Anthony Modeste’s Big Transfer Adventure

Two seasons.

Fourty-five goals.

First European appearance in 25 years.

Five sentences.

In announcing an end to the overly drawn-out “will he stay or will he go” saga, the FC were tellingly to-the-point in their public goodbyes to the club’s most-celebrated player of last year’s remarkable campaign.

  1. After two years in an FC jersey, Anthony Modeste transfers to the Chinese Super League.
  2. Striker Anthony Modeste leaves the 1. FC Köln.
  3. The 29-year-old will continue his career in the Chinese Super League with Tianjin Quanjian.
  4. All involved parties have come to agreement.
  5. The 1. FC Köln thanks Tony for his commitment while wearing the FC jersey and wish him all the best for the future.

If you follow the club fairly casually and only through English-language media, it might have seemed that the transfer was a bit slow in coming around, but otherwise didn’t think much of it.

For those who can’t help but read every article posted in German media about the club, the Modeste topic has been nothing less than a circus-like distraction the last few weeks.

Actually, “circus” might not quite cut it as a comparison. When the top-scorer who helped propel your club to its greatest heights in a quarter-century leaves and the widespread reaction is a relieved “PHEW! Boy am I glad THAT is done!” rather than “Hey, at least we made some money off the deal,” you’ve strayed fairly far from the typical transfer sideshow.

June 2016 – The Fumbled Escape Attempt

Yes, 2016. That’s not a typo.

Were Modeste’s agents — the Mendy Brothers — a little bit better at their job, the 2016-17 season in Köln would have been vastly different.

It was reported that the only thing that kept Modeste from moving to China last summer was an error in attempting to trigger an “out” clause in Modeste’s original contract. That is, the agents attempted to get a deal done last June and apparently would have, except they got something wrong in the execution.

Modeste did a fairly good job of playing the entire scene off as just a bit of modern-football business. He even mentioned the quality of medical care available in Köln for his young son’s allergy issues as a primary reason he was never seriously considering leaving the city in which he said he and his family had become so comfortable.

Those who believed Modeste’s words over the failed actions of his agents did so because they wanted to. The rest keep saying, “I HAVE BEEN TELLING YOU SINCE LAST JUNE THAT HE WAS GOING TO LEAVE!”

July 4, 2016 – The Contract Extension

The ultimate fallout from the attempt to leave was a renegotiated contract with two additional years and no escape clause. Modeste was happy to use the new deal as evidence that his commitment had been to the FC all along, while apologizing to the fans for any “confusion” that was caused.

Modeste would continue to insist that he never wanted to leave the club.  For the remainder of the summer, he campaigned against any notion that the entire incident was nothing more than a natural part of contract negotiation, as if his agents had intentionally failed to get the paperwork correct so that the club was never at risk of actually losing him, but would realize they should take action to protect against it anyhow.

All of which now seems even more ridiculous than it did at the time.

February 2017 – The Indecent Proposal

The winter transfer window came and went without any genuine threats to the FC roster, which was of great relief to many.  The team was definitely good enough to contend for Europe, though a plague of injuries was making things difficult.

Modeste had 13 goals at the break, which was enough to have his name mingling with those of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski atop the Bundesliga goal-scoring charts. And when a player’s name is mentioned in those discussions, it’s not long before unwanted interest from afar follows.

What we learned was that just because the window closes at the end of January, doesn’t mean someone won’t try to throw a wad of money through it and grab a player, apparently.

The word was that Tianjin Quanjian was willing to pay as much as (allegedly, but unconfirmed) €55 million for Modeste. In February, that would normally mean a summer transfer, of course, but the Chinese club wanted Modeste immediately.

I don’t know that I understand the mechanisms that would have made it possible for a player to move in February, but I assume they had it figured out somehow. The men in charge of the club, however, were unwilling to sabotage the second half of the season, despite the promise of a record payday for the club.

May 20, 2017 – Tears of Joy/Goodbyes are Hard

There are numerous scenes from the final match day of the season that we all will remember for a long time.  Among them was that of Modeste being lifted by many hands above the crowd of FC fans celebrating the season-ending victory that helped put the club into Europa League.

