Will Yannick Djalo call San Jose home for another season?
That has been the $300,000 question (his MLS guaranteed compensation in 2014, according to the Players' Union) for the Earthquakes brain trust of general manager John Doyle and head coach Dominic Kinnear, as the architects of the club's 2015 player roster are hard at work this offseason.
Djalo, who joined the team on loan from SL Benfica of Portugal at the start of last season, made only 18 appearances, 13 of them starts, for the last-place Quakes and scored 3 goals. Expected to be a big part of the offense in 2014, Djalo's history of injuries followed him to the Bay Area, and he never really got settled.
"Everybody who watched him play knows he's one of the most talented players in Major League Soccer," said Doyle. "It's just whether he can be on the field or not."
It is not feasible for the Earthquakes to spend almost-DP money on a player that might only contribute in half the team's games. Djalo was electric to watch when healthy - his game-winning goal against Seattle at Levi's Stadium comes to mind, as does his MLS Player of the Week performance against Chicago a week earlier - but frustrating to watch limp off the field injured - earlier in the season at Vancouver and in that very game against Seattle in which he showed to the best of his abilities.
At the end of the season, Doyle stated that the odds of Djalo returning to San Jose were slim - though ironically his injuries elevated those odds, the "Dawkins Dilemma" - but he would visit Benfica at some point in the offseason to see if a second loan agreement could be agreed on.
However, the situation has changed in the month since Doyle made those statements. Various reports from Portugal have suggested that Benfica might look to send Djalo out on loan for a third consecutive season (he played at Toulouse in 2013) when the European transfer window opens in January. Clubs in Russia or Turkey have been mentioned as possible destinations for the 28-year old forward, as has MLS newcomer Orlando City SC, a partner club of Benfica.
One thing is clear: Benfica does not see a spot for Djalo on its A team. The native of Guinea-Bissau is under contract with the Portuguese club through 2016, and his wages make him very expensive to keep domestically on the club's B team. This factor alone makes it less likely that the Earthquakes will spin the wheel a second time on Djalo. A salary half that of his 2014 guaranteed compensation might fit better in the Quakes 2015 Salary Budget, i.e. the salary cap, but Benfica may want a higher figure in a loan agreement.
Djalo is subject to the MLS Expansion Draft on December 10, and the Earthquakes would need to add him to their 11-player protected list to hold onto his MLS rights should another loan be in the offering. Orlando City, the other potential MLS suitor for Djalo could snap up his rights in that draft if he is left unprotected.