Rumors surrounding the transfer of Darlington Nagbe to Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic just keep popping up in the Scottish press. First he was reportedly the subject of a $2 million big from the SPL giants, and now, according to the Scottish Sun, they have upped their bid to something in the region of $3.7 million.
Nagbe has always been a controversial player for the Portland Timbers, with constant demands for more goals and more assists accompanying his stellar possession play and consistency in transition, so it should come as no surprise that the Timbers fanbase has been sharply divided on the possibility of him being sold overseas. For some the $2 million figure was enough, while for others $3.7 million has caught their interest; and for others still there is no amount of money that could pry Nagbe away.
However, if the Timbers did let Nagbe go, what would the team be missing out on? And what would they need to replace?
Currently, the Timbers find themselves deep in the process of rebuilding the side after falling short of the playoffs in 2016 and how Nagbe will fit into the lineup remains up in the air.
2016 saw Nagbe start the year playing in the center of the pitch alongside Diego Chara, only to be forced out of that role as teams quickly adapted to take advantage of the Timbers weak wide defending, pulling Chara out of position and either exploiting the space that he left or forcing Nagbe into a more defensive role that neutralized his ability to transition the team into the attack. The remainder of the year saw Nagbe returned to the winger role that had been his primary position under Porter.
For 2017, however, new starting players for both of those positions are on the Timbers’ shopping lists and if Wilkinson is successful in finding a pair of top of the line wingers to go with the addition of David Guzman in the center of the pitch then Nagbe could suddenly turn out to be a player without a position; the ultimate depth piece all across the midfield, but without the specific skill-set or mentality to excel in any one spot in the Timbers’ current attacking setup.
Of course, that is the worst case scenario for Nagbe.
If Nagbe stays, which still looks like a good possibility, could a better supporting cast get him back into the attacking mode that saw him put up nine goals and four assists in 2013, one goal and seven assists in 2014, and five goals and five assists in 2015? Could having healthy competition for a starting spot for the first time in his Timbers career push Nagbe to greater heights after a disappointing 2016? Both seem like distinct possibilities given Nagbe’s team-first style of play.
So, what would the Timbers get if they did sell him on to Celtic? Well, this is MLS, so we can be assured that the full $3.7 million would not go straight to the Timbers. Luckily, our own Chris Rifer has already taken a stab at what giving up Nagbe would mean to the Timbers’ salary cap.
Selling would get PTFC ~$1-1.3 million in effective cap space. Would need new left winger and a quality backup 8/10. Possible w/o DP spot? https://t.co/tfppvxSPLx— Chris Rifer (@ChrisRifer) December 22, 2016
Breaking it down, that figure reflects three things: Nagbe’s current salary, the targeted allocation money that the Timbers are using to buy it down below the designated player threshold, and the general allocation money that the Timbers would get for the sale. The rest of the transfer fee would be split up between the team and the league, but would not be available for salary cap purposes.
So, is that enough to replace the potential for peak Nagbe and the depth and flexibility that he brings to the pitch? Let us know in the comments where you draw the line.