“Unforgettable story,” “huge mess” and “Alfredo Ortuño’s torment” were some of the phrases Spanish media used in the six months between Ortuño’s last match and the announcement of his signing with Real Salt Lake last week.
Even RSL general manager Craig Waibel decided not to get caught up in the details of the striker’s transfer complications. All Waibel needed to know from Ortuño’s representation was if he was under contract, and if there would be a transfer fee.
“The answer I got was there won’t be a fee associated with the transfer,” Waibel told The Salt Lake Tribune. “So that can be translated a million different ways, but at the end of the day that means we as a club don’t need to worry about the other side.”
Ortuño had been on Real Salt Lake’s list of potential targets since the summer, according to RSL scout Dane Murphy. Playing for Cádiz in 2016-17 in the second division of Spanish soccer, Ortuño scored a career-high 17 goals.
“Every team is looking for a striker that is going to score goals, [and] finish chances,” Murphy said. “… The success of our team in the second half of the season was built around combination and balance of the attack and interchanging roles.”
RSL saw a striker who could do both in Ortuño, but Murphy said the team believed Ortuño was out of their price range before things changed in September.
Ortuño’s loan to Cádiz from his parent club, Las Palmas, expired. On Sept. 3 it was announced that he would sign with Real Valladolid in the second division, but league authorities voided the deal because of late paperwork, and reports questioned the validity of Ortuño’s signature on the termination of his contract with Las Palmas.
On Nov. 23, Spanish newspaper MARCA reported that Ortuño’s contract with Las Palmas was terminated in a mutual agreement. Over the next six weeks, the media tied him to several European teams, but he remained a free agent.
While that was ongoing, MLS announced an increase in TAM (Targeted Allocation Money). Each team continues to receive $1.2 million each of the next two years and can spend up to an additional $2.8 million in team-funded TAM each year. RSL had expected an increase in funds, but before knowing exactly how much would become available for 2018, the front office developed three offseason budget models.
“Believe it or not,” Waibel said, “we had one model that was pretty darn close to what actually happened. ... There’s no doubt about it, it would have affected what we were doing.”
As RSL and Ortuño finalized a deal, the “stories and distractions,” as Waibel called them, continued. The day before RSL announced Ortuño’s signing, European reports had him signing with Greek club AEK Athens.
Instead, Ortuño will join RSL in the preseason.
“That’s the name of the game sometimes, especially in the front office — you can be good at your job, but luck and timing help a lot,” Murphy said.