It’s a story that is worthy of a Hollywood script.
Playing for the Sheridan Bruins three years ago in the Canadian college league after failed trials abroad, Toronto-born midfielder Emilio Estevez attended the Canadian Premier League’s Open Trials in late 2018 with the hope he could impress the league’s coaches.
One man in particular, York9 FC coach Jim Brennan, was especially smitten with the creative midfielder, and signed him to his first pro contract in February.
With Brennan nurturing his talent, Estevez went on to make a splash in the CPL’s inaugural season, helping the Nine Stripes to a third-place finish in the overall standings. He also received his first taste of international soccer after debuting for Chinese Taipei.
Now, the 21-year-old midfielder is on the move, as Y9 confirmed on Tuesday his transfer to Dutch Eredivisie club ADO Den Haag, making Estevez the first CPL player to be sold to a European topflight outfit.
How did the historic transfer come about? How will Y9 replace Estevez? Do the Nine Stripes have any more deals in the works?
CanPL.ca chatted one-on-one with York9 FC managing consultant Angus McNab to get the inside scoop.
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Can you tell me the genesis of this transfer deal between York9 FC and ADO Den Haag? How did it come about?
We’ve had the deal in principle done since the middle of last week. It was something by Monday of last week where there was the initial interest from ADO, and I said to Emilio’s agent, “Okay, bring me an offer. Let’s see a number from them and let’s make it real.” That came pretty quickly, and then it was about making the deal right for our club, making sure there were future incentives in there, but also doing that without jeopardizing the opportunity for Emilio because it’s a huge opportunity for him to go and progress in his career.
What do you mean by “future incentives”?
As is standard when you look to do any kind of transfer deal, there are certain incentives around Emilio in terms of taking the field, and also incentives if he’s sold on, as well. It was important for us after Jimmy doing the talent ID on Emilio and bringing him through (the Open Trials) that we were able to be rewarded in the long-term.
So, in addition to the transfer fee, York9 will also be compensated by ADO if Estevez hits certain performance standards and is sold by them?
Yeah, that’s correct.
Did ADO’s interest in Estevez come as a surprise to you?
Since I joined the club, Emilio raised a few eyebrows when he took part in World Cup qualifying (for Chinese Taipei) and did very well. He’d been on people’s radars for a while, and then I had a conversation with Jimmy last week, because he has a lot more contact with agents than I had done. Jimmy put me in touch with Emilio’s agent and things progressed very quickly from there. After agreeing to a deal in principle, Emilio had personal terms (with ADO) to work out, but that was never going to be an obstacle in a situation like this. It all came together very quickly.
I’d known through a few whispers that there were clubs in Holland were interested; I didn’t know which clubs and I didn’t know if they were in the first or second division.
I’m amazed by the speed with which this transfer deal unfolded.
The transfer window in Canada closed last week, so while we knew there wasn’t going to be much movement across international lines and the Dutch window doesn’t open up for a while, we just wanted to get things done, dusted and moving as quickly as possible. I got on the phone with our ownership and let them know where we stood with things, and it was a finished with a quick phone call to the commissioner to let him know that the deal had been finalized. He was a happy man, as we all are. It’s fantastic to get a player sold to a top tier of any division around the world, but somewhere as prestigious as the Eredivisie, it’s a fantastic opportunity for Emilio, and it shows that the CPL is on the radar of clubs all around the world at the very highest levels.
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What was your role in all of this transfer deal?
As soon as there was some interest, Jimmy passed the phone to me and I finalized the deal and got everything done. We‘re very happy with the terms of the deal. Emilio’s agent contacted Jimmy, Jimmy then told me that this interest in Emilio was very real. He passed the details across to me and we wrapped things up fairly quickly.
What does Estevez’s departure mean for York9? Do you have to go out and replace him? Or do you have talent on the roster who you feel can step in for him?
When we look at where Emilio played, he had a lot of versatility – he can play on the left or right side, and sometimes came on late in games and changed things up. But I think the roster we have is already balanced and the options we have across the midfield and up top mean that we’re more than okay with what we have.
What I would say is I’ve already started working on a replacement, and there’s already an offer out there that I hope we can get concluded, and everyone will be absolutely delighted with it. We’ll have some more news on signings this week and hopefully next week to round out the roster. I think people will be pleased.
Estevez is the first CPL player sold to a topflight club in Europe. What do you think this milestone means for the league?
It is a big moment for the league. This move shows, as well as the earlier moves in the off-season (Tristan Borges to OH Leuven, Joel Waterman to Montreal Impact, and Tyler Attardo to C.D. Arturo Fernández Vial), that we are willing to give talent a chance to move on, and if there are opportunities that present themselves to play for bigger clubs that are right for CPL clubs and right for the players, we’re more than happy to see players move on if they feel that is right for their football development.
That’s a great place to be as the league this early, that we see the value in creating a transfer history, and it’s a clear sign that while we’re a young league we’re also open for business, and developing talent is very much top of our agenda. It just shows the power of the CPL in being such a young league that we’re already having an impact on the international transfer market.
Do you foresee more transfer deals like being made across the league?
Absolutely. I look at my roster now and I think there are multiple players who are capable of moving on and we can transfer for a significant fee. That’s why we’ve looked at contract extensions for a number of players, that’s why contracts we’ve signed with some players are multi-year deals.