Premier League club to pay over $18 mn for new Colombian golden boy

By Andrea Montolivo

Chicago, Jan 20 (EFE).- Premier League club Aston Villa is due to fork over more than $18 million in a deal with Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire FC to acquire Jhon Duran, who is set to join other Colombian stars like James Rodriguez and Luis Diaz who commanded large transfer fees.

Although the move has not yet been finalized, the Fire are poised to net $15.5 million from the Duran signing in a span of just 12 months.

In remarks to Efe, that Chicago club’s technical director, Sebastian Pelzer, said the 19-year-old native of the northwestern Colombian city of Medellin was in high demand due to his speed, strength and clinical finishing.

Those qualities are increasingly important in the modern game and were ones the Fire’s scouts spotted immediately in Duran, who in a matter of months went from near-total obscurity to one of the most expensive transfers in the history of Colombian soccer.

Pelzer, a German-born former defender and the Fire’s technical director since 2019, said he saw that Duran had the quality, especially physically speaking, to adapt to a big league, adding that he is very good in the air and has a lot of explosiveness and a potent shot.

In January 2021, he signed the then-17-year-old Duran from Colombian league club Envigado FC (where James also played), making him the youngest international player signing in MLS history.

Duran remained in Colombia for a year on a loan deal, receiving support during that time from Fire coaches and having his growth and development tracked using high-performance data analytics.

Pelzer said what impressed him about the player that year was his hunger and willingness to fully dedicate himself.

Duran joined the Chicago Fire’s top division for the 2022 season and initially had little impact. But as the season wore on, he made clear strides and finished that campaign with eight goals and three assists.

His performance prompted several European clubs, especially ones in England’s Premier League, to come knocking.

Although the deal announced Monday by Aston Villa on its website is still subject to the player passing a medical, obtaining the necessary work visa and agreeing to personal terms, it would rank among the most expensive outbound transfers in MLS history.

It would be shy of the 2019 deal that sent Paraguayan midfielder Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United to Newcastle United for a fee of $26 million.

Next on the list is the nearly $22 million that Bayern Munich paid Vancouver Whitecaps FC for the services of Canadian left back Alphonso Davies.

The deal for Duran, which could reach $22 million with future add-ons, would be the biggest-ever MLS transfer involving a Colombian player.

And the fee to be paid for the 19-year-old winger also would be the most ever for a Colombian moving from a league in the Americas to a European league, topping what Portuguese club Porto paid Argentine club Banfield and Colombian side Atletico Junior, respectively, to acquire James and Luis Diaz.

Duran’s teammates at the Chicago Fire also speak highly of the young Colombian player, saying he has an infectious joy and more than enough quality to perform well in the Premier League.

“He’s very good technically. In terms of the physical and technical aspects, he’s very good. He’s very young. He still has a lot to learn as far as the tactical side, but experience will help with that. He’s going to the best league in the world … we wish him all the best,” Paraguay’s Gaston Gimenez, a Chicago Fire midfielder, told Efe.

Argentina’s Fede Navarro, who plays for that same club as a defensive midfielder, said for his part that Duran has not yet reached his ceiling.

“Over the past few months, he played really well for us and is a great kid. Let’s hope he does really well,” he added.

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