The LA Galaxy have exercised their option to buy out the contract of Mexico international midfielder Giovani dos Santos, the club announced on Friday.
The move means that dos Santos will no longer play for the Galaxy, and was necessitated by the fact that the Galaxy had three other Designated Players -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romain Alessandrini, and Giovani's brother Jonathan dos Santos -- putting them one over the league-mandated maximum. The move now makes the Galaxy roster compliant ahead of Saturday's opener against the Chicago Fire.
In a social media post, dos Santos thanked the organization and said: "I am ready for the next step in my career."
"I've known Giovani and his family for years and I respect them very much, so I wanted to make a cool assessment," LA Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese told reporters on Friday. "We wanted to the right thing both for the player and club. It took us a little more time than maybe than expected, but we wanted to take the appropriate time and obviously today is the day we needed to make a decision, and that's where it ended up."
Te Kloese added that he was unsure of dos Santos' next move, saying in Spanish: "He's a top player with experience and he can still go on to accomplish a lot in his career."
The move also removes a huge headache for MLS, which faced the prospect of a league-wide revolt if the rules were bent -- or even broken -- to accommodate the Galaxy by allowing the club to keep four DPs on its roster. As one MLS executive from another team put it, buying out dos Santos and following the rules was "the right thing" to do in order to resolve the situation.
Ibrahimovic was not a Designated Player last season, but the Galaxy gave him a new DP deal in December, putting them over the limit.
MLS rules stipulate that a team can buy out one guaranteed contract per year, and since the Galaxy notified the league prior to Friday's roster compliance deadline, dos Santos' contract -- which last year saw him earn $6 million in guaranteed compensation -- will not count against the Galaxy's salary budget. However, the team will still be obligated to pay dos Santos his salary, at least for the present, meaning that the particulars of the buyout arrangement between the Galaxy and dos Santos are yet to be worked out.
"This obviously frees up some funds. We have been actively been scouting in the last few months since the new technical staff started with a clear idea of how to play, taking the very, very best out of our current players, [we are] happy where we are with the current players, but we need additions," te Kloese said. "We need to strengthen and deepen our roster in certain positions. We're very actively doing that and obviously going forward with some acquisitions, hopefully soon, but it also could take a little bit of time depending on the players that have been scouted and their availability.
A source made no mention to ESPN FC whether dos Santos had been waived. If the club had done so, dos Santos would have landed with the team willing to absorb the biggest hit to their salary cap. Dos Santos now finds himself in a state of limbo. He's still getting paid, but doesn't have a club, though he could be loaned or transferred at a later date.
Dos Santos has been a disappointment since arriving in LA from La Liga club Villarreal in the summer of 2015. He enjoyed a stellar campaign in 2016 when he scored 14 goals and added 12 assists in 28 league matches. His production has waned since then as a variety of nagging injuries took their toll. He scored just six goals with three assists in 2017 and his production fell even further last year, scoring three goals and adding two assists in just 14 league appearances. The Galaxy missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
The most likely path forward is that dos Santos finds a new club abroad, but how that would happen is still unclear. The two sides could agree on a lump sum payment and then terminate the contract, freeing dos Santos to go find a new club. But much will depend on how much of the $6 million left on the contract the Galaxy are willing to pick up. Another option is a full transfer, but that would likely see dos Santos take a significant pay cut.
With so much money remaining to be paid on the contract, a loan to a foreign club would make sense for both sides. It would allow dos Santos to still collect his salary, while also relieving the Galaxy of at least some of their financial obligation to the player.