Anthony Modeste, crowd surfer

By all reports, Modeste was very emotional through everything that transpired after the match. Interpretations were split, however. Some believed Big Mo’ was overcome by joy for the club he truly loved and that the tears showed his passion for FC. Others were convinced that he knew that it was his last match with a club he was genuinely going to miss.

June 8, 2017 – The Cryptic Instagrammer

Despite the lack of an escape clause in a contract that covered through the 2020-21 season, all discussion surrounding Modeste since the end of the season revolved around a lack of clarity about his future with the club. Modeste seemed to want to stick by “I want to stay,” though there always seemed to be an unspoken, “BUUUUT . . .” following that sentence

On June 8, Modeste made clear that we were not all imagining that qualification to his  desire to stay FC.

In response to a comment on one of his Instagram posts, Modeste added “but it is not for me alone to decide.”

When another comment pointed out that his contract meant that Modeste needn’t really make any decisions at all, the striker responded that the situation was “unfortunately not as simple as you think.”

When Jörg Schmadtke was asked what Modeste might be referencing, the sporting director said, “I don’t know what he wants to say with that.”

June 9, 2017 – Here We Go (Again)

Word spreads of a renewed effort by Tianjin Quanjian to attain Modeste’s services, with €30 million being the opening offer.

While there were some suggestions that Olympique Marseille and West Ham United might, too, have interest, the presumption seemed that the Chinese club was going to offer the biggest payday for both the player and the club, so negotiation sessions were apparently set . . . for Ibiza?

June 19, 2017 – The Price is Right?

Despite the distraction of being in Ibiza, word eventually got back to Köln that the two football clubs had come to an agreement on terms of a transfer. BILD reported that the FC would receive €35 million in exchange for Modeste, and Modeste would get €10 million annually to play in the Chinese Super League for Tianjin Quanjian FC.

Though an agreement had been reached, it had not yet been finalized. During an appearance on a sports talk show, coach Peter Stöger joked that you had German, French, and Chinese languages all being used, but that the deal was unlikely to collapse due to any linguistic issues.

So what was the hold up, then?

June 23, 2017 – Is this a joke?

Etienne Mendy and Patrick Mendy arrive at Geißbockheim with Modeste to tell club officials that they would like €6 million for their work on the deal to move their client.

The FC, naturally, declined the generous offer of the Mendy brothers and publicly said the deal had fallen through.

July 2, 2017 – Return of the “I want to stay”

BILD lands the exclusive first interview with Modeste since the latest busted transfer move. Modeste used the interview to clarify that he had never said he wanted to leave Köln (or, technically, that nobody ever heard him say that he wanted to leave).  In fact, he had been wanting to meet with the bosses to discuss a way to assure he could end his career at the FC!

Is this a good time to remind everyone that he was one administrative error from leaving last summer?

In any case, Modeste continued along these lines, insisting that he had rejected any offers that came to him and that it was the club’s wish to sell him for profit rather than keep him. He says the fact that he was never invited to be a part of the new uniform unveiling told him the club didn’t see him as part of the immediate future.

July 3, 2017 – Training Starts, Everything Normal

Modeste is lauded like a conquering hero by fans at the first day of training for the coming season. He works. He smiles. He poses with fans. Everything has the appearance of normal.

Meanwhile, Schmadtke says that Modeste’s story doesn’t add up, but that he and the rest of the FC leadership team will get a chance to sit down with the player and see what’s what.

When they do, the content of the discussion is kept between the parties, as agreed by them.

July 9, 2017 – Lawyer up!

Modeste arrives to Geißbockheim with an attorney. Whatever the content of the discussion, the club releases Modeste from the upcoming training camp so he can “think about the future of his career.”

July 10, 2017 – Lawyer up!

A locally known high-profile attorney is seen at the home of the FC.

July 11, 2017 – LAWYER UP!

And a date is set for a hearing in “labor court” for a matter concerning one Anthony Modeste against 1. FC Köln, concerning his desire, at least nominally, to be allowed back into training with the team.

July 12, 2017 – One last “I want to stay” & then go.

Modeste engages in a training session in Bergisch Gladbach, where he again declared his wish to remain in Köln, saying “I never had any other goal.”

Several hours later, “PHEW! Boy am I glad THAT is done!”

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