On Saturday night, Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina kept a clean sheet in the Chicago Fire’s 0-0 draw against Atlanta United, his eighth on the season in 19 appearances, good for third most in MLS this season. Considering that the Fire are the second lowest scoring team in the league, those clean sheets have been a massive part in them remaining in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.
Those clean sheets are also a major reason why Slonina, who turned 18 just a couple months ago, had been attracting such serious interest from Europe, interest which is set to culminate in a transfer to Chelsea. That $15m deal, broken down as $10m up front and $5m in potential add-ons and bonuses (“escalators”), is still quite eyebrow-raising (and on the level of our deal to acquire Thibaut Courtois in 2011), but by every indication, the teenager who rejected a call-up from the Poland national team in May to declare his intent for the USMNT, is worth every copper penny of that fee — and more in the future.
His current head coach, Ezra Hendrickson certainly believes so, as he said in his post-match press conference on Saturday, all but confirming that deal in the process.
“Something is very close to happening and I think the kid deserves it. There’s no signature yet or anything so I really can’t speak on details as far as that goes. But I’m happy for the kid and it shows that we have some good talent, some good young talent here in this organization.”
-Ezra Hendrickson; source: MLS Soccer
Slonina will be loaned back to the Fire for the rest of the MLS season, and is then set to join up with the Chelsea squad in January.
A bit more detail: Gaga will be sold to Chelsea and loaned back, though Fire don't need to go through allocation on that loan.— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) July 31, 2022
As @FabrizioRomano reported, Slonina heads to London tomorrow for medical. Set to return early next week.
Will move permanently to Chelsea in January. https://t.co/Sb4y93l23b