At least from a practical team-building perspective, there is no real incentive for MLS teams to sell on their best players. They can only use up to $685K of the sale toward their allocation budget, and MLS pockets either 33 percent (non-Homegrown) or 25 percent (Homegrown) of the transfer fee in the event of a sale.
The clubs get the rest, but as far as actual team-building goes, the benefit is relatively slim. When you consider MLS prospects are generally devalued on the transfer market – the most expensive in history was the $5 million for Matt Miazga – MLS front offices aren’t exactly falling over themselves to sell their teenagers.
This is at the heart of the league’s most front-and-center standoff today. Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, one of the most exciting young players in the league, apparently wants to leave Montreal. And the club doesn’t want to let him go.
From ESPNFC’s Peter O’Rourke:
The sources said Tabla’s suitors have made several offers for the player but Montreal is not willing to open talks, leading the youngster to inform the club of his desire to play in Europe.
Montreal’s stance has upset Tabla, with sources saying the teenager is angry and disappointed that the club are denying him the chance to move.
And now this. Tabla is skipping out on practice. This does not look good.
Tabla is a Real Talent, a wide player with scary handles in space and a real knack for wriggling into tough spots in the box. Watch this silliness. MLS academies haven’t often ever produced a player capable of this sort of thing on the first team level.
It’s entirely possible Montreal is simply being petulant. But I think it’s deeper than that, driving down to an understanding for what a Tabla transfer would actually mean in terms of the gain vs. the loss. Tabla is a highly regarded prospect, but he’s not Alphonso Davies, and what he might command on the open market is likely a relatively low sum. Within the league’s current allocation construct, that’s likely not a tradeoff the Impact were prepared to swallow.
The good news for Montreal, if there is any to be found just now, is that it has Tabla under contract through the end of 2018. So if it does move him to Europe, there will be a fee. More than FC Dallas can say for Weston McKennie, at least.
Tabla wants to play in Europe, so blocking him might be increasingly counter-productive as this saga unfolds. But it does illuminate the chasm between where MLS wants to be, as a league producing youth players coveted by Europe, and where it is, as a league that does not incentivize that movement.
In an ideal world, Tabla is highly valued in a numerical sense and provides a tangible, quality return for the club that helped develop him. Until that happens, you’ll see more and more of these standoffs between a club that wants to recoup its investment and a player who wants to explore higher levels elsewhere.