Major League Soccer has agreed to send Clint Dempsey to Fulham of the English Premier League for what would be the largest transfer fee in MLS history – if the New England Revolution midfielder can obtain a British work permit.
Revolution spokesman Brad Feldman confirmed Tuesday that the league agreed to the terms of a transfer. It could be worth up to $4 million, a person familiar with the agreement said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final.
MLS' current high is about $3.5 million, including incentive bonuses, in the deal that sent forward Stern John to Nottingham Forest after the 1999 season. Also that year, MLS sold goalkeeper Tim Howard's rights to Manchester United for approximately $3 million, including incentives.
A player from outside the European Union must play in 75% of his national team's recent games to obtain a work permit. Dempsey falls just short of that, playing in nine of 13 US matches last year – about 69% – and 23 national team games in all. The appeal could be heard this month.
"We've agreed (on) a fee, but it still has to go to the tribunal," Fulham manager Chris Coleman said Saturday in comments replayed by Sky Sports TV. "We've been there before and not won all of them, so we've got to keep our fingers crossed."
The 2004 MLS rookie of the year, Dempsey scored the only goal by an American at last year's World Cup and was voted US player of the year. He has 25 goals and 14 assists in 71 regular-season games for New England during the last three seasons plus one goal and two assists in nine playoff matches.
"I saw him about two years ago and then saw him playing at the World Cup for the US Then I went out to watch him playing a few times in the States for New England and have always liked him," Coleman said. "But it's not like he's coming here to sit on the bench. He's coming because we've bought him to make a big impact."
Dempsey has played three seasons with the Revolution and has six goals for the national team. He would be the third American player to join the south London team, following defender Carlos Bocanegra and striker Brian McBride, who both arrived at Craven Cottage in January 2004. "Clint's a wide player up front, can play either flank, strong with pace, a good player, good touch," Coleman said.