MONTREAL — There may be a new South American player en route to the Montreal Impact, but it is not likely to be a second designated player.
Team president Joey Saputo caused a stir with a Twitter message on the weekend that suggested an important signing was imminent for the second-year Major League Soccer club.
The tweet asked: "Will he be from Europe or South America? My bet is South America. Stay Tuned."
Some thought immediately of Argentine international midfielder Juan Ramon Riquelme, who reportedly has an eye on MLS.
Sporting director Nick De Santis said that for now, he can only dream of signing the 34-year-old former Villarreal star.
"That would be a DP," he said. "Yes, I’d like it if the president put me in a position to sign Riquelme, but I don’t think that’s the case."
MLS teams are allowed to sign up to three DPs, who can be paid any amount, with only $350,000 charged against the salary cap. Montreal’s lone DP, Italian forward Marco Di Vaio, earned a base salary of US$1 million last season.
De Santis said the club is close to the league’s $2.97 million salary cap and that another player or players would have to move to create space for any major new signing.
"We’re looking around, but we have to understand the salary cap and see if there’s any value around for a limited amount of money," De Santis said.
The Impact got a break when their most famous player, 36-year-old former Italian international defender Alessandro Nesta, signed last season for a base salary of only $180,000. And oft-injured former Italian Serie-A defender Nelson Rivas signed for only $50,000.
The Impact have contacts in South America, particularly in Argentina where the Saputo cheese and snack foods company has holdings. But they currently have only two players from that continent: the Colombian Rivas and Brazilian striker Felipe Martins, who was signed out of the Swiss league.
There is plenty of room on the roster for more.
The club traded midfielder Lamar Neagle back to the Seattle Sounders on Sunday in exchange for an international roster spot through 2014. The Impact have 11 spots for foreign players for this season, with only eight of them filled with Nesta, Rivas, Frenchman Hassoun Camara, Switzerland’s Dennis Iapichino and Italians Nesta, Di Vaio, Matteo Ferrari and Andrea Pisanu.
De Santis said the team would like to add an attacking midfielder or forward. But if doesn’t come right away, he is prepared to start the season with the team he has now.
"With our roster and the offensive pieces we have, you can manoeuvre the team in different ways and then it’s up to (coach) Marco (Schallibaum) on how he wants to play," De Santis added.
Neagle and forward Mike Fucito were acquired last February from Seattle in exchange for striker Eddie Johnson, whose rights were obtained on his return from playing in Europe. Fucito was dealt away last season, so Montreal has no players left to show for the deal. Johnson had 14 goals for Seattle last season.
"That wasn’t our trade," De Santis said in a curt reference to former coach Jesse Marsch, who parted ways with the club over "philosophical differences" after guiding the club through its expansion season.
"(Neagle) had personal interests in wanting to go back, family reasons. We don’t want unhappy people here. Having said that, he always handled himself in the most professional way."
Neagle played in 23 games last season, mainly as a substitute, and had two goals and two assists.
"Lamar is a very good player," Impact captain Davy Arnaud said. "Seattle’s getting a good guy back.
"It’s disappointing to see him go, from a personal standpoint, but we understand that’s part of the game."
The team needs to have three Canadians on its roster and currently has only midfielder Patrice Bernier and defender Karl Ouimette. De Santis said the third would come from the team’s academy, which has five players in the main camp.
Rivas spent the first week of camp riding a stationary bicycle on the sidelines while recovering from his latest injury, but forward Sanna Nyassi was back on the field after taking a kick in the ankle on the first day.
Carolina Railhawks forward Nick Zimmerman, who was in camp on a trail, was released.