Nijkamp focused on Locadia and FC Cincinnati coaching search during shutdown

FC Cincinnati general manager Gerard Nijkamp said in a video conference with reporters on Wednesday that during the suspension in MLS play, he has been working on Jurgen Locadia’s long-term status and finding a permanent head coach.

The most pressing issues for FC Cincinnati while the MLS season remains on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic is striker Jurgen Locadia’s long-term status with the club and the head coaching search.

FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp addressed these topics on Wednesday during a video conference call with reporters from his home in the Netherlands.

Locadia is on loan from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, a five-month loan which expires on July 5, whether the MLS season resumes or not.

“We are talking now with Brighton & Hove Albion and all the stakeholders to refuel the loan agreements,” Nijkamp said. “It’s about how we can instill a win-win situation for all the parties.”

Locadia played in both of FCC’s matches this season with one start and displayed the potential that made him arguably the club’s most significant signing. The Dutch forward came off the bench in the season opener at New York Red Bulls and led the team with three shots on target including his first goal. He played all 90 minutes in the 2-1 loss at Atlanta. In those two matches, Locadia’s 6.21 shots-per-90 minutes led all MLS players.

But did FCC’s technical staff see enough from Locadia to make a significant long-term investment in the 26-year-old, an investment reportedly worth as much as $10 million?

That’s a hefty amount for a second-year expansion club even with a new stadium on the horizon, especially in this uncertain time when television revenues for the league could be greatly reduced if the season is compressed or can’t be completed.

“There’s a big media spending,” Nijkamp said. “so, if they are not playing, they have to pay money back.”

One important hurdle was cleared in the past week when, in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Locadia expressed his desire to remain in Cincinnati.

“I like it here so far in Cincinnati and the league also,” Locadia told The Enquirer. “I talk with my agent also and he said at the end of the day it’s my decision, and I told him I’m happy here, so if we can figure something out with Brighton and Cincinnati, which I understand is going to be difficult, we can try and fix the situation because … Cincinnati’s gotta say if they’re gonna buy me or not and I think Brighton has some work in it also. But my agent called with Brighton already and they talked about the situation and hopefully they can work something out.”

This came as no shock to Nijkamp, who said Locadia was adapting well with his new club, city and country.

“He had already, before the crisis, a very positive feeling, on the club, on the fans, on the city, and on the project that we are in,” Nijkamp said. “It was not a surprise that he came out in the media.”

Locadia is still under contract with Brighton. But the Premier League season also is on indefinite hold with suggestions that it might resume the current campaign at some point this summer. So where does that leave Locadia? Nijkamp said discussions have focused on possibly extending the loan deal to allow FCC more time to evaluate Locadia before agreeing to a deal.

“Jurgen is still under contract with Brighton, so there are challenges from that side,” said Nijkamp. “We have to exercise the option (to buy) in that loan agreement. Before the 5th of July, we wanted to see how he adapts in this league in 18 or 19 matches. Now, he just played two matches, and not full matches. We cannot say we’ve seen enough to pay the transfer fee with Brighton.”

Also prior to the shutdown, FCC was involved in an international search for a permanent head coach to replace Ron Jans, who resigned in February amid allegations he used a racial slur. Yoann Damet is serving in an interim role.

Nijkamp said only one coaching candidate had an in-person meeting in Cincinnati prior to the season being stopped. But two other international candidates did not make it before travel restrictions were put in place.

“We had one candidate for an in-market visit. The other two candidates did not because they’re from abroad,” Nijkamp said. “It was in the time (when) they closed the borders, so it was not possible to bring them in. If we don’t know when we can restart the league, it will impact when we appoint a head coach.”

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