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Why Laurent Ciman’s departure from LAFC does - and does not - make sense

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Personal factors, business, but the timing?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Laurent Ciman’s transfer saga lasted less than five full days in total, from the time word emerged that there even were transfer rumors and the possibility of an imminent departure and the deal — ultimately a transfer to French club Dijon — being totally complete and announced. While the actual groundwork laid to complete the deal doubtless took longer, it’s still a remarkably short turnaround for a transfer.

Now that it’s done, it’s time to assess what just happened. Does this deal make sense? Yes and no. Let’s walk through the details:

Makes sense: Personal considerations at play

Nothing fully came out to explicitly say Ciman was moving on for off-field reasons, but reading between the lines here it’s pretty clear that personal considerations played a big role in making the deal happen. From LAFC’s language on the matter, it appears Ciman asked to return to a Francophone nation, and considering the MLS transfer window is closed and a return to the Montreal Impact wasn’t in the cards, the best options were likely to be found in France or Ciman’s native Belgium.

Ciman was fiercely protective of his family, in particular his daughter, who has autism, and was a motivating factor for the family joining the Impact in the prime of the defender’s career. While Ciman thanked LAFC for doing right by his family, presumably while they were in Los Angeles, the cultural considerations for the whole family and a specialized care regimen for his daughter likely pushed this move through sooner than later.

In that way, it is commendable that LAFC did agree to the move. They had Ciman under contract the rest of this season, and letting him leave in the final three months is pretty shocking (more on that later). But publicly, everyone is thanking everyone for granting Ciman’s wishes, and there’s something to be said for coming through on that count by the club.

Makes sense: LAFC get a transfer fee on an expiring contract

LAFC have been savvy in picking up transfer fees so far for wantaway players. They sold Omar Gaber, who barely played for the black-and-gold, for a reported $1 million, and reportedly sold Ciman for $500,000. While the club won’t recoup all of that money, due to MLS being a single-entity league, they will get a portion of allocation money for each move.

While MLS teams are involved in the transfer game, truthfully there aren’t a ton of sales in the league, domestic or foreign, even now. I think most MLS teams don’t sell two players abroad in a year, something LAFC have done before their first season is complete. Say what you will about LAFC’s roster construction (it’s been good, albeit not perfect), but this team pulls the trigger on deals, purchases and sales, like no team we’ve seen before.

And if you think $500,000 is a light fee for Ciman, consider two factors: He’s 33 and his transfer value will never be this high again, and his contract expires at the end of the year. It’s frankly a bit shocking Dijon were willing to pay half a million to get a player they could have picked up for free in January, but they probably want to do all they can to ensure their Ligue 1 survival, or maybe the French TV rights money is trickling down to them or something.

Either way, from a purely business perspective, selling a player who wanted to leave and who will be out of contract in four short months is good business.

Doesn’t make sense: The timing is awful!

Here’s where all of this breaks down a little bit: The timing of this move is truly bad. LAFC sell their captain, who yes, wanted to leave, but there’s less than two months left in the regular season, and then there’s the playoffs, however long they last (knocking on wood LAFC do indeed clinch a spot).

If this had happened when the MLS transfer window was still open, it would have given LAFC an opportunity to sign an additional center back to replace Ciman. It’s possible Danilo Silva was that player all along, and while the Brazilian got hurt against the LA Galaxy on Friday, he’s played very, very well so far since he came in, to the point that it looked clear either Ciman or Walker Zimmerman would not be automatic starters.

But will Silva be healthy the rest of the way? Will Walker Zimmerman? Can they avoid red cards and other suspensions? Will Dejan Jakovic be prepared to be a starter in the playoffs, if it comes to that?

When Silva was signed, LAFC had four center backs and it finally seemed like they had enough cover. Now, they’re back to square one, and entering the business end of the season with just three central defenders, two of which have battled injuries this year (Silva spent a long time on the sideline out injured before joining LAFC). Taken with the total lack of traditional defensive midfielders in Bob Bradley’s lineup, it’s a colossal risk.

Can anything be done here with the MLS transfer window closed? Technically, yes. LAFC can sign a free agent before the MLS roster freeze on September 14.

Perhaps the highest profile international center back who was a free agent was Mexican defender Oswaldo Alanis, who was signed by Getafe in the summer and summarily dumped because the manager was new and didn’t want him. For a guy who went through the Chivas ringer, he’s seen his share of bad luck, but he would have arguably been an upgrade from Ciman. However, his dream of European soccer has been achieved, as he was unveiled as a Real Oviedo player on Tuesday, so that’s out the window.

Even so, it’s worth it for LAFC to try and convince a USL team to cancel the contract of a center back they like so they can sign him on a free in the next couple weeks. Ciman’s loss could prove catastrophic for the season, or LAFC could keep on flying without him, but at least having a decent up-and-comer from USL would be prudent to have on the roster this year. LAFC hit a home run with Mark-Anthony Kaye coming from USL, and the likes of Aaron Long have put in time in the league before emerging as MLS All-Stars. The timing isn’t great, but LAFC should really look to see if they can add another center back before the roster freeze, just to make sure they have cover.

What’s done is done. Now, we’ll have to see what is in store for the post-Ciman era of LAFC.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!