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Philadelphia Union in negotiations for Maurice Edu, but confusion lingers

Maurice Edu The Philadelphia Union have their eye on U.S. international midfielder Maurice Edu. (Reed Hoffmann/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — Negotiations are ongoing in the Philadelphia Union’s pursuit to acquire U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu, Philadelphia CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz told SI.com on Thursday. The Union has until the end of the transfer window in January to get a deal done for Edu, who has barely played with Stoke City and wants to get playing time to increase his chances of making the World Cup team.

“We’ve got until January 31 at midnight, and we want to do it right so it’s a win-win for Mo and the Union and the league,” said Sakiewicz. “I know everybody in Philly is anxious, and sometimes on these things you just need to take a deep breath and step back and ride the way. But the discussions are ongoing, and that’s a good thing.”

There’s more to this story, though.

Here’s what everyone agrees on right now: Philadelphia traded Jeff Parke to D.C. United this week for fellow defender Ethan White and the top spot in the league’s allocation order. That top allocation spot was obtained so that Philadelphia could get Edu as a U.S. national team player returning to MLS, Sakiewicz confirmed.

CREDITOR: D.C. makes curious pre-draft deal with rival Philadelphia

Depending on who you talk to, though, there are different perspectives on what’s been happening behind the scenes during the Edu negotiations. According to one source with knowledge of the talks, the MLS league office on Tuesday blocked a deal in which Philadelphia had agreed to pay Edu around $1.2 million a year after a free transfer from Stoke.

Sakiewicz denied that was the case, however. “There’s zero truth to the rumor that the league is blocking this,” he said. “It’s like any negotiation. Sometimes you put an offer out and the other party says no, and you have to be prepared to walk away. One party gets back to the table, and it’s not dissimilar to any negotiation in business as part of that give-and-take routine.”

As a single-entity league in which the owners are in business together, MLS has had situations in the past when the league office stepped in to prevent a transaction it thought was not in the interests of the league. One example in recent years was the veto of Toronto’s attempt to sign Olof Mellberg as a Designated Player.

Edu is a different case, however, as a returning U.S. international who has World Cup hopes. Just this week, MLS approved the blockbuster deal in which Toronto acquired U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley on an annual salary of around $6.5 million a year.

Sakiewicz did confirm that if the Edu deal gets done the midfielder would come to Philadelphia as a DP. But Sakiewicz clarified that unlike the MLS deals for Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the allocation order would come into play for a deal involving Edu. The difference, Sakiewicz said, was that the Edu deal wouldn’t involve any special infusion of league money to bring him in.

“So that requires a different mechanism to bring [Edu] in. I’ve been in this league for 20 years and I’m still not completely clear [on the player acquisition rules],” Sakiewicz joked.

Sakiewicz said if the Edu deal gets done, it could be as a loan or an outright transfer from Stoke.

“I don’t want to create a false expectation out there, but it’s fluid,” he said. “We have a long way to go. It turns on a dime. We’ll see what today brings.”

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