RSL’s former academy star and Liverpool youth product has had a breakout season with Real Salt Lake this year. What is in the cards for his future?
It’s been quite the year for 19-year-old attacker Brooks Lennon. When Lennon first arrived on loan from EPL side Liverpool, it was assumed he would be a depth a player, making occasional appearance for the first team while featuring for Real Monarchs in USL. That would never be the case.
Early injuries to Jordan Allen and Joao Plata forced the young player onto the field, and he hit the ground running. Getting his first minutes of action as a starter against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Lennon would go a full 90 in the match, and every match after that until being called up to the U-20 World Cup. Brooks has been a bright spot for a struggling RSL and opened up the World Cup play in South Korea with two assists in the U-20’s 3-3 thriller against Ecuador.
Lennon’s success has led to a clamoring of fans for his move to be made permanent. With the attacker being under contract with Liverpool until next summer, we look at the possibilities.
Lennon is currently listed on the RSL reserve roster in terms of his impact on the team’s salary cap, meaning he is currently making below the MLS Veteran Minimum Salary ($65,000). His placement on the reserve roster means he currently doesn’t count against the team’s cap (also making him one of the best bargain players in the league). That would surely change if he were brought in on a first team contract.
The MLS Player’s Union current lists Lennon’s salary at the reserve minimum $53,000. Fellow academy graduate and RSL attacker, Sebastian Saucedo lands on the senior roster and hits the cap for $100,500, which is a more realistic price tag for Lennon, at least as a minimum. For more comparison, NYCFC youngster Jack Harrison checks in at $165,000, LA Galaxy winger Jose Villareal at $105,000, and 2017 MLS SuperDraft’s top pick, Abu Danladi at $176,000.
Lennon would likely be on the higher end of that spectrum, closer to $200,000. With the signing of Jefferson Savarino, RSL is left with one more spot on the senior roster. There isn’t much salary information known about Savarino. We know he was brought in on loan from Zulia FC in Venezuela, he counts as a young designated player, meaning that his salary is greater than $200,000 or the transfer fee associated with him would pull his salary over the 200-grand threshold (once it was prorated).
Joao Plata was in the third designated player spot before Savarino was brought in, meaning it was more financially friendly for the team to buy down Plata’s contract with Target Allocation Money (TAM) instead of Savarino’s. That’s where things get tricky with Lennon.
Real Salt Lake’s Roster
Buying Lennon outright from Liverpool would require a transfer fee (something we’ll get into later). Should the young player be signed closer to the $200k range, a transfer fee would push him into a designated player spot. With the lack of information surrounding the salaries of Plata and Savarino, it is hard to say if RSL would have enough TAM available to afford all three players.
It remains to be seen what happens with Kyle Beckerman, who currently takes up the most TAM. Should Beckerman retire, those funds would best be used on his replacement (a story for another day), not a slew of wingers. Plata’s cost and salary may be available altogether, with rumblings of Liga MX interest coming out recently. Should Plata move on from the club, Lennon seems to be a solid replacement.
Brooks could miss out on a transfer fee altogether if he decides to come to RSL after finishing his contract with Liverpool next summer. The club would have to start the year without him, and it would also mean Liverpool decides to let him walk away with nothing in return.
Lennon at Liverpool
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Liverpool just secured a Champions League spot for the club’s 2017-18 season. Is Brooks Lennon a Champions League player? No, at least not currently. In fact, Lennon has yet to feature with the first team during his time at with The Reds. Will that change in the future? Who knows.
While Lennon has shown plenty of skill and promise, it remains to be seen if he is a top-tier EPL player, which is no slight. Lennon already plays at a high level, and his young age makes it difficult to say he isn’t Liverpool quality.
The English side may decide to bide their time, especially with Lennon playing so well for RSL and the U-20’s. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them offer an extension to the youngster before sending him out on another loan. Perhaps to a Championship side or to a smaller club elsewhere in Europe.
Competition at Liverpool
Brooks’ inability to break into the first team could be impacted by the player pool around him. Much of Liverpool’s success this season came from the play of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Philippe Coutinho, who are all just 25-years-old (Coutinho turns 25 in three weeks). Liverpool also has the contracts of young Welsh attackers Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson. Both are young (Woodburn is 17 and Wilson, 20), and were recently held from the Wales U-20 squad to participate with the senior team in World Cup Qualifying.
Outside of the heavy contributors and the Welsh duo, Lennon is stuck behind young attackers Divock Origi (22), Danny Ings (24), and Sheyi Ojo (19), Ovie Ejaria (19), Marko Grujic (21), and Rhian Brewster (17), who have all had first team appearances at some point.
A plethora of promising attackers is always nice to have, but it is not hard to see why Liverpool would accept a fee for Lennon to move on. A transfer fee would then potentially create a bidding war between RSL and lower-tier club’s in England or across Europe.
For now, RSL fans should just enjoy having the Casa Grande Academy star with the first team. We likely won’t get any real clues or answers about a permanent move until after the season. Hopefully, he will continue to play at a high level. Any Real fan would love to see him in claret and cobalt for the majority of his career.
One also has to consider what he wants.
Brooks is a young and promising player with plenty of talent, and likely the ambition to match. Should he decide to forego a permanent move to RSL in order to keep playing in Europe, it would be no surprise. Hopefully, he makes his way back to the Salt Lake Valley before his career is over. If he decides to stay with Real Salt Lake, the pieces are already in place for him to go down in club lore. Along with many of the mainstays who spent years playing in Rio Tinto stadium.