They say good things come to those who wait.
And through a roller-coaster transfer saga, Portland Timbers fans have been eagerly awaiting final word on Sebastián Blanco for more than three weeks.
On Wednesday they got it as ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reported Sebastian Blanco is, at long last, a Timber.
Blanco, 28, comes to the Timbers from San Lorenzo de Almagro for a reported transfer fee near $4 million, and an annual salary of approximately $1.3 million. At San Lorenzo, Blanco scored 12 goals in all competitions over two years and added a consistent playmaking presence from a variety of positions in midfield.
Although he most often showed up on the team sheet as a left winger, Blanco’s role at San Lorenzo was considerably more flexible, playing significant minutes on the right and in central attacking positions. A genuinely two-footed player, Blanco has shown the ability to be influential in wide areas on both sides of the field and centrally; attributes that have made him a potent and versatile attacker at nearly every stop he's made in his career.
Blanco started his career at Lanús, where, as a teammate of Diego Valeri, he made a name for himself by scoring 16 goals over his first three-plus professional seasons. His success with the Granate earned Blanco a move to FC Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine, where, in 2013, Blanco broke out by scoring 8 goals in all competitions and catching the eye of West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Irvine.
Blanco struggled to get into the team at West Brom, however, and Irvine’s stay lasted only months into Blanco’s time with the Baggies. And when it became clear that Blanco wasn't in Tony Pulis’s plans, a move to San Lorenzo in his native Argentina materialized.
Blanco’s performance with the Ciclon quickly showed that his ill-fated stop in the Premier League wouldn’t derail his previously-promising career, as the diminutive attacker immediately became a fixture in San Lorenzo’s first-choice attacking team.
It wasn't until the fall of 2016, however, that Blanco would truly find his form with San Lorenzo. In the 2016 Torneo Final, Blanco notched three goals and co-led Primera Division with six assists in just 11 league appearances as the Ciclón worked their way into a tie for 2nd in Argentina’s first division.
As a result of his prolific fall campaign, however, Blanco became a hot commodity on the transfer market. And by the time things truly heated up, Mexican giants Club America and perennial Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahçe were bidding for Blanco’s services. In addition, a source close to the negotiations tells Stumptown Footy that at least four MLS teams, including the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, have made a run at Blanco in recent times, only to come away without the Argentine’s services.
Blanco’s transfer saga this winter quickly spiraled into a mess of reports. The Timbers were first out of the gate with reports in early-January that he was close to a deal in Portland, but those were quickly followed by talks that the winger would either stay in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Flores or go to Club America. For weeks the reports bounced between landing spots for Blanco, with various forces within San Lorenzo seeming to be pulling in different directions.
The Timbers, though, ultimately won out.
On Wednesday The Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg reported Blanco had not only arrived in Portland, but that he was also poised to join the Timbers in Tucson by Thursday.
Once he’s linked up with the Timbers, Blanco will take up a primary spot on the right wing, where the Timbers are hoping he can relieve some of the attacking pressure from Fanendo Adi and his former — and now current — teammate, Valeri. In addition, Blanco will provide cover for Valeri in the middle, keeping Darlington Nagbe from being the only option to moonlight as a 10 in the Maestro’s absence.
Regardless of position, however, if he can do for the Timbers what he did in the fall of 2016 for San Lorenzo, Blanco could be the piece that catapults the Timbers attack back into the MLS elite.
And that's the piece that the Timbers — and Timbers fans — have been waiting for all winter.