When it was announced that Toronto FC had acquired Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe in January, one of the first questions to come to the forefront was about the club's current designated player, Matias Laba. Seeing at the team had already announced the Brazilian Gilberto earlier, there was no longer any space for the Argentine in Toronto's three designated player slots.
Many held out hope that the team could bend MLS's flexible rules in order to keep him. He had been fantastic the season prior and was easily one of the league's most promising young midfielders. When healthy, he had made the backline look far superior to the poor calibre that it ultimately was for most of the 2013 season.
But it ultimately came as no surprise to anyone when Laba was dealt to the Vancouver Whitecaps in February. There was hardly much outcry either, the new acquisitions making this seem like a necessary evil.
"We tried very hard to keep him," said GM Tim Bezbatchenko at the time. "But based on the roster rules we couldn't."
The deal also came with the rumours that the "future considerations" Toronto FC had lobbied the other way were sizable, and would ultimately maybe even see Laba return to Toronto before long.
That theory seemed to evaporate today, as Carl Robinson revealed in his season ending press availability that Vancouver were ready to pay whatever these "future considerations" were and keep Laba for the future. This isn't incredibly surprising, Laba was an excellent fit in the Vancouver lineup and an excellent addition to the young core of players that Robinson has assembled to carry this team forward.
"There's a fee agreed to take [Laba] and we will be doing that," explained Robinson. "We will be doing that, because [he's] been fantastic for us and he's a big part of this club moving forward. So that fee will be settled between the two ownership groups."
The reporter who asked the question brought up the underlying question all along: just how big are these considerations? Everything from the Toronto FC side of things has always indicated that it is incredibly large, and therefore Toronto could acquire him back fairly easily if they so desired. Vancouver has seemingly been playing down this fee all season long as their player exceled on the field.
"Maybe it's in between then," said Robinson with a coy smile, weighing the Toronto and Vancouver estimation of potential transfer.
Evidently, he would not reveal what the fee was, but mentioned that it was ownership who would be dealing with the situation. What this likely reveals is that this is some sort of monetary deal, and not one that would see a Vancouver player or draft selection go back to Toronto, as could have been the case. That's not a guarantee, but otherwise Robinson would likely be more involved.
If that is the case than the exact transfer may never actually be divulged. This will be a disappointing finale to what ultimately once seemed like a shrewd piece of business for a Toronto team who were just sending one of their young midfielders away to be groomed elsewhere.
What's even worse is how excellent Laba would have looked alongside Michael Bradley in a central midfield that absolutely collapsed midway through the season. That still could be the case, but Robinson's comments seem to indicate that it is unlikely.
This situation isn't over, and might not be over for some time. But Robinson seems very confident that he will have Laba in his lineup next season, and as he says later in the interview, he doesn't lie.