Vancouver Whitecaps have emerged as the surprise front runner for former EPL midfielder and free agent Nigel Reo-Coker.
Martin Rennie is interested in filling the large gap in defensive midfield left by the departure of Barry Robson who left Vancouver amid rumours of locker room disharmony and an official explanation that his family had not settled in the Rain City. The Scot moved on by mutual consent with a golden handshake said to be in the region of $0.5m.
That made Reo-Coker tactically of interest to the Caps who are seeking to provide competition and depth in midfield where Gershon Koffie and Jun Marques-Davidson are currently top of the pecking order. Reo-Coker can also play right back.
Portland Timbers however retained Discovery rights to the player and their General Manager Gavin Wilkinson originally expressed some interest in acquiring Reo-Coker but wanted to complete the offload of unwanted striker Kris Boyd first.
With that completed however, Portland hesitated and did not make an offer acceptable to the player.
Reo-Coker, who turned down a move to West Brom in the hopes of clinching a move to MLS, has however been impressed by Martin Rennie’s way of doing business according to his agent Richard Trafford:
“Nigel and I were very impressed with Martin’s respect for players and the ethos of the club he works for. He is a coach who we would like to work with long term. He respects the restrictive MLS regulations and is a modern breed of football professional.”
However the labyrinth of rules surrounding Discovery Rights made the next move complex. Rennie has had to deal with the Timbers to get his man, a process Portland were not exactly in a hurry to complete.
The Caps are said to be frustrated that the timeline has been strung out and have now imposed a deadline of noon on Friday Pacific Time for the deal to go through.
Trafford’s own irritation with the delay has led him to question the efficacy of the Discovery Rights rules:
“Yes it is true this process has been extended but Vancouver have been above and beyond patient. MLS are fully aware of this. I personally think rule changes should be implemented as soon as possible to stop this happening again.
Nigel wants to become a Whitecaps player.”
With MLS also involved, negotiations are still underway to bring the South Londoner to Canada but the delay has led Rennie to impose a deadline of midday Friday before he is forced to explore other options.
Reo-Coker, a box-to-box midfielder, wants to come to MLS and as an inducement would waive the Designated Player tag and salary in his first season to make that happen. He has 259 EPL and Championship appearances for Aston Villa, Bolton and West Ham, having begun his career at Wimbledon.
Vancouver has been a hive of transfer activity in recent weeks with several high profile arrivals and departures. It now seems an even higher profile arrival is on the cards but time is running out.
The complexity surrounding Discovery Rights rules has led to an issue with Portland’s other Cascadian rival. A Timbers spokesman denied they had acted improperly in playing ex Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre in a pre-season game without informing the Sounders .
In a Thursday media call, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid seemed irritated by the Timbers’ actions saying:
“We have the discovery [rights]on him [Silvestre], but [Portland] had brought him in. We felt that since he was here we should get a look at him, as well. They really didn’t talk to us before they had decided to bring him in. In deference to the player, we didn’t want to cause an issue with his trial with them.”
When asked if the Timbers had acted within both the spirit and the letter of the Discovery rights law regarding Silvestre, a club spokesman simply answered ‘Yes’.
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