Oscar Pareja said that it would take something extraordinary to keep Daryl Dike from returning to Orlando City this season. Well, how about this?
Dike notched his third goal in the English Championship for Barnsley on Saturday, that stunning upper-corner blast you see above, leading the Reds to an eye-popping seventh win in a row, bringing them up to sixth in the standings with 12 matches left this season. Dike hasn’t just made an impact, he’s made himself the headline during his loan stint in the English second division, with three goals and an assist to this point.
He’s not only become a regular starter, he’s practically the focal point of their attack.
Though Orlando City surely isn’t ready to part ways just yet with its rising star, this may prove to be the beginning of the end of Dike’s tenure with the Lions in MLS.
Dike’s loan with Barnsley runs through the end of the Championship season in May — which is also dependent on whether Barnsley makes into the promotion playoffs. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the deal also includes a $20 million option to buy (for 80 percent of his rights, meaning Orlando would also retain a bit of any future transfer fees). It’s highly unlikely (unless Barnsley manage to shock the league and earn Premier League promotion) that we’ll see that fee triggered, at least not at that price, since the two clubs can always negotiate something else.
At this rate, Orlando City could not have asked for any better of a loan stint. The opportunity for Dike was always presented with the possibility of high upside for the Lions: either he goes overseas, plays decent soccer for a couple of months and comes back fit and ready to hit the ground running in MLS; or, he goes over there and makes a strong impression — like he’s currently doing — and raises both his profile and transfer value in the process.
There’s no question that Dike is important to Orlando’s plans this season. The Lions are coming off their first playoff appearance in 2020 and are no question primed to realistically compete for silverware this upcoming season, and having the 20-year-old would make things a lot easier. If the squad has to, they can certainly afford to play on without Dike for more than just the first month as they have a load of options up top to choose from.
But again, everybody’s preference is that the second year forward is out there on the field, improving on his eight goals, four assists performance last season.
In the short term, it’s fair to expect that Dike will return to Orlando and suit up in MLS for at least a bit this year. Long term, however, is a different story. Dike’s surely putting himself on the radar of some much bigger clubs right now — clubs with more money to spend than Barnsley. He’s proven himself as someone that can easily adopt on new stages, not only in England but during his rookie season out of college in 2020. His size, strength, confidence, and ability to find the net in almost any situation makes him very valuable to any club looking for those qualities in front of goal — which narrows it down to just about everybody.
This upcoming summer transfer window will be an interesting one to watch as well. The last year has been hard on clubs throughout the world as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the financials of just about everybody — no sport or business was safe from it’s damaging effects. But as the world slowly heads towards recovery, with vaccines going into more arms around the world everyday, bringing in the possibility of a more normal scene later this fall/winter, for clubs looking to take advantage of the market and find those highly-talented yet cheaper players, this could have a strong benefit for Orlando City. A buyer’s market could open up a lot more opportunity for MLS and its younger players, including Dike.
For now, the Lions are moving forward with the expectation that Dike will return to the US and be with the club again at some point in May, roughly a month into the MLS season. Pareja said on Thursday that “our intention is to bring him back unless something extraordinary happens.”
“What that means is financially, for him and the club, at some point the move makes sense,” said Pareja. “We’re always supportive to our players, especially our American players have that experience to go overseas and have that good experience.”
There’s no doubt that it’s been a good experience for Dike so far, and he’s done some pretty extraordinary things along the way already.
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