ESPNsoccernet has learned that Argentine star Claudio "El Piojo" Lopez will be returning to the Kansas City Wizards for the 2009 season, and he will do so at a fraction of the price.
According to team sources, the Wizards have signed Lopez to a new contract that will be considerably less than the $800,000 in guaranteed salary he earned as a Designated Player in 2008. Terms of the new deal were not available, but the new contract frees up the Wizards' Designated Player slot.
Lopez played 25 games for the Wizards last season, providing six goals and seven assists. The 34-year-old World Cup veteran played on the left wing, as an attacking midfielder and in a withdrawn forward role. Lopez's return in 2009, coupled with the money his new contract will save the Wizards, should help Kansas City bolster an attack that managed just 39 goals last season (third fewest in MLS).
Lopez had an inconsistent year for Kansas City, starting off well before hitting a slump late in the year. However, he rebounded to help guide the Wizards into the playoffs, where they lost a hard-fought series against eventual MLS Cup champions Columbus. Lopez was credited with being a top professional and locker-room leader.
The new deal could lead to Kansas City acquiring another top international attacking player, with forward being the biggest need area. The club is also in need of central midfielders, an area the club is expected to address in next week's MLS SuperDraft.
Lopez played in two World Cups for Argentina, in 1998 and 2002, and enjoyed a long career in Europe, playing for Valencia and Lazio before stints with Club America and Racing.