With Leeds United and Salzburg having achieved their respective objectives, they’ve moved onto the business end of things regarding U.S. men’s national team winger Brenden Aaronson.
The former Philadelphia Union star is set to head to the Premier League in a reported $29.5 million transfer, leaving Salzburg after having won a second consecutive Austrian league-cup double. He is moving to a side, Leeds, that secured safety and avoided relegation on the final day of the Premier League season, and he’ll play for a manager, Jesse Marsch, under whom he previously and briefly played for at Salzburg.
The move makes him one of the most expensive American transfers of all time (Christian Pulisic’s $73 million move from Dortmund to Chelsea remains the standard) and continues his ascent from the Union’s academy to the sport’s highest levels. Aaronson played in the Champions League with Salzburg, playing well vs. Bayern Munich in his opportunity, and while he won’t take part in European competition with Leeds next season, his week-to-week competition will become more difficult with the leap in class from the Austrian Bundesliga to the Premier League.
Aaronson scored four league goals this season, but his most important ones came in the Champions League play-in round in August, when he scored in both legs of a series with Brøndby to help Salzburg return to the competition’s group stage.
Leeds had attempted to sign Aaronson in the winter, but Salzburg resisted, hesitant to lose another key player in the middle of the season after having seen the likes of Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino depart in past years. According to MLSSoccer.com, the deal for a summer move had been in place since the winter talks, but it was contingent on Leeds’s Premier League survival. With that secured, Aaronson, for whom securing a U.K. work permit should not be a hurdle given his involvement with the U.S. in World Cup qualifying, is on his way to England.
His first club, Philadelphia, stands to benefit due to the sell-on clause put into his transfer away from MLS. The Union will reportedly net another $5.3 million on top of the initial $9 million Salzburg paid for him in January 2021.
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“It’s a wild ride, if you really look back how quickly Brenden has risen, on the field most importantly,” Union manager Jim Curtin said after a win over the Portland Timbers Sunday night. “The dollars are the dollars and certainly that’s great and that’s part of our model and it certainly helps the league, it helps ownership and helps everything.
“It’s really good, the money side of things, but to watch the kid now go in the last 18 months from great MLS player to a great national team player to a great player in Europe, and now going to the Premier League.”
Curtin appears to think it’s a good landing place for the player, who took part in 11 of the U.S.’s 14 World Cup qualifiers before missing the final window with an injury and stands to play an important role in Qatar for Gregg Berhalter’s side.
“Obviously congrats to Leeds and Jesse [Marsch], dealing with pressure that none of us will ever, probably, feel in our lives. What he handled with poise and character was really amazing. I’m proud of him,” Curtin said.
“And then now Brenden will join that group and look, Jesse will get the most out of Brenden, no question about it. I don’t know, nothing’s done yet, So I don’t want to get caught getting ahead of myself. But that’s a good partnership for sure. And it’s a great place for him to be—if it does get finalized—that is great.”
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