Union sporting director Earnie Stewart denied Wednesday a report earlier this week by Goal.com that English Premier League clubs Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion made multimillion-dollar bids to acquire Andre Blake.
“There has been no offer,” Stewart said. “It happens a lot that there’s a thought about players moving, but in this case it’s not the case.”
A lack of official bids doesn’t mean there’s no interest in Blake at all. The 26-year-old has generated plenty of headlines for his stellar play with the Union and Jamaica’s national team.
But Blake likely wouldn’t be able to move to the Premier League even if the Union had a deal on the table to send him there. United Kingdom work permit rules bar Jamaicans from England’s top division because Jamaica’s national team is outside of the top 50 in FIFA’s global ranking.
So it remains unclear just how Palace — owned by 76ers owner Josh Harris — or Brighton could have brought Blake overseas.
A few minutes after Stewart offered his side of the story, Union manager Jim Curtin shed some more light. Curtin’s agent is a colleague of Blake’s agent, Cory Gibbs, at the Wasserman Media Group, which represents many MLS players and coaches. Curtin and Gibbs know each other well.
“The most recent I heard of it was two weeks ago when I was speaking with my agent,” Curtin said. “It came off as a casual mention — this was after the [summer] transfer window was closed [at the end of August]. That was the first I’d really heard of clubs and numbers, and it literally was a sentence, and I said, ‘Interesting, because we haven’t heard anything.'”
This much is clear: Stewart said that if he does get an offer for Blake or anyone else, he won’t hide it.
“What does it help us as a club, if there was one offer from [any] club, to say absolutely nothing?” Stewart said. “I don’t care if by fax, you can send them by WhatsApp these days, or whatever. … If you want to really sell somebody, and you want to get the most out of [the deal], I’d say you put it out there in the open and make sure there’s more offers that come.”
Such a scenario would, of course, drive up the price for potential suitors.
For now, the Union would like to keep Blake, who is in the next-to-last year of the rookie contract he signed as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014. There’s a team option on the deal for 2018.
“We’re very happy with ‘Dre, and we’d like to keep him here longer,” Stewart said. “Those talks have been lightly going on now for quite some time.”
Stewart also acknowledged that the Union have many other moves to consider in the coming offseason as they try to get out of Major League Soccer’s basement.
“We have to be really, really good to win games simply — that is a difference that we would like to have next season,” he said. “We do know that we want some difference-makers, and once you say that, the soccer really simple: To get good players, you have to go out and spend money.”
He added that having built up what he considers a core of the team in his two years in Philadelphia, the time is right “to get some really good players.”