With trade impossible, Valderrama is handed over to Tampa Bay.TAMPA, Fa. (Friday, April 23, 1999) -- The rumored trade of star midfielder Carlos Valderrama from the Miami Fusion to the Tampa Bay Mutiny never took place. So in a transaction that could only happen in Major League Soccer, Miami gave Valderrama back to Tampa Bay, where "El Pibe" was MLS most valuable player in the league’s inaugural season of 1996.
MLS, a single-entity structure in which all player contracts belong to the league, called the move a "re-assignment," but Miami received nothing for the talented playmaker whose feud with Fusion coach Ivo Wortman made the player's exile necessary.
"It has become clear in the past days that an irreconcilable impasse has been reached between the Miami Fusion and Carlos Valderrama with regard to his continued participation with that team," MLS commissioner Doug Logan said. "At the same time, it has become apparent that there is no possibility of a trade materializing within any reasonable time-frame that would be satisfactory both to the Miami Fusion and to another MLS team. I have therefore today decided, under the powers vested in me as commissioner of MLS, to reassign the services of Mr. Valderrama from the Miami Fusion to the Tampa Bay Mutiny, effective immediately. I am taking this unusual action because I believe it to be in the best interest of the league to afford Carlos Valderrama the opportunity to entertain our fans by doing what he does best -- play soccer."
Valderrama, who led the Mutiny to a 37-27mark in 1996-97, will join the Mutiny tomorrow morning in time for a flight to New Jersey where he has been slated to start against the MetroStars in Sunday's 1 p.m. (ET) nationally-televised (ESPN) game against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium.
The Mutiny waived Costa Rican forward Alejandro Sequeira so as not to exceed the MLS limit of four international players on its roster.
A two-time South American Player of the Year and three-time Colombian Player of the Year, Valderrama still ranks among the top 10 in seven offensive categories for the Mutiny, including leading the team in assists with 36.
"Good sons always return home," Valderrama said.
"We are absolutely delighted that Carlos Valderrama has agreed to come home," said Mutiny president and general manager Nick Sakiewicz. "He continues to be one of the best players in both our league and the world and the fire that I saw in him when we played the Fusion during the preseason makes me as excited about an acquisition as I have ever been. We all know that when Carlos Valderrama steps to the center of the stage, everyone takes notice. He was the best player in MLS in both 1996 and '97 and to have him back is not only a major plus for our team, but a treat for our fans as well.
Valderrama was the first Mutiny player, being allocated by the league to Tampa Bay on January 5, 1996. During the inaugural season, he served as the lynch pin to a 20-12 Mutiny team that led MLS in goals scored with 65. Valderrama had four goals and 17 assists for 25 points and was named MVP of the All-Star game for assisting on two of the Eastern Conference's three goals in a 3-2 win over the West.
In 1997, Valderrama again totaled 25 points, this time leading the Mutiny in scoring with three goals and 19 assists. He again was All-Star game MVP award for scoring a goal and two assists in a 5-4 Eastern Conference triumph.
"This move is not about being unhappy with someone; it's a move that says we are simply not getting it done at this time," Mutiny coach Tim Hankinson said. "I am disappointed that I will not have an opportunity to work with Alejandro. At the same time, when you have an opportunity to pick up what we all still consider to be a world class player, you do it. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to coach one of our league's great players."
With Miami last year, Valderrama scored 16 points -- two goals and 12 assists -- in 18 games.
Internationally, Valderrama was the captain of Colombia's national team for over a decade and played in three World Cups for Colombia -- 1990, 1994 and 1998. He scored the second goal in Colombia's 2-0 opening-round victory over the United Arab Emirates in 1990 and had an assist against Tunisia in a 2-0 Colombia first round win in 1998.
In addition to playing in three World Cups, Valderrama has represented Colombia in five Copa Americas (South American championships). He has 112 international caps for his homeland.