onto him a little tighter than we may have expected. The club has released a statement this morning stating (as far as I can tell — the website is in Flemish and they don’t have a French version) that they expect Pozuelo to remain in Belgium until June.
Genk have released a statement saying they agreed Alejandro Pozuelo would stay until June prior to TFC’s interest, which has turned his head. They maintain that he’s expected to honour that commitment. #TFCLive https://t.co/rursStFS5R
— Oliver Platt (@plattoli) February 11, 2019
Genk has implied that they renegotiated Pozuelo’s contract in January, forcing him to see out the remainder of the 2018-19 season. Some on Twitter have taken that to mean that they removed the $10 million buyout clause from his deal, but that much is quite unclear.
Seeing this from Genk’s standpoint isn’t overly difficult. They currently sit 11 points atop the Belgian First Division, hoping to win the title for the first time since 2011. With that championship would come a spot in the third round of UEFA Champions League qualification, which is incredibly valuable to clubs like Genk.
There’s as much as €15.25 million in prize money available for clubs who qualify for the group stage, plus additional funds for every win or draw in the tournament. Genk have not appeared in the Champions League since 2011-12, when they advanced to the group stage. As such, they’re probably quite unwilling to part with their captain and marquee playmaker.
Both sides have indicated this could be taken to court in Belgium, and predicting what could happen there is well beyond my guesswork ability. Or, Pozuelo himself could buy out his deal, but that may cause another issue. MLS apparently does not allow clubs to sign players who have broken their contracts.
This could get very messy over the next few days or weeks. If TFC are able to get this deal done, it may take some serious maneuvering. If not, they may need to move on to a new target soon.