For many of the teams who haven’t participated in the latter stages of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the winter transfer speculation is already in full swing, as fans begin to wonder which trades will be made ahead of the 2018 campaign. Following Chicago Fire’s 4-0 Knockout Round defeat against New York Red Bulls at the end of October, they have already begun making enquiries about potential signings.
Chicago Fire concluded the regular season with a respectable third position in the Eastern Conference table, but despite also being the third-highest scoring team in MLS, their goal difference numbers took a hammering due to a leaky defence. Strengthening at the back will be a priority if the team is to push further for honours next year, but management are also looking at bringing in key attacking players.
One such attacking option is winger Jakub Błaszczykowski, with rumours initially surfacing in July and seemingly gathering pace. In November, there was further speculation in his home country, with the Polish international reportedly pondering his future options. Although one move apparently being considered is a return to his former club, Wisła Kraków, there appears to be a growing belief he is seriously considering Chicago Fire as his next destination; partly due to having family already living in the Windy City.
However, such a move by Chicago Fire won’t be without inevitable difficulties. Błaszczykowski still has two years on his contract with current club, Wolfsburg, who have struggled to build any momentum in the Bundesliga so far this season. With more draws than either wins or defeats this term and sitting uncomfortably in mid-table, Bundesliga betting odds at 66/1 for a top-six finish have lengthened considerably, compared to the start of the campaign.
Wolfsburg could demand a transfer fee to release the 31-year-old from his contract, but after signing German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in March of 2017 from Manchester United, and with an option to extend his stay for another year, Chicago Fire have already shown they’re not afraid of splashing out on important signings. Błaszczykowski would undoubtedly be another important capture, if they can push it across the finishing line.
Something that could aid Chicago Fire in their pursuit of the Polish player, is his lack of action during the current Bundesliga campaign. Błaszczykowski has slipped down the Wolfsburg pecking order this season and also struggled with some injuries, making just five starts and two substitute appearances in the Bundesliga, plus two further appearances in the DFB Pokal. This is possibly a key factor contributing to the player pondering his future elsewhere.
Undoubtedly the biggest hurdle facing the MLS club might be a desire to get a quick decision from the player. Ideally, they would want to have a move for Błaszczykowski done and dusted in the European winter transfer window, making him available for their 2018 preseason plans. Still a regular international with the Polish national team, their participation in the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer could prove to be the deciding factor, at least in the mind of the player himself. He might feel his possibilities of featuring at the World Cup could be hampered, were he to accept an immediate offer from Chicago Fire, rather than stay in Europe and fight for his place at Wolfsburg for the remainder of the 2017/18 season. Much convincing and cajoling will be required on the part of the MLS club, if they’re to get their man any time soon. Otherwise, the speculation surrounding the future of Błaszczykowski looks set to continue for at least another couple of months.