According to Danish newspaper BT, Lebogang Phiri is set to join New York City FC when his contract expires this summer.
Claudio Reyna and the rest of the NYCFC front office had tried to sign the 22 year old South African international midfielder during the offseason, offering Danish club Brøndby IF a cut rate price of just under $ 650k for his services. Brøndby rejected their offer which was, at that point, the latest in a series of failed attempts at signing foreign players such as Ebenezer Ofori and Keegan Dolly.
The NYCFC front office never seemed to have cooled on Phiri and have now gotten their man. With his contract set to expire this June, Brøndby will not receive a transfer fee as Phiri will leave on a free transfer. Instead, BT reports that the club will be compensated for his education as per FIFA rules, a sum of just over $100k, however it is unclear where the money would come from. Phiri joined the club at age 18 and has worked to become a regular in their midfield.
Lebogang Phiri would occupy an international roster spot according to MLS rules, however New York City currently have one unoccupied spot so there would be no need to acquire another.
Phiri plays as a central midfielder in Brøndby’s 4-4-2 system, generally on the right side. He also speaks fluent English which would make any transition to the United States a lot easier for the 22 year old. His speed combined with his ability to read space and react quickly put him in line with NYCFC’s recent additions in Rodney Wallace, Alex Ring and Maxi Moralez.
Vieira has seen his side get much younger and Phiri is a move in that direction, with many fans and pundits openly questioning if 37 year old Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo is up to the task of performing consistently. Phiri’s arrival likely signals that the decline in Pirlo’s minutes will only continue. Pirlo has been substituted out of games early 4 times already this season, whereas last season he played 90 minutes in all but 11 games (two of which he did not play at all).
Should Phiri end up in the Bronx this summer, the questions will be where does he play, and what does that mean for the aging Andrea Pirlo.
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