LAFC chasing players of 'global stature' in time for 2018 MLS start
Los Angeles FC is attempting to sign a "global" star in time for the club's MLS debut in 2018, with the expansion franchise shortlisting 10 potential recruits who could seal agreements during the 2017 summer transfer window.
According to a source with knowledge of the club's plans, Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney is one of those being considered by LAFC, with Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas, Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Mexico international Javier Hernandez also regarded as players of interest.
"We wouldn't discuss specific players," said the club's president and owner Tom Penn. "But we have spoken generally about the desire for a player of global stature."
With New York City FC luring the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo to MLS since its launch in 2015, the LAFC hierarchy is determined to sign an A-list player young enough and with the necessary star status to emulate David Beckham's success with the LA Galaxy.
"We are interested in a player or players who are passionate about becoming the first LAFC legend," the club's executive vice-president John Thorrington said. "The player our fans and organisation point to in 5-10 years as a player who played a major role in growing LAFC to be the global brand we aspire to become.
"I knew there would be interest, but I have been surprised at the level of player and coach who have already expressed interest in joining our amazing project."
Rooney, 31, faces an uncertain future at Old Trafford, despite being under contract until June 2019, after losing his first-team place under Jose Mourinho.
"For a player of stature, a European star let's say, we would want them to view this as the first day of the rest of their life, not as just the end of their playing career," said Penn, who is also an ESPN NBA analyst.
"If they come to America, and establish themselves in that media market, there are many creative ways with our ownership group and investors to help kickstart or boost the afterlife of their career, as they transition to the real world later.
"But we are active now. We are speaking with player agents and clubs and John Thorrington, our executive vice-president of soccer operations, has been in England for a number of technical meetings.
"So in terms of timings, we have the opportunity in the summer window to announce who our players will be in 2018.
"They will likely be loaned back so they can continue to play in Europe, but we can have three Designated Players that can exceed the salary cap and we can work creative arrangements with them financially.
"So we expect to be working on that in the next nine months, towards an announcement in the summer."
For Penn, there is also the ambition for LAFC to become a breeding ground for the next generation of talent from across the globe.
"We think there is a real opportunity, with the way our calendar falls, off-cycle, to offer quality games throughout the summer window," he said. "The quality of play in MLS has advanced and LA would be a very comfortable place for a player from Central America, South America, Asia or Europe to come and play and ripen.
"We are open to being the place where that can occur and they can then go and enjoy a grander career after that. We believe that if that occurs, 10 more will follow, because it is such an appealing place to evolve."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_