Orlando City striker Cyle Larin says he's leaving MLS for Europe
Cyle Larin is leaving Orlando City to explore a move to Europe, the striker confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday.
Larin, 22, just completed his third season in MLS after Orlando failed to qualify for the the playoffs. He scored 43 goals in 87 league games with the Lions.
A move to Europe this winter always appeared likely, with Larin entering the first of two option years on his contract, and the Canada international said he was ready to move on.
"I think I'm at the right place to go play in Europe and it's the right time," Larin said. "I think I'll benefit. I have personal goals and dreams and I want to go to Europe and play. I think it's the right time.
"I think I'm ready to challenge myself and play at the highest possible level I can. My [guaranteed] contract is ending this season, and I think it's the right time.
"I love playing for Orlando. MLS and Orlando have given me a lot, and in the three years I've been here, I love playing and I love the fans, but I think to reach my goals it's necessary to play at the highest level possible with the best players."
In May, Larin was linked to European clubs including Everton, Celtic and Anderlecht, with offers worth around $2 million. Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic told the Sentinel that there had been no offers since the summer transfer window closed.
The Lions would like Larin to stay -- coach Jason Kreis said in May "we'll lose him when we want to lose him" -- but the club will not stand in the way of his exit.
"We've always known he's had a longstanding interest to play abroad, and it's always been our intention to help him achieve those goals through his development and his progress here," Budalic said.
"If there's an opportunity for him to move that he wants to pursue and we receive an acceptable offer from the club, then of course we'll try to make everyone happy. So, he's under contract for two more years, but we understand if there's an opportunity for him to go that we agree with then, yes, I think we'll definitely help support him."
Orlando drafted Larin with the first pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, and he went on to score 17 goals and be named Rookie of the Year. He scored 12 goals this year in a season in which he missed three games after a drunk-driving arrest in June.
Larin's departure is the second major loss for Orlando City after Kaka also opted not to return next season.
Dom Dwyer appears likely to take on a larger burden as the main focus of Orlando's attack, but the exit of Kaka -- MLS's highest-paid players at over $7 million a year -- and a possible transfer fee for Larin means the club is likely to have money to spend this offseason.
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