By Caleb Adams
Earlier this month, Charlotte Football Club announced the signing of 25-year-old Uruguayan defender Guzmán Corujo. Corujo was signed on a three-year contract with a one-year option but was acquired via a free transfer. What exactly does that mean?
Free transfers are a unique aspect of soccer that work differently than similar concepts in other sports. A free transfer is when a soccer club acquires a player when their contract has either expired or is close to expiring.
In the soccer world, a player can negotiate and sign a pre-contract with another team within six months of their contract expiring. The player does not have to consult the club they played for in order to complete a move to another team because they are soon to be out of contract. Therefore, even though it is commonly referred to as a free transfer, the deal is not always a transfer between two clubs.
Conversely, if a player has more than six months left in their current contract and another club wants to sign them, that club must pay a negotiated transfer fee to the player’s current club.
Some of the best players in history have been acquired on free transfers. Most recently, Paris Saint-Germain managed to sign Lionel Messi without paying a transfer fee. In Major League Soccer, the LA Galaxy acquired Zlatan Ibrahimović, who went on to register 53 goals and 13 assists in 58 games, for no transfer fee.
Free transfers are a key part to building a team and have proven to be a viable way to acquire high quality players for excellent value. Teams across the league have utilized this type of transaction well and have found great value across the back line. A few of the league’s top defenders in the past few seasons were acquired this way including Sporting KC’s Andru Fontàs, NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm and 2019 MLS Cup Champion Kelvin Leerdam.
Guzmán Corujo’s signing is a result of keen scouting to take advantage of this player acquisition method.
In soccer, every player has a monetary value on the global soccer market. Player values can fluctuate depending on variables such as age, form, position, and contract situation.
Major League Soccer has recently been making waves on the global transfer market by becoming a hotspot to obtain not only rising young talent, but players of all ages. It is a league increasingly focused on developing talent to sell for a higher fee later to, in most cases, prominent European teams.
Recently, Sporting Kansas City homegrown and North Carolina native player, Gianluca Busio, was sold to Venezia in Italy for a reported fee that can reportedly reach $10.5 million. Taj Buchanon who was recently drafted in the MLS SuperDraft by New England Revolution was just sold to Club Brugge in Belgium for a reported $7 million. Neither player cost anything to acquire.
This concept is not unique to just MLS, but a formula used by many leagues and teams around the world. Clubs obtain players for free or a low price and then sell them on later for an increased price. The profit gained from these transfers can be reinvested back into the club through signing new players or improving facilities.
In most cases, it is a win-win deal because the player gets a move they desire for and the club profits and can use that money however they see fit. Corujo’s signing fits CLTFC’s transfer philosophy of being smart in how they spend money to find the best value.
Corujo’s previous team, Nacional, reportedly demanded at least $700,000 from another team to buy him. Corujo is just starting to enter his prime and could easily increase his current market value during his time in Charlotte.
MLS is an attractive league for players because it provides a competitive environment to showcase their ability, enabling them to either earn a transfer abroad or become a long-term club stalwart.
In addition, Corujo brings a pair of other valuable characteristics: he is a match for the Club’s playing style and brings a title-winning mentality.
An essential aspect to building a team is making sure the players recruited fit the desired playing style of the team.
CLTFC head coach Miguel Ramírez has expressed a desire to play an attacking, possession-based style. On the defensive side it normally means playing a high defensive line to look to regain possession as soon as it is lost.
“When I don’t have the ball, I want to win it back, and I want to do that as soon as possible so I can keep attacking,” Ramírez describes his defensive philosophy.
Playing an aggressive defensive style requires central defenders that have a combination of athleticism, aggressiveness, and good defensive positioning. Corujo possesses all three of these elements in his game.
Corujo’s defending style is reminiscent of traditional, old-school center backs. He is aggressive and confrontative, always looking to win the ball back or make opposing players uncomfortable receiving the ball around him.
He is excellent at disrupting offensive play and tackles hard when he gets the opportunity. He is aggressive, but not brash, consistently timing his tackles well.
His tall, 6’2” frame helps in his aggressive defending nature by giving him greater tackling reach and making it harder to dribble around him. In addition, Corujo has solid athleticism and good mobility, which also aids in winning headers on both the defensive and offensive side of the game.
While he is a more traditional defender, Corujo still possesses the skills needed in the modern game. He is comfortable playing out of the back which will be required under Ramirez’s possession-based style.
Overall, the Club accomplished acquiring a player that checks all the boxes for fitting the team’s playing style.
Nacional is one of the biggest and most successful teams in Uruguay and in all of South America. They have won 48 league titles and on the continental level have won 3 Copa Libertadores. Nacional is ranked 2nd all time in points won in Copa Libertadores only behind River Plate from Argentina.
Winning is a part of Nacional’s identity which is instilled into their players. Corujo is no different.
He was a major contributor in Nacional’s league winning campaigns in 2019 and 2020. He also won the SuperCopa Uruguaya in 2019.
In his own words, Corujo describes himself as “enfermo por ganar” which literally translates to “I’m sick to win.” It is a saying that is used in Latin countries to describe someone who hates losing and just wants to win.
“He (Corujo) is a winner. Very important. We want to have players within our team who are used to winning, who have tasted wins and tasted lifting a trophy,” CLTFC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta emphasizes. “We want those players who say I lifted a trophy once, I want to lift another one again.”