KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Before Matt Besler traveled to the 2009 MLS SuperDraft in St. Louis, he packed a suitcase for New York City. The Red Bulls had already laid out their plans to draft Besler and make him a fixture on their back line.
It never happened. Instead, Sporting Kansas City — the hometown team for the Overland Park native — selected Besler three picks earlier, thus beginning a harmonious relationship that has included an MLS championship and an MLS defender of the year award.
More than five years later, that relationship could be nearing its final days.
Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman acknowledged Thursday that the club has received “enormous interest” from overseas teams wanting to acquire Besler, as well as his Sporting KC teammate Graham Zusi. The offers for Besler — which have come “from different leagues all over the world,” Heineman said — spiked after his highly-rated performance for the United States in the World Cup.
Asked about the chances of Besler transferring to play overseas, Heineman replied, “I’d say there’s a strong possibility that could happen based on the interest that’s out there.”
If it were to happen, it would happen “probably within the next 10 days,” according to Besler’s agent, Eddie Rock. Besler deferred questions about the situation to his agent.
Rock said Besler is weighing three options regarding his future — sign an extension with Sporting Kansas City, transfer to a club in the English Premier League or transfer to a club in Bundesliga, recognized as the top league in Germany. He has received offers from both leagues, which begin their 2014-15 seasons next month.
They would figure to offer Besler significant raises from his current salary of $200,000 with Sporting KC. Besler is set to become a free agent after making $220,000 next season, Rock said. The average salary for an English Premier League player exceeds $2 million.
“If Matt re-signs with the league now, his intentions would be to be a one-club player for the rest of his career. His goal would be to finish atop Sporting and the Wizards in all-time appearances and longest captaincy. He would try to build a dynasty there,” Rock said.
“The biggest factor with a potential move is do they provide a bigger ceiling for Matt’s development as a player? Would playing in the EPL or in the Bundesliga bring him to an even higher level as a player simply because you’re playing against the top players in the world on a daily and weekly basis?”
If Besler agrees to a deal with a foreign club, that team would be required to pay Sporting KC and the MLS an agreeable transfer fee — and likely a significant one. Besler, 27, has spent six seasons with the Wizards and Sporting KC franchise and is in his first year as the team’s captain.
Heineman said he has already received terms sheets with official transfer fee offers from European clubs, but Sporting KC plans to first make its pitch to keep Besler in Kansas City for the long-term.
“We’ll try to do everything we can to retain our guys, particularly guys like (Besler and Zusi) that are so core to our team,” Heineman said. “But sometimes guys are going to have aspirations to do different things. If that’s the case, we try to do something that’s mutually beneficial to both the player and the club.”
Heineman declined to discuss the exact fee it would take to pry Besler away from Kansas City. When Sporting KC agreed to transfer Uri Rosell last month to Clube de Portugal, the transfer fee was more than $1.5 million, a source told The Star. Sporting KC retained two-thirds of the fee, with one-third going to the MLS.
Besler is making national media stops at ESPN on Thursday and has appearances booked with “Good Morning America” and “Morning Joe,” among others, on Friday. He will not play in Sporting KC’s home match Sunday against Chicago.