The deal is no longer a secret, but now the signings have been signed: Hugo Kuipers will start a career in Major League Soccer at the Chicago Fire. “KAA Gent was not happy with Hugo's departure, but decided to cooperate with the transfer at his request,” says the No. 5 in the competition.
KAA Gent allowed Fofana and Gift owner Emmanuel Orbán to leave for Lyon during the winter mercato and at the last minute Hugo Kuipers also submitted a transfer request.
The Chicago Fire, an MLS club, signed last season's top scorer and the 26-year-old striker was keen to embark on such an American adventure after a year and a half in charge at Ghent.
“I would have loved to help the team until the end of the season, but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up and a challenge I definitely wanted to take on,” Kuipers responded to Gent's website.
“I cannot thank the fans enough for the support and love I have felt from day one. I wish them and this wonderful club all the best for the future.”
Ghent snatched Cuypers from KV Mechelen in the summer of 2022. “Hugo not only excelled with an unbridled work ethic, but his numerous goals and assists also ensured that he quickly won the hearts of our fans,” says his now former club.
“He finished his first season at Ghent with 56 appearances, 34 goals and 9 assists. Fantastic numbers. Hugo also received the Jean-Claude Bouvet Award for best player at KAA Gent.”
With Kuipers, the American club on the shores of Lake Michigan broke its own club record. Cuypers will become a “designated player,” one of three players per team who are allowed to earn more in Major League Soccer than the salary cap indicates. Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri is also Chicago's “Designated Player”.
“We are very happy to welcome Hugo Kuipers,” said sporting director Georg Heitz.
He added: “We have been looking for a striker for some time who is at the peak of his career and has already shown that he is capable of scoring many goals in major competitions.”
“In recent years, Hugo has been consistently one of the top scorers in the Belgian First Division. Despite interest from other teams, he has chosen Chicago Fire and wants to help make the club one of the best teams in MLS. So are we.” “I'm confident Hugo will be a game-changer.”
Kuipers himself knocked on Luaji's door
Last Friday, CEO Michel Louage announced the transfer of the goal machine.
“We rejected a move to Bologna and Hoffenheim this summer. He gave in. Then came the Chicago Fire, but the first offer was rejected.”
“After the match against KV Mechelen, he asked me if he could talk to me. Hugo said: ‘I would like you to let me go.’ Players also have something to say, don’t they.”
Ghent will receive at least €12 million for Kuipers.
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