I saw a familiar face at the NSCAA Convention last week, as I happened to bump into Ricardo Ansaldi, the Union's former Director of International Soccer Development. He was nice enough to sit down and tell me and Scott Kessler of No Short Corners about his tenure with the Union. You can listen to Scott's podcast about the interview here. Here's what he said:
On how his involvement with the Union began: "I have known John Hackworth for kind of a long time. Once he got the assistant coach job, I sent [Former Union Scouting Director] Diego Gutierrez quite a few names of players that I thought may be useful. That was my only contact with Philadelphia. When John took the interim coach position, they relieved Gutierrez from his job. Right at that moment, I contacted them again. I'm not an agent, but I was offering players as a consultant. Just very few that I thought may have been opportunities. We started talking about what I was doing, that there might be this position open. Actually, I was in Miami; John mentioned to me the possibility of meeting and I was very happy. We met, and at that moment I said that if I would be helpful in any position, I would be absolutely proud to work with the Philadelphia Union and John Hackworth, for whom I have a very high respect. The following day I met with Nick Sakiewicz and explained my ideas. Within two or three days, they made me an offer which I gladly accepted."
On the rumored acquisition of Leandro Armani: "First of all, I have no clue how the name Leandro Armani became linked to the Union. I don't know. It definitely was not through me, and it definitely, not to the best of my knowledge, was not through John either."
On the failed transfer of Pablo Perez: "One of the players that we were one day away from signing was Pablo Perez. He was a No. 8, two-way midfielder for Newell's Old Boys at the time. I was following him for at least three months. When John flew to Argentina, he interviewed the player. We had meetings with the club. I had at least three more meetings with the player, and because of MLS rules, a decision was delayed. The rules say that, because of what few may know, there is a discovery list. When we were negotiating with him, we found out that Pablo Perez was on the Chicago Fire's discovery list. The agent was very upset, because he had never talked to Chicago. The league called Chicago, and Chicago said that they have no interest. Then they said; however, that Dallas also had his name on the discovery list. Then I was incredibly mad, and I asked when they put his name. They said that it was in April, and this was going on in December. Doesn't this discovery list have to have an ending moment? So, I was very upset with this MLS procedure, then Dallas was negotiating. In the meantime, we were waiting to officially negotiate. It took 30 days for Dallas to say that they could not afford him. We had everything ready to go around Christmas time 2013. Newell's Old Boys was a club that was in Chapter 11, so all the negotiations had to go through court approval. Negotiations had to go in and be signed by all three of the directors on the board of directors. They said they could not give us an answer until January 3rd. We waited until then, but then an offer came from Málaga. A little bit higher in terms of salary, but lower for the club. The player chose to go to Málaga. I was very upset, and so was Union President Nick Sakiewicz, because the named had slipped to the press and fans were expecting him to come. With all respect to MLS, if you can be playing against Ronaldo, Neymar, and Messi, it's very attractive."
On his time with the Union: "This is very personal, but I think I made my salary worth in excess to the Union, with the very few things I did."
On the departure of Freddy Adu, and the arrival of Kleberson: "One of the very first things I did when I came aboard to the Union was find a new club for Freddy Adu. Freddy Adu was the most expensive player that Philadelphia had, and he was not even allowed to go into training. No team in MLS wanted Freddy Adu, and no team in Europe--I checked in Turkey, in Portugal, in Spain--wanted him. I checked for teams that wanted to swap players with even figures. Then I found the swap: Freddy Adu for Kleberson. For me, Kleberson is a three times world champion. He came here, but the coaches chose not to have him play. In my personal opinion, it was a fantastic swap to do."
On the process of player scouting, and the Cristian Maidana acquisition: "We had a chart with the positions, and what are the positions that we need to reinforce. I sent my suggestions to the coaches, and the coaches analyze. Then the next step--if the player was OK--was to see what the money situation was for these players, and analyze their contracts and their private lives. Then after that, the Maidana deal came. I think we were looking for an attacking midfielder on the left. I had lined up five or six names. He was one of the options. My duty was to line up the players and have the coaches look at them. When the options were narrowed down, they flew there to look at him and see him play live. Then came the negotiations, and, in my opinion, Chaco is one of the five best players that the Union have. Very serious and professional guy. Once he passed his adjustment period, he was very useful for the team. You need to understand it's a different climate, his children at school, the language, and all. But I think he's ready to give a fantastic power to the team."
On the varying factors in the transfer process: "You cannot always agree with four or five people's opinion, in addition to ownership opinion, in addition to budget. There are a lot of things to be put together. It is not one person's opinion--not even the coach, because the coach has pressure from ownership. There is also the opinion of the coaching staff, and mine was just one opinion, trying to narrow down targets from the region where I was scouting, which was Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay."
On the Carlos Valdes sagas: "We had Carlos Valdes, whose salary was a little bit too high. The coaches liked him very much, but his salary was a little bit too high. They preferred to spend that money from the salary cap on two players instead of just one. So when his loan in Colombia expired, he was supposed to come back here to the Union. So they asked me to try to find him a club. There were two possibilities in Germany that didn't work, and there was one possibility in the Premier League that didn't work. There was one in Chile as well. This possibility in Argentina did work. I can say that I did all the work to present it to the San Lorenzo coaching staff. They accepted the player and blah, blah, blah. There were conversations, and I sent over our requirements for a loan, or for a loan with an option to buy. The Union, or the league, or MLS owns part of his economic rights, but the other part is owned by some people in Colombia. They own like 40% of him. Suddenly when the deal was on the table, the Union was totally left aside, and MLS started to negotiate directly with San Lorenzo. The deal was bad for the player, bad for the Union, and bad for the league, to the best of my capacity, nobody got coin out of it."
On Jose Pekerman's involvement in the Valdes' sagas: "It isn't that he didn't want Carlos Valdes to play in MLS, it's that he would much rather have him play in a top league in Europe, or in Argentina, rather than MLS or even Colombia. I talked to him three times about [Valdes]. He said he liked the player, and he preferred that he was playing in a more competitive league. He considered Argentina to be more competitive--or more suitable--for his preparation for the World Cup."
On who he reported to: "John Hackworth."
On who had the final say on transfers: "I don't know."
On his departure from the Union: "The day after the departure of John, I left as well."