Yesterday it was revealed that the Colorado Rapids had (reportedly, anyway) signed Argentine attacking midfielder Juan Ramirez to a Designated Player contract following a $2 million transfer from Argentinios Juniors. It's the biggest signing in terms of hype that the Rapids have made all off-season, simply by virtue of being a rare Designated Player signing. Ramirez represents only the second DP in Rapids history, and unless I'm horribly mistaken somehow I would imagine the $2 million they spent on him easily breaks their transfer record.
That kind of coin being shelled out by any team in MLS, Rapids or not, means that they're expecting big things from the player coming in. Truth be told, the electric attacking spark-plug of a player that the Rapids have needed since they dropped Gary Smith back at the end of the 2011 season has really never been there. They've never managed to snag that Diego Valeri, Landon Donovan or Mauro Diaz type player who can run an offense all on their own. (Dillon Powers is the closest they've come, but he's still not the absolute attacking influence that those other players are. At least, he isn't yet.)
That hasn't meant a lack of trying, however. The most notable attempt by the Rapids was when they brought in Martin Rivero in 2012 for Oscar Pareja's first season. If you recall, the hype behind Rivero was a lot more than the average Rapids signing. They teased at their 'true No. 10' signing for a long while, held a twitter contest to see who could guess the mystery player, and generally hinted that whoever it was going to be was going to be the shining example of the new, attacking Rapids. Even though he wasn't a DP, he was expected to be a lynch-pin right from the start.
There's a lot of similarities between the stories of Rivero and Ramirez. Both are young Argentines who most Americans will have never heard of. Both are attack-minded midfielders, and both are being touted as a player to run the Rapids offense right from the start after their signing. The biggest difference is the DP status of Ramirez, a status that adds quite a lot more to his story.
We all know what happened to Rivero. His first season was unimpressive, considering the hype. He couldn't score a goal to save his life and seemed like a mere set-piece specialist than a 'true No. 10' to save the Rapids offense. After recovering from his foot injury in 2013, he looked much the same player. A moderately flashy but ineffective attacking midfielder who could put a lovely ball in from a corner or free kick, but wouldn't do a whole lot else for you in a lot of circumstances. Like it or not, Rivero's the best comparison we have with this new signing, and we have to hope that the team learned from their mistakes before splashing the cash on Ramirez.
Oftentimes while he was here, I called Rivero perhaps one of the most hyped signings in the history of the team. The hype behind Ramirez is naturally going to be a million times higher. This time, though, they will HAVE to get it right.