Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Three weeks after walking out on contract talks in Belgium, Jarju is Whitecaps’ new Designated Player

Three weeks after walking out on contract talks in Belgium, Jarju is Whitecaps’ new Designated Player

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In the end, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ announcement of Gambian forward Mustapha Toubabo Jarju as the club’s second Designated Player was anticlimactic.

The real fun occurred in the hours leading up to the signing. The Whitecaps and Jarju’s agent had done a better job than we usually see in the sports business of keeping a lid on the impending contract. So, when the Whitecaps let the media know on Monday that the club would be holding a presser on Tuesday to announce a major signing, the rumour mill went into overdrive.

Owen Hargreaves? Joseph Yobo? Benjani? Jarju?

The speculation was, well, fun. A needed relief for Whitecaps fans who have suffered through a two-win season and a heartbreaking capitulation to Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. The announcement came after hours of back-and-forth on social media platforms.

Because Jarju joins the Whitecaps in the middle of the season, he will only count for half of the normal DP salary-cap space. So, the hit to the ‘Caps will be US$167,500. Jarju comes to the ‘Caps after a rather stormy divorce from his Belgian league club.

Jarju scored 25 times last year, including 18 in 33 league games, helping RAEC de Mons gain promotion to the Belgian top flight. He scored in the 2-1 win over Waasland-Beveren that clinched promotion for Mons.

“Mustapha is a proven goal-scorer at the club level in Europe,” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said in a release. “He has pace and the ability to find the back of the net with regularity, as he did during his successful spell in Belgium.”

Mustapha Toubabo Jarju

The good? Jarju is just 24… and should be able to take the wear-and-tear of the hectic MLS summer schedule. The bad? Most of Jarju’s resume was built in the Belgian second division (he did score 10 times in a single Jupiler Pro League seaso with Lierse SK before the club was relegated). Most of his work was done in the second tier of what we’d all consider a middling pro league.

But, Eric Hassli, red cards aside, has been very good when he has played for the Whitecaps, after emerging from the Swiss league.

Jarju said he had options throughout Europe and the Middle East, but chose the Whitecaps.

“Recently, I have watched several matches and believe the club is ready to push for the playoffs.”

(Note to Jarju: The Whitecaps were the team in white, not the other team.)

What’s interesting is that just three weeks ago, Jarju had told Gambia’s Daily Observer that he was ready to sign a contract extension with Mons, and was looking forward to getting an EU passport.

“I am keen to extend my stay with the team at least for one more season with the condition that they will help me secure a Belgian passport,” Jaru told the Observer on June 24. “I have spent five years in Belgium which now qualifies me for Belgian citizenship so it makes no sense to move to another country at the moment.”

Jarju claimed that he offered to come back to Mons for another season for less money as long as the club facilitated the passport.

A week later, Jarju didn’t show up at Mons board meeting where they were to discuss a contract extension. Three weeks later, Jarju is in Canada.

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