MLS: What’s standing between Matt Turner and Europe?

Matt Turner MLS

Boston, Mass. — Three years after first inheriting the starting goalkeeper role with the New England Revolution, Matt Turner continues to deliver match-winning performances and seems like a lock for upcoming U.S. men’s national team camps.

However, some are setting Turner’s ambitions in the near future even higher, with reports from ex-Revolution forward and soccer analyst Charlie Davies suggesting the 26-year-old goalkeeper is drawing interest from Europe and could depart Major League Soccer in the next six months.

Furthermore, Revolution head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena said he’s willing to sell Turner, who recently secured a Lithuanian passport, a major asset given that most European leagues place strict international cap requirements on non-EU transfers.

Then there’s Turner’s recent form. He’s earned three clean sheets this season and guided the Revolution to one of the top defensive records in MLS. Plus, he owns the league’s third-best save percentage (0.81) among goalkeepers who appeared in at least six games as of August 28. He currently also co-shares the league’s best goals against average for goalkeepers with at least six starts.

Throw in his penchant for producing several match-winning saves, and suddenly the purported interest in him seems very reasonable.

However, arranging a transfer in the near future is a tall order, especially when taking into account the financial challenges of COVID-19 on clubs and the current market for American goalkeepers.

Gauging real interest in Matt Turner

One important item to note is reported “interest” in a player can mean just about anything.

Two years ago, a team in Israel showed interest in signing midfielder Kelyn Rowe, but never picked up the phone to call the Revolution. In addition, Serie A clubs Fiorentina and Atalanta inquired about midfielder Diego Fagundez in 2015, but neither club, nor any other rumored suitor at that time, continued negotiations after the Revolution asked for a $4 million transfer fee, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

It’s important to establish Turner’s value and his value in relation to American goalkeepers as well.

Last August, the Revolution signed Turner to a new contract. It pays him $200,000 per season, plus incentives and bonuses, and lasts four years, with the final two as club option years, according to a source.

Also, though Turner signed the contract in 2019, it took effect in 2020.

Calculating Turner’s value to the Revolution

If you combine the guaranteed compensation of Turner’s current deal through its expiration with the pay he’s received since joining MLS in 2016, he’s worth no less than $1 million to the Revolution. But that’s not the end of the story, because no player is worth just his salary and good goalkeepers are a commodity.

That said, the market value of an American goalkeeper without international caps is tough to calculate. What’s more, paid transfers of goalkeepers from MLS to Europe don’t happen very often.

At the very high end, Zack Steffen joined Manchester City from Columbus Crew SC in July 2019 on a $7 million transfer, the record for an American goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Tim Howard’s $4 million transfer from the Metrostars to Manchester United in 2003 set the record Steffen broke.

At more moderate levels, Brad Guzan left Chivas USA for Aston Villa on a $1 million deal (with an earlier $2 million deal falling apart) in 2008, while Brad Friedel joined Liverpool on a $3.1 million transfer from Columbus in 1997.

Adjusting for inflation affects these transfer fees, but only slightly. After all, Steffen, the starting goalkeeper on the U.S. national team, recently left for what comparatively amounts to very little on the international transfer market. And Manchester City — a super club worth billions which Forbes recently named the 34th most valuable sports team in the world (and the fifth most valuable in all of soccer) — paid the fee.

It’s also worth noting that every one of these aforementioned goalkeepers played in at least five international games before leaving MLS for Europe.

Is it too early to sell Matt Turner?

So is it reasonable for the Revolution to want to double their financial investment in Turner and get around $2 million? Yes.

However, anything above that will likely require shrewd negotiating by the Revolution or Turner suiting up for the national team and playing well.

Beyond that, the first place European teams in top leagues look for goalkeepers is in their own academies, followed by their fellow competitors and the free transfer market. Americans have a knack for developing shot-stoppers, but there have also been only a handful in Europe at one time. And the position is such that clubs don’t want to take risks on untested quantities for a player that’s equal parts team leader and savior.

None of this is to say Turner won’t go to Europe in the future or even this year, though the prospect of him leaving in a few months presents the most hurdles.

The Revolution stand to profit substantially more by selling Turner in 2021 or 2022, both on and off the field. With opportunities to perform for the national team, Turner can raise his profile and drive up his value. Furthermore, the Revolution will have more time to determine whether third-string goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell is a future starter or if the club has to groom someone new to take Turner’s place.

Plus, waiting a little longer and gaining more experience in MLS and with the national team could lengthen Turner’s list of potential suitors, too.



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