Puig joins LA Galaxy from Barcelona, but rival MLS execs are skeptical of the deal

The MLS secondary transfer window closed in very much in the same way that it started: With a high-profile player arriving in Los Angeles amidst questions of how he would fit on his new club’s salary budget.

A little more than a month after LAFC acquired Gareth Bale, the LA Galaxy on Thursday signed Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig, who will turn 23 next week, through the 2025 season on a free transfer from FC Barcelona. Like Bale, was signed to a targeted allocation money (TAM) contract. Also like Bale, that fact came as a bit of a surprise.

According to various reports, Puig made $4 million last season with Barcelona, which is in the middle of a bizarre financial crisis and needs to offload players in order to register new signings. He had one guaranteed year remaining on his contract with the club, but had been told this summer by head coach Xavi that he wasn’t in his plans for the 2022-23 season. If Puig, who had been with Barça since age 14, wanted to play, he needed to find a new team.

He got that with the Galaxy, but he’s also taking a significant pay cut. Budget costs — salary plus agent fees, achievable bonuses and other payments — for TAM players are capped at $1.6125 million in 2022. That number will increase in each of the next few years, but only marginally.

Designated players (DPs) do not have any such caps on their compensation. Each team only gets three of those, however, and the Galaxy already have the maximum amount on their books in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who is out of contract after this season, Kevin Cabral and Douglas Costa. Bale, whose contract is only guaranteed for 12 months, has an option in his deal that, if triggered by LAFC, would make him a DP next summer. There is no such mechanism in Puig’s contract with the Galaxy. Nor does it include raises that would take his average annual salary over the DP threshold — if it did, the club would not be able to count him as a TAM player for any portion of his deal.

The upshot: Over the life of his three-and-a-half year deal, Puig will not be able to be paid more than $5.88 million in total by LA.

Author: Lucy Green