Juan Agudelo was supposed to be on his way to Stoke City once the January transfer window opened, with his move to the Premier League set in stone for months after he signed a pre-contract agreement in August.
Problem is, he didn't clear the final hurdle.
Stoke announced that Agudelo's appeal for a UK work permit was denied Wednesday (which is surprising when considering the fact that the likes of U.S. internationals Tim Ream, Alejandro Bedoya and Robbie Rogers were each able to win one in recent years via the same appeals process), leaving the U.S. forward in club limbo.
The baseline requirements for obtaining a UK work permit are to have appeared in 75 percent of your country's "A" level matches (World Cup qualifiers, CONCACAF Gold Cup in Agudelo's case) while having your country have an average FIFA ranking of 70th or better over a two-year span.
Agudelo does not come close to meeting the first requirement, but the appeals process is in place for situations like that, and if teams can make the case that the player is of a certain level or is a big enough prospect, then an exception -- which is not uncommon -- is made. Stoke evidently expected just that to happen, with Agudelo primed to join Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu and Brek Shea among the American contingent at Britannia Stadium.
"We’re bitterly disappointed that the panel rejected our appeal for a work permit for Juan," Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes told the club's official website. “The criteria by which the panel should make work permit application decisions are well established and have been in place for some years, and, despite recent comments to the media and discussion in the media, that criteria has not changed.
“We are therefore left amazed that our application for a work permit for Juan has been rejected when you compare his talent and ability to players who have been granted a work permit on appeal in the past.
“Unfortunately, under the rules of the appeal panel system we were given no explanation why the application was rejected and so can only speculate as to the reasons why we have been unsuccessful.”
Agudelo, still just 20, is out of contract with MLS after completing the season with the New England Revolution following a midseason trade from Chivas USA. Should he return to MLS, the Revs would retain his rights. If not, he has time to find another club in another league overseas prior to the opening of the winter transfer window.
Much like how the first few years of the talent- and potential-laden prospect's career have been, though, his situation is not as straightforward as previously thought. Perhaps greater forces are at play, though. With the likes of Edu and Shea struggling to find time at Stoke, Agudelo could be better off elsewhere.
As he wrote from his official Twitter account in the aftermath of Wednesday's announcement: