The messy transfer saga involving the New York Red Bulls and Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra just took another twist.
In the latest development in a drama that has played out over several weeks now, the Red Bulls issued a statement on Wednesday night that said that both they and MLS will be taking their contract dispute with Kaku to arbitration. The official communication was issued in the aftermath of the news from earlier this week that FIFA had given Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun a provisional International Transfer Certificate (ITC) for the attacking midfielder.
Under FIFA statutes, an ITC is needed for a player to be eligible to play for a new team. Kaku is set to make his debut on Thursday for Al-Taawoun.
“The issuing of the provisional ITC does not change the fact that a valid contract exists between Major League Soccer and Kaku,” read the Red Bulls’ statement. “In response to the player’s apparent signing with Al-Taawoun, MLS and the New York Red Bulls have sought to arbitrate the dispute pursuant to Kaku’s MLS contract and will take all further necessary action to enforce their rights.”
The dispute seems like it has a long way to go before being resolved, especially since Kaku has argued that he was not given proper notification of the Red Bulls picking up his player option for 2021 prior to the deadline date of Dec. 1, 2020.
The MLS Players Association — which has declined to publicly comment on the matter — is siding with the Paraguayan international on the matter, according to an ESPN report. The MLS PA is reportedly backing Kaku’s stance that he became a free agent at the start of the year, and that his Feb. 1 signing with Al-Taawoun is valid.
According to the ESPN report, Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett sent the team’s letter to exercise the 2021 option year in Kaku’s contract to an MLS player personnel official, but Kaku’s camp contends that the Red Bulls never delivered a copy of the letter directly to Kaku, which Kaku’s representatives now contend meant the end of his Red Bulls contract.
Kaku, 26, has been seen in training sessions and on social media posts with the Saudi side in recent weeks. His situation rings similar to those of Cyle Larin and Camilo Sanvezzo, two former MLS players that forced respective moves away from Orlando City and the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018 and 2014. In both cases, Larin and Sanvezzo joined their new teams for training without a transfer having been worked out, but fees were eventually paid by their new teams after the fact.
This is not the first time the Red Bulls have had an off-field issue with Kaku, who they signed back in 2018. The Argentine-born playmaker and his agent tried to force a move to Mexican giant Club America back in 2019, going as far as commenting publicly about Kaku’s desire to want to leave the Red Bulls.
Kaku’s stint with the Red Bulls got off to a hot start, but his impact has faded since his inaugural MLS season in 2018. Last season, he finished with two goals and five assists in 13 starts and 16 appearances. His three-year totals with the team are 13 goals and 25 assists in 72 regular-season matches.
Al-Taawoun is set to welcome Al-Ittihad on Thursday in a Saudi Pro League match that is expected to mark Kaku’s debut with his new side.