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 By Jeff Rueter

Minnesota director in Colombia for Nicolas Benedetti talks - sources

Nicolas Benedetti is the subject of transfer interest from Minnesota United.

Minnesota United technical director Manny Lagos has flown to Colombia to meet with Deportivo Cali officials to discuss the potential transfer of Nicolas Benedetti, MLS sources have told ESPN FC.

Lagos flew down on Wednesday in an attempt to finalize the week-long negotiation process for the attacking midfielder, sources said. Minnesota United did not reply to a request for comment.

Paul Tenorio reported last week that the second-year MLS side offered $4 million for Benedetti, but his club had placed an $8 million price tag on the Colombian.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say Cali walked away early in the week but then reached out to Minnesota again to try and find a compromise. It's believed that a transfer fee would now most likely be between $5-7m, while Benedetti's salary would also need to be negotiated.

Benedetti would be far and away Minnesota's highest-profile acquisition to date. The Colombia youth international made 30 starts across all competitions for Cali in 2017, scoring six goals and adding nine assists.

Benedetti, 20, was named to Colombia's provisional roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenario but did not make the final roster. Last spring, his name popped up in transfer rumors as he was linked to La Liga side Sevilla.

Minnesota United made its MLS debut in the 2017 season. Building their roster on an abbreviated timeline, the Loons made their biggest international acquisitions in two regions of the world: Scandinavia and Costa Rica. Their highest-paid player, Vadim Demidov, earned $550,000 and only made three starts at center-back for Minnesota, with the team conceding 16 goals in those 270 minutes.

However, there were better returns from the Costa Rican contingency. Center-back Francisco Calvo took over as club captain for Demidov, making 27 starts -- the most in the team alongside Brent Kallman -- and cementing his place as a favorite to make the Ticos' World Cup squad.

The Loons recovered from a historically poor opening month to finish ninth in the Western Conference. They've had a quiet offseason thus far, only acquiring Tyrone Mears, Harrison Heath, and Cameroonian international Frantz Pangop beyond their busy MLS SuperDraft haul.

Minnesota will open its second MLS campaign on March 3 against San Jose.

Jeff Rueter is a St. Paul-based writer for ESPN FC and also contributes to The Guardian, FourFourTwo and Howler. Twitter: @jeffrueter.

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