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USATSI

American talents are increasingly at the center of the football world. In Europe, many top-tier clubs closely follow the progress of young players in Major League Soccer. One of those prospects, Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina was almost on his way to Chelsea until world events intervened. A top secret deal was being worked on for weeks but before it could be finalized, the UK government sanctioned Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich meaning his club was frozen and, among other things, could no longer buy and sell players.

The story began in January: Slonina is only 17 years old, born in May 2004, but he is already a regular starter for the Fire. The American goalkeeper is clearly talented with enough potential to draw top international attention. In Italy there were rumors about a Juventus approach in January but the club that really tried to start a negotiation was Chelsea.

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The club board had direct contact with Slonina's agent and with the Fire. with negotiations taking place from the last week of January, through the end of February. Before Chelsea were blocked by the sanctions the Blues' plan was clear: find an agreement to sign Slonina in the 2022 summer window for a figure close to €6.5-7 million, then loan him out again to Chicago Fire until June or December 2023. That way Chelsea would own the bright young keeper but they'd also give Slonina an opportunity to play as a starter and grow in MLS before trying the Premier League experience.

Since the beginning of March the talks have broken down due to the sanctions followed by Abramovich announcing that he will sell the club. Of course Slonina was a talent Chelsea would have invested in for the future, not a necessary signing right away, but this is yet another example of top European clubs showing active interests in American talent. And for now Slonina is now only focused on the Chicago Fire, but he's still waiting for European football one day.