There is a decision on the near horizon for Real Salt Lake. And it is a decision that could have ramifications for the team for years to come. RSL will need to decide if they are willing to sell Luis Gil.
Gil came to RSL four years ago as a 16 year old. Even before joining the team he was on the radar at some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Arsenal. Instead of diving in with such a big club, Gil and his family made the decision to stay closer to home and to sign a contract with MLS. Kansas City won his rights in a special lottery and then traded those rights to RSL.
Flash forward four years and Gil is currently away playing for the US at the U-20 World Cup. In their first match against Spain, Luis was far and away the best player on the field for the US. His passing was superb and he scored the only goal for the US in the 4-1 defeat. Although missing a PK in their second match, Gil still played well and helped set up a late goal in a 1-1 draw with France. With scouts from around the world in attendance, Gil is standing out. One has to expect that the offers for Gil will start rolling in. Especially if he has a good game against Ghana and the US moves on to the next round. The question is: What will RSL do?
The decision will not be an easy one. There are pros and cons for both selling him and keeping him. Here is a look at both sides of the decision.
Gil has become a valuable piece of the RSL midfield. He has already played 1016 minutes with the team this year and his two goals, so far, ties a career high. And at 19, his best years are probably still ahead of him. The thought of what he could be in a couple of years is pretty intriguing. The league has talked about wanting to keep the best young US players in the the league instead of seeing them go on to Europe.
But is Gil the best fit for RSL's style of play? The answer to that might be no. Gil seems to play best with the ball at his feet being the center of the attack. But since Javier Morales has returned from injury, Gil has been moved to a wide position in RSL's diamond midfield. His effectiveness has suffered because of it. Currently, RSL is scoring a goal every 92.36 minutes that Gil has been on the field. This is by far the worst scoring rate for all RSL attacking players. In contrast, when Gil is not on the field the team is scoring a goal every 34.87 minutes. The difference between those two numbers is staggering.
And then there is Gil's contract to look at. According to the players association, Gil has a guaranteed compensation this year of $213,833.33. This makes him the fourth highest player on the team only behind Saborio, Morales, and Beckerman.
The other important piece of this puzzle is that this is the final year of a four year contact. This causes problems on multiple fronts. If RSL does want to keep Gil long term, they are probably going to have to give him a pay raise at the end of the season. But since his contract is almost up, it also drives down the price the team can get for him in this summer transfer window. Teams might wait to see if they can get him on a free transfer at the end of the season.
RSL isn't the only decision maker in this process. Gil will have a say on any transfer that might occur. MLS will also have a voice at the table. But the common thought is that if an offer comes, both Gil and the league would say yes. But will RSL?
In my opinion if RSL gets a good offer, they need to move forward and try to sell Gil. At this point in his career, Gil is not worth the raise it would take to keep him. Especially when you think about his effect on the RSL salary cap. If RSL was to sell Gil, not only would the team free up a big portion of salary cap space, they would also have the cash to go out and buy another player that could help the team.
It makes even more sense to sell Gil when the depth of the RSL midfield is taken into account. Khari Stephenson has solidified himself in Gil's old spot on the side of the diamond midfield. And other players like Velasquez, Alvarez, Grossman, and Martinez are fighting for more playing time already. The loss of Gil would not hurt the team that much.
One final note on this decision is that RSL would only receive 50% of any transfer fee. Due to MLS rules, the league receives 33% of any transfer fees received for players. And part of the trade with Kansas City that originally brought Gil to RSL guaranteed Kansas City to receive 17% on any transfer fee for Gil as well.
What do think? Should Gil stay or should he go?