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Chicago Fire Sign Argentine Star Nicolas Gaitan

Gaitan joins the Fire on a free transfer from Chinese club Dalian Yifang.

The Chicago Fire have yet to win in the early days of the 2019 MLS season, but they're hoping an Argentine veteran star can help tilt the scales their way.

The Fire have signed Nico Gaitan on a free transfer from Chinese club Dalian Yifang, and the 31-year-old midfielder joins the club with immediate effect. He was signed with both Discretionary Targeted Allocation Money and standard TAM and is under contract for this season, with a club option for 2020. The Fire had to fork over $50,000 in General Allocation Money to the Seattle Sounders in order to land his discovery rights.

Gaitan, who came up with Boca Juniors, made his name in Europe at Benfica and then spent time with Atletico Madrid before moving to China, joins a Fire midfield that includes German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger, new signing and Polish winger Przemyslaw Frankowski, U.S. veteran Dax McCarty, U.S. playmaker Djordje Mihailovic and Designated Player winger Aleksandar Katai. Gaitan's arrival could push Schweinsteiger into a more defensive role, or at least give manager Veljko Paunovic the flexibility to do so.

“Nicolás is a player that can destabilize any defense in this league,” Paunovic said in a club statement. “He has an enormous amount of talent and is still in his prime. We’re eager to get the most out of his attacking creativity.”

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Gaitan has 19 caps with the Argentina national team, including five during 2018 World Cup qualifying, though he did not make the trip to Russia. He joins a line of Argentine playmakers who have made their way to MLS, following the more recent likes of Diego Valeri, Federico Higuain, Ignacio Piatti, Luciano Acosta and Maxi Moralez and the Fire are surely hoping he'll find similar levels of success.

“We have wanted to add another attacking piece and believe Nico’s dynamism and play-making ability could be a perfect fit,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said.