Real Salt Lake Ace in Line for Big-Money Switch to Europe
The 22-year-old Venezuelan front man Jefferson Savarino has caught the eye of a string of top-flight clubs in European football, following an exciting two-year spell with Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer (MLS). With 16 goals in 67 appearances since his switch from Venezuelan outfit Zulia, the British press has linked the diminutive forward with moves to both West Ham United and Newcastle United.
A growing number of EPL clubs have turned their attention to the MLS for up-and-coming talent. Newcastle United’s successful acquisition of former Atlanta United playmaker Miguel Almirón — an MLS record for an outgoing transfer fee — is a testament to this. The exposure of America’s top professional soccer league is greater than ever too, with more broadcasters and sportsbooks providing in-depth coverage. Likely taking that coverage one step further is FOX Bet, who later this year will release America’s first media and sports betting partnership.
Savarino Unlikely to Join Magpies After Benitez Departure
Whether Savarino will end up teaming up with Almirón remains in question. Newcastle United recently announced the departure of Spanish boss Rafael Benítez, with both parties unable to agree to terms on a new contract for the former Liverpool and Real Madrid coach. That could put Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United in pole position to snare the Venezuelan. From a Real Salt Lake point of view, it would be both a coup and a blow to have Savarino sold to an EPL club. It would cement Real Salt Lake club as a useful springboard for a young player’s career, but it would also hamper the club’s chances of pushing for a second MLS Cup in 2019.
There’s no doubt that the facilities at Real Salt Lake have fast become some of the best in the MLS. The club invested $78 million in developing its new training center, along with Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, Utah. It has since housed the Real Salt Lake youth team, providing a clear pathway for attracting and nurturing young North and South American talent.
Meanwhile, Savarino is currently away from the Real Salt Lake camp on international duty for Venezuela at the Copa América. Savarino bagged one of three Venezuelan goals in a comfortable 3-0 friendly victory over the USA in the buildup to the tournament. Savarino has shown promise alongside target man Salomón Rondón, who ironically played on-loan last season for one of the EPL clubs linked with Savarino, Newcastle United. Whether Benítez’s future replacement with the Magpies may look to rekindle their international partnership on Tyneside remains in question.
Just hours after the announcement of Benítez’s departure from Newcastle United, the Spaniard then confirmed he was the new head coach of Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang. Benítez has agreed to a deal worth £12 million a year. Right now, it’s a mystery to most who replaces Benítez at St. James’s Park. The club’s Under-23 coach Neil Redfearn recently introduced as a temporary replacement for Benítez until the club settles on a long-term replacement. This main issue at Newcastle United surrounds the club’s ownership, as the current owner, Mike Ashley, undergoes a protracted sale of the club, with any new owners almost certain to want their own man in the hot seat.
Could Savarino be a long-term replacement for Hernandez at West Ham?
Given the uncertainty surrounding Newcastle United’s managership, West Ham would look a safer bet for Savarino if the Hammers’ interest in him is genuine. Pellegrini has the Hammers playing an attractive brand of football, and after a top-10 finish in the 2018-19 EPL table, Newcastle United will look to press on and challenge for a Europa League place in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, the departure of Mexican international Javier Hernández could accelerate West Ham’s interest in Savarino, who has a similar stature and playing style to the man named “Chicharito.”
It’s also worth noting that Hernández has endured a mixed bag during his time at the London Stadium. He’s notched 15 league goals in two seasons back in English football but has often struggled to win over the Hammers’ faithful on the terraces. Although a trio of EPL clubs has shown interest in signing Hernández in this summer’s transfer window, perhaps the Mexican would prefer that more to Spain’s La Liga.