Lingering at a hotel in the northwest of England since deadline day, Duncan McGuire has remained in limbo for about a week.
No longer. A second deal agreed to join Blackburn from Orlando has officially and finally fallen apart after Blackburn failed to click “submit” on McGuire’s paperwork in time, despite having completed the deal 30 minutes before the deadline. The English Football League (EFL) canceled McGuire’s planned move because of this, Blackburn appealed and on Thursday morning, it was officially denied.
McGuire has spent much of the last week at hotels in the UK with his agent, where he’s worked out and done his best to maintain fitness. Now, he’ll return to an Orlando City team that already looks significantly different than it did when he departed preseason training to sign with Blackburn last week.
Here’s what comes next for McGuire.
Talks for a summer transfer
Blackburn said in a statement that, if the transfer cancelation was upheld, they would open talks with Orlando for a summer transfer of McGuire. Blackburn executives will travel to Orlando soon to discuss a summer deal face-to-face after this winter’s painstaking negotiations resulted in two failed deals.
Blackburn’s current disarray complicates things, though. The club hasn’t won in the EFL Championship (England’s second tier) for eight games and has slipped further towards the relegation zone. There are questions about the future of manager Jon Dahl Tomasson, who has threatened to resign this week over the club’s transfer issues (McGuire is not the only example). If the club gets relegated, they almost certainly wouldn’t have the money for a McGuire deal and the player wouldn’t be interested in a move to the English third tier, anyway.
Orlando also isn’t beholden to Blackburn. The failed registration does not give the English club a right of first refusal – it will have to negotiate with Orlando for McGuire the same as any other team. And after all that’s happened, it would be hard to blame Orlando for being hesitant about making a third deal – If Blackburn didn’t have the money for anything but an initial loan now, why wouldn’t Orlando be suspicious about agreeing a permanent deal for the summer? What kind of assurances would they need to ensure this won’t happen again?
The best case for McGuire and Orlando would be for a summer deal to be arranged in advance, but Blackburn is probably the only team incentivized to do that sort of deal immediately. Other interested clubs are more likely to wait until the summer so they know their exact situations and needs for the 2024-25 season.
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Unless McGuire secures a transfer to a league whose transfer window has not closed yet (which has shown no sign of happening), the striker will now be with Orlando for at least the first half of the MLS season.
He’ll return to an attacking setup that now has a big potential roadblock to playing time, with Orlando finalizing a deal to sign Colombia international forward Luis Muriel from Atalanta on a designated player deal. Muriel would be slated to be the first-choice striker under head coach Oscar Pareja, who prefers a one-striker system. Muriel could also theoretically drop into one of the attacking midfield slots, but that group has plenty of talent, with Facundo Torres, Nico Lodeiro, Ivan Angulo and Martin Ojeda.
McGuire won that starting striker spot during the 2023 season, displacing DP forward Ercan Kara, but Muriel will have much more runway in keeping that job. He’s be a better fit under Pareja than Kara was and also in the first season of a multiyear deal.
Pareja could tweak his system to get Muriel and McGuire on the field together more. Muriel has experience playing a bit off a more physical forward, like Duvan Zapata for Atalanta. But Pareja’s history indicates that’s unlikely. His pragmatic approach could even cloud the chances of having all four of Muriel, Torres, Ojeda and McGuire on the field together. Would there be enough defensive balance?
Orlando’s presence in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup should create enough minutes to go around, at least. All players in the squad will be rotated and needed in those early double gameweeks for as long as Orlando remains in the competition. They kick off that campaign on Feb. 21, favored in a two-legged series against Canadian Premier League team Cavalry FC.
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Any chance of a trade or loan within MLS?
There is consternation in McGuire’s camp about the Muriel deal. Competition is normal and necessary for an ambitious squad, but given the events of the last few weeks, some concern is understandable.
The worst-case scenario for McGuire is he’s stuck on his same paltry contract ($77,360 in guaranteed compensation, according to the most recent MLSPA salary release), he doesn’t get the same consistent run of minutes, performance slips and those expected summer offers never come. That, too, could put in jeopardy his spot at the Olympics with the United States this summer. Things change quickly in soccer.
Other teams in MLS would certainly be interested in a loan deal for McGuire, the same way they were interested in a trade before the Blackburn deal got done (allegedly… before falling apart again). Orlando had zero motivation to entertain trade offers and they would stand to have negative motivation for a loan, especially if a deal with Blackburn (or another club) is agreed for the summer. Sources say this remains the case, but perhaps other clubs will test that resolve with offers.
The most likely case is the club assuring McGuire that he’d have the same pathway to playing time with performance again, but the last few weeks has proved not to assume anything.
(Photo: Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/Getty Images)