The Portland Timbers have reportedly been after Lucas Melano for two years and this morning they finally got their man. At 9:00 a.m. this morning the Timbers finally made the signing official, announcing the the team had acquired Melano from Club Athletico Lanus.
Melano, 22, comes in as the Timbers' third designated player, filling the open slot created after the Timbers used MLS's recently announced "Targeted Allocation Funds" to buy down the salary of the team's leading scorer, Fanendo Adi, below the salary cap maximum.
Although the Timbers did not release the details of the transfer, an article from SI.com yesterday reported that Melano was brought in on a four year contract worth one million dollars per year. The same article reported that the Timbers paid a five million dollar transfer fee to Lanus to secure Melano's services. If that figure is correct, it is the largest transfer fee that the Timbers' organization has ever paid for a player.
While the transfer fee might be unprecedented for the Timbers, so is the level of interest reportedly shown in the player, with teams from both North America and Europe pursuing the young forward. That the Timbers were able to beat out the likes of Spain's Villareal for Melano's signature is quite the coup for an MLS side.
We don't yet know when Melano will join the Timbers as the team waits for his visa and international transfer certificate to come through, but when he does join the side it would be surprising if he was not able to immediately step in and compete for playing time in the Timbers' front four. Although he has spent much of the last two years as a lone forward in the the Lanus system, Melano is capable of playing on the wing or under center as well and could line up at any of those positions for the Timbers.
Expect more on the Melano signing later today as Gavin Wilkinson and Caleb Porter are expected to be available to the press after the day's training session. Also, definitely check out Chris's story on the pursuit of Melano for a rare look at how the move developed over the last two years.
The Timbers' press release:
TIMBERS ACQUIRE DESIGNATED PLAYER LUCAS MELANO
Argentine forward to join Timbers from Club Atlético Lanús
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced that the club has acquired Argentine forward Lucas Melano, who joins Portland from Argentine first-division side Club Atlético Lanús. He will be added to the Timbers’ roster as a Designated Player pending the receipt of his P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC). Per league and club policy, terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
In order to accommodate Melano as a Designated Player on the Timbers’ roster, Targeted Allocation Money was used to lower the budget charge of Fanendo Adi, freeing a Designated Player slot.
Melano, 22, joined Lanús in July 2013 and has tallied a team-leading five goals in 14 games during the 2015 Argentine Primera División season. The 6-foot-1 forward has made 42 league appearances for the club since 2013, recording eight goals and also helping the side to a championship in the 2013 Copa Sudamericana as one of tournament’s leading scorers.
"This is player we tried to sign several years ago while he was at Belgrano and have followed him very closely ever since," said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of the Timbers. "The process in bringing him to Portland has been a lengthy and challenging one, as he was targeted by several European and Mexican clubs. We believe Lucas is a player that will suit the style and system, will make us better immediately and will be an asset to the club for the future."
Shortly after joining the club, Melano helped Lanús win the 2013 Copa Sudamericana title, appearing in nine matches and scoring three goals during the cup competition, while finishing tied for fourth among all players in goal scoring during the tournament.
"Melano is a player we've had our eye on for some time and we are extremely pleased to finally announce his addition," said Caleb Porter, head coach of the Timbers. "Lucas is a very exciting, dynamic player with pace and individual game-changing ability. His versatility to be able to play any of the front four positions in our system also gives us flexibility to mesh him with our other quality pieces. We feel confident Lucas will make an immediate impact on our goal production this season but will also continue to grow with the club and be a key fixture in MLS for years to come."
In other competitions, Melano has appeared for Lanús during the 2014 Copa Libertadores tournament, appearing in one group-stage match and the first leg of the Round of 16 clash against Mexican club Santos Laguna.
A native of Hernando, Argentina, Melano began his professional career with Argentine first-division club Belgrano, earning his first-team debut on March 17, 2012, after working his way through the club’s youth ranks. Melano recorded seven goals in 44 career league appearances for Belgrano, helping the club qualify for the 2013 Copa Sudamericana competition with a third-place finish in the 2012-13 Torneo Inicial season.
At the youth national team level, Melano was named to the Argentina Under-20 National Team roster for the 2013 Campeonato Sudamericano U-20 tournament, appearing in three matches and scoring a goal in a 2-2 draw against Bolivia on Jan. 13, 2013.
Melano will occupy an international slot on the Timbers roster.
Full name: Lucas Santiago Melano
Born: March 1, 1993, in Hernando, Argentina
Last Club: Club Atlético Lanús
Acquired: Acquired from Argentina’s Club Atlético Lanús as a Designated Player on July 17, 2015.