Sebastien Le Toux's departure from the Philadelphia Union certainly made headlines. There was much made of the incident after the player came out and spoke his side of the story. It was emotional and troublesome that, according to Le Toux, a professional club in MLS would dismiss a player in such fashion.
But what of the other perspectives involved? Was Peter Nowak really so wrong to offload the Frenchman? You could argue both sides, but let's examine what Nowak was dealing with.
Sebastien Le Toux was entering the final year of his contract and reportedly requesting around $400,000. The club is obligated to pay Freddy Adu a guaranteed amount that is north of half a million dollars, $335,000 of which count against them, as well as Danny Mwanga's salary. Mwanga was previously a Generation Adidas player and at the time not counting against the cap. He now does. The team also signed Roger Torres to a full contract, as well as considering other players to fill out their roster.
Despite Le Toux scoring 12 goals in 2011 and 14 in 2010, that type of money is hard to justify in the big picture of a salary pinch.
Players and management rarely see eye to eye about player worth in the early rounds of contract negotiation. That's typical in professional sports. The negotiators of these contracts are handled between club management and, typically, the player's agent. To Let Toux's discredit, he has no agent. Red flag raised.
He was handling his contract negotiations on his own. This does not necessarily mean he was unprofessional, but few players are able to maintain focus and stoicism through professional contract negotiations. That is why players hire agents that are well versed in the art of negotiations. Finding common ground for which both parties can be happy is best handled with an agent. Red flag raised.
For his part, Nowak saw these struggles on the horizon and took steps to give Le Toux a shot at the money he wanted in Europe. Conflicting reports have been heard about the effort Le Toux put forth in his brief time with Bolton, but one thing is clear, the player left his stint of his own accord. Red flag raised.
Consider now that Sebastien Le Toux, who was arguably a fan favorite in Seattle and is a fan favorite in Philadelphia, has been offloaded by both teams in their infancy. For a player who seems to win over fan bases with his professionalism, two respected coaches have allowed him to leave. Red flag raised.
Sebastien Le Toux made the point that he would have done anything to keep playing in Philadelphia. He went so far as to say to media “I wanted to stay in Philly. I didn’t care about the money”.
It is surprising that a player would sit down asking for $400,000 initially and then suddenly change his tune. More surprising is the logic that fails us here. Would Peter Nowak pass on a Le Toux for $200,000? It seems unlikely as the player has scored 26 goals in two seasons, but that is something only Nowak himself knows.
Let us not forget that Sebastien Le Toux was sent to Vancouver for an undisclosed amount of allocation money. This money allows the Union to buy down any salary hits they may be faced with for their players. This move allows more flexbility in future signings and maintain some semblance of good business practice.
If Le Toux were allowed to leave at the end of the season, he’d leave for free and the Union would receive nothing for him. That’s poor business. In the scenario that played out, Nowak received a heavy sum from Vancouver in which to help build his team.
“...we all believe and we make known to the public as well that we would like to build a club that is all about the future,” said Nowak on the matter.
There is logic to Nowak's decision and that cannot be ignored. If Le Toux is to be believed then he was severely mistreated. If the red flags noted above are observed, then that paints a slightly different skew on things.
What really went on between these two parties will likely only be known to a select few. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Still, regardless of all these factors, Peter Nowak traded away a fan favorite who was beloved by Philadelphia. The Philly fans are rarely forgiving of these things. It is likely that the fan base will test Nowak pretty severely in the opening weeks of the season. One thing is for sure though, winning games will go a long way to making amends.
Fans send Le Toux off: