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The Curious Case of DeAndre Yedlin

DeAndre Yedlin started off this season as a sure fire player slated to be sold. But, midway through the season everything changed, and everyone was even more confused about DeAndre’s transfer status than before

Newcastle United Training Session
Yedlin in training before his visa magically expired
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

In one of the most confusing transfer sagas in recent Newcastle history, it seems as if DeAndre Yedlin will likely be leaving Newcastle before the window closes. According to various reports, the right-back is heading to Turkish side Galatasaray pending a medical on a 3 and half year deal.

This caps off a very interesting transfer saga that accurately illustrates the complexities of transfers, the dysfunction of the club, and how frustrating the transfer process can be for a player. This is a deal that on paper could have been done ages ago. There was a player with interest, a club willing to sell, and a player willing to move. But for a myriad of reasons, nothing happened regarding the move until the last possible moment.

Yedlin has been one of the few players that Newcastle could offload that still has any semblance of value. The American fullback is still only 27 and has been a solid right-back since joining the club. Other necessary offloadings such as Achraf Lazaar or Henri Saivet have little to no value at this point and likely will see out their contracts at Newcastle. Like Jack Colback the past few seasons, players like Saivet and Lazaar have incredibly expensive contracts, while not being good enough to play for any team that could afford to pay them remotely in the range they are being paid right now. Yedlin on the other hand has been a consistent member of the first team since his arrival and has shown moments of promise at Newcastle. These moments of promise were nice but were often coupled with sequences of defensive errors that can be devastating in the Premier League

In the past couple of seasons, Yedlin saw himself playing less and less as Javier Manquillo began to hold down that right-back spot. Ince Emil Krafth was brought in as a backup right back it felt as if Yedlin’s time at Newcastle was coming to an end. This season under Bruce all but confirmed that as in the summer window Yedlin was linked to a fair few clubs and his contract was not renewed despite having less than a year remaining. The major barrier for many interested clubs was his contract.

A return to MLS was something that Yedlin, Newcastle, and some MLS clubs were interested in, but it would have required DeAndre to take a massive pay cut or MLS clubs to make DeAndre a “Designated Player”. The issue of making DeAndre a “Designated Player” was a huge barrier because in MLS the “Designated Player” title allows for MLS clubs to pay a select few players much more in wages than the rest of the league. It is just one of the many confusing roster and salary cap rules of MLS, but it is the most impactful one for most teams. Players with the status of “Designated Player” are usually attack-minded players that have a tangible return on your investment such as goals or assists. Players such as Carlos Vela at LAFC, Josef Martinez at Atlanta United, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his stint with LA Galaxy are perfect examples of how many MLS clubs approach the “Designated Player” roster slot.

Recently the roster designation has been used for investment purposes as it allows MLS Clubs to poach exciting South American talent by offering these players higher wages and more exposure to European clubs. This model was actually helped by Newcastle’s purchase of Miguel Almiron. It made Atlanta United a good bit of money, and from the beginning, it was clear that for Almiron it was a stepping stone for Europe. Unfortunately for Yedlin, this meant it was unlikely MLS clubs were going to pay Yedlin’s wages and make him a “Designated Player”.

In fairness, it is completely understandable why MLS clubs did not want to give Yedlin that status. There are a limited number of “Designated Player” slots for each club, and to waste one on a defender who is likely going to finish his career with the team is something that I honestly don’t think any MLS team has done. Even older players who are “Designated Players” happen to be midfielders or forwards because you usually can justify them making a ton of money due to the tangible goal and assist numbers or player popularity among fans that usually results in an increase in jersey sales. Yedlin, although a popular player in the states, would likely not be a worthwhile investment for any MLS team.

Yedlin took up a more attacking role as he began to make appearances as a wingback this season under Bruce
Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

This left Yedlin in a bit of a transfer limbo as he knew that he was likely not going to be at Newcastle next season, but would have to wait until January to figure out his next steps. As the 2020-21 campaign rolled on it seemed more and more likely Yedlin was going to get sold. He was relegated to being 3rd choice right-back and found himself even further down the depth chart once Jacob Murphy began performing well as a right wing-back. It appeared as if Yedlin was going to be sold as soon as the window opened.

But, then something strange happened. The COVID-19 outbreak saw Yedlin thrust in the first team, starting 7 out 8 matches beginning with the Fulham match. Despite the team underperforming, Yedlin played relatively well and kept finding himself being an integral part of the team. This of course was confusing considering he was likely already an outcast in the eyes of the club before this run of matches. Yedlin went from being as good as sold, to damn near undroppable.

As the team entered the January window Yedlin’s status became more and more unclear. Before the Fulham match, he was as good as gone. But now Yedlin was one of the first names on the team sheet and made a case to potentially stick around. To make matters even more confusing, the club extended the contract of 31-year-old Ciaran Clark, who like Yedlin had become a crucial player for the club during the COVID-19 outbreak. Clark, like Yedlin, was lower on the depth chart for his position, and entering January had only 6 months remaining on his contract. Unlike Yedlin however, Ciaran Clark has little to no value on the transfer market due to his age, and his appearance record with Newcastle. It made little sense to extend Clark since it was unlikely any club was going to swoop him and claim him from Newcastle. This made the Yedlin situation all the more confusing as Yedlin was younger, was playing well, and potentially could still be sold next summer or next season. Yedlin, given he was a key player in the side at the time, deserves at least a year-long extension to see out the season and potentially get sold this summer.

Newcastle United Unveil New Signing DeAndre Yedlin
One of Rafa’s first signings in 2015, Yedlin has always been the first or second choice right-back for Newcastle
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Personal opinions aside, whatever the club was planning on doing with Yedlin, they never told him. Yedlin himself stated

“It has been a bit frustrating because me and my agent have had no communication with Newcastle at all about what their plans are for me, if I can go or if they want me to stay. It has been kind of a tough time and obviously I want to keep my head on football and just play my game but there are distractions like that that unfortunately make it a bit tough.”

It was not a great look from the club, yet it was not surprising to hear a player say that. Nobody following Newcastle was at all shocked that he had not heard anything from the club regarding his future. It is Newcastle anyway, how dare we fans expect the club to have any sort of idea of what they want to do in the transfer market. How dare the players expect to be kept up to date on their own transfer statuses

When it felt like things couldn’t get any worse for the club, multiple reports came out stating that DeAndre Yedlin’s visa had expired underneath the club’s watch. It took a personal letter from the U.S Men’s National Team, and a host of other things to get that sorted and it resulted in Yedlin missing two matches.

All of this mind you, is happening in the middle of January. A player with value, who the club could sell was twiddling his thumbs midway through the window wondering what was next. That simply cannot happen at a Premier League club, yet it did and none of us are surprised.

Eventually, things worked out for DeAndre, but if we learned one thing from this whole saga it’s that under Ashley this club is and has been absolutely embarrassing when it comes to transfers.