The Chicago Fire made it official and announced that 18-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina has signed with Premier League side Chelsea.
The two sides came to an agreement that sees Chelsea pay the Fire $15 million, a club-record fee, as he becomes the team’s youngest player to sign for one of the top five leagues in Europe. As part of the agreement, Slonina will remain on loan with the Fire for the rest of the MLS season.
Chelsea had been keeping tabs on Slonina and reports indicated they had reached an agreement on personal terms a few weeks ago. All that was left was for the clubs to reach a deal.
“We’re very proud and happy to see Gaga reach this milestone moment in his career,” said Chicago Fire FC Sporting Director Georg Heitz. “Since joining the Club, Gaga has embodied what it means to be a Chicago Fire player.” In addition to his incredible talent, he is mature beyond his years, extremely hard working, and a fantastic teammate.
“Gaga is a role model to many young aspiring footballers in Chicago, and this transfer demonstrates that a player can progress to the first team from our Academy before joining one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
The move to Chelsea is a culmination of a rising trajectory for Slonina who only made his senior debut towards the end of last season. In his first season as the starting goalkeeper, Slonina has kept 10 clean sheets, which is tied for second most in the league.
“I joined this Club with ambitions of playing at the highest level and it’s been a dream come true to wear the Chicago Fire jersey,” said Slonina. “This Club has become my second home, my second family, and there are so many people that have played a big role in helping me get to where I am today. I’m so thankful for all the support that I’ve received from my family, coaches, teammates, and everyone associated with the Club."
His performances throughout the season is one of the reasons the Fire are still within a shout of the MLS playoffs despite a rough patch. They are unbeaten in their last four matches and find themselves in eighth place, only two points behind FC Cincinnati for the final playoff spot.
While Slonina’s time with the Fire may be coming to a close, he wants to leave on a positive note by helping the team reach the postseason and perhaps win a championship.
“To the fans, I want to thank you all for supporting a local boy from Addison. You have inspired me to work my hardest day in and day out” said Slonina. “I promise that I will continue to give everything in these final 11 games to help get us back into the playoffs and compete for a championship.”