With Nottingham Forest return rapidly approaching, what's next for in-form CanMNT defender Richie Laryea?
Through 10 weeks of MLS action, there haven’t been many better performers across the league than Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea.
Sitting with two goals and three assists through nine games, Laryea has already been named to the league’s team of the week three times in 2023, a sign of his strong performances.
In particular, he’s really hit his stride as of late, scoring two goals and nabbing one assist across his last three games. All while remaining his usual dependable self defensively, Laryea’s been a key pillar in Toronto FC’s efforts to push up the table.
Yet, while TFC will certainly be pleased with how he’s been performing, it’s all led to a key conundrum for them to answer - what does this mean for his future?
Currently on loan from Nottingham Forest, his deal is set to expire on June 30th, and the reporting surrounding the terms of the agreement seems to suggest that there is no purchase option for TFC.
As a result, that means there’s a very real possibility Laryea heads back to England in less than two months, which would be a big blow for TFC. Certainly, they’d like to keep him, but if he keeps playing like this, it’ll only make things harder for them to do that.
At the same time, as we know in soccer, things can change quickly. This time last year, Laryea was slowly trying to break his way into a Forest team he’d recently joined on a three-and-half-year deal, after three excellent seasons with TFC.
Safe to say, many did not expect him to be back with TFC anytime soon, yet within months, that ended up happening.
So might history repeat itself? Here’s a look at what Laryea’s surging form could mean for his club future, as he gets set to reach a key crossroads on that front very soon.
Return to Nottingham Forest:
The one guarantee in all of this, Laryea will definitely return to Forest at some point. Will he actually stay there? That’s up in the air, but barring a hidden purchase option or something similar, Laryea should be heading back to Nottingham.
However, it’s yet to be seen what he’ll be returning to - a Premier League club or a Championship one?
As it stands, Forest remains in the Premier League, but are certainly in the thick of a fight to avoid falling back to the Championship, sitting in the relegation zone as of writing with four games to go. The good news is that just one point separates 16th and 19th, and 10 points between 12th and 19th, meaning it’s a wide-open race, but Forest are currently tied with the worst goal difference in the league, which is the first tiebreaker.
They’ve got a decent schedule across their last four matches, as they play 20th place Southampton and a struggling Chelsea side, but also play Arsenal, who’s in the midst of a title race, and a surging Crystal Palace.
Safe to say, it’s going to be a scrap for them to stay up.
Yet, if you’re Laryea, them falling down to the Championship wouldn’t be the worst thing to see happen. Part of the reason he was shipped out on loan was that the club had an absurd shopping spree when they went up to the Premier League last year, bringing in over 20 players that summer.
As a result, it left them to have to move on from those who were on the squad when they went up, such as Laryea, leading to his loan back to TFC.
If they were to go back to the Championship, however, they’d likely have to move on from some of the new arrivals, as a lot of their wages might not be suitable for a Championship club to carry, while several of them will look to move to other top-flight clubs.
After that, they’d need some new players to fill those holes, preferably ones who are cheap and Championship quality.
That’s where Laryea would step in. He didn’t play much in the Championship during his first Forest stint, seeing the field just five times, but he did show that he could certainly compete at that level in the 117 minutes he played, and certainly showed an ability to play against top players at the World Cup, so he should tick the Championship quality box.
Richie Laryea was arguably Canada's POTM today against Belgium. He balled out. In 74', he had:— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
12/17 passes (71%)
4 key passes
1 big chance created
2/5 duels won
Big showing from the #CanMNT FB today pic.twitter.com/2SzxwgqTuM
Plus, given that he’d cost the club nothing to bring him in, given that he’s just out on loan, it’s not as if they’d be breaking the bank to get him in, ticking the cheap box.
Safe to say, it’d make a lot of sense for Forest to look at him if they went down.
Not only that, it’d help Laryea immensely, too. In the prime of his career at 28 years old, it’d be a chance for him to finally make that step up to Europe many hoped he’d make with this original Forest move. Plus, given that the Canadian Men’s National Team is seeing more and more players make the jump to Europe, this will help him not just keep a spot in the team, but push for more minutes there, too.
That’s not to say that he wouldn’t get that if he stayed in MLS, especially given his red-hot form, but playing regularly in the Championship (or even the Premier League) would boost his cause immensely.
Therefore, keep an eye on this possibility, especially if Forest goes down, as it could make a lot of sense for both parties to revisit this after things didn’t go fully as hoped the first time around, allowing Laryea to settle at Forest on his second go-around.
Stay at home with Toronto FC:
At the same time, there’d be a lot of incentive for Laryea to want to stay in MLS.
Given his strong form, he’d be able to be one of the best in his position in the league, as he’s already been across the last few seasons.
Plus, he plays a style of play that suits TFC, as well as the league, as he’s well suited to the strong physical demands that playing in MLS can ask of a player.
Catching up on action elsewhere today, Richie Laryea scored this screamer to open his 22/23 account as #TFCLive got yet another draw, this one a 2-2 one with Atlanta— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) April 16, 2023
They keep finding points, but just aren’t getting the wins over the line#CanMNTpic.twitter.com/ubuixm5NnE
Having now played over 100 MLS games in his career, scoring nine goals and adding 18 assists, there’s no doubt that he can dominate the league.
Therefore, why not do that at TFC? Especially given the talent that TFC has, such as Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, he can have a chance to keep pushing himself in a competitive environment filled with top-level players.
A team that wants to push for trophies, Laryea would be a big boost in their quest, helping them push to that next level.
Plus, as a Toronto native, it’ll be a chance to keep playing at home while being surrounded by family. As someone like teammate Jonathan Osorio can tell him, that’s a big draw, as it’s not an opportunity many get in a career.
In the prime of his playing days, it can be a big risk to try and shake things up by going elsewhere, too, which is worth considering.
Therefore, you could see why a move like this would make sense. Forest could potentially recoup what they paid for Laryea, TFC could avoid losing a key piece on their team and Laryea could stay at home.
With his National Team hopes likely unaffected, too, it’d make a lot of sense on many levels, which is why this could be a potential solution for him. (Image Credit: Andy Truong, Toronto FC)
To new horizons?
At the same time, should Laryea want to return to Toronto, there’s one potential obstacle - money.
Per the MLSPA report, Laryea earned approximately $1.2 million last year, putting him near the threshold for a DP. Before he left at the beginning of 2022, he was on around $226 000, with TFC set to offer him close to $1 million at the end of 2021 before he chose to head to Forest for an undisclosed fee (of around $1 million).
Therefore, it’s safe to imagine he’d probably earn somewhere in that $1 million dollar range if he were to sign for TFC, which is reasonable.
The only problem, however, is that with Forest still having two years left on his deal, would likely sell him on for a fee. There, things get a bit complicated, as MLS typically counts fees as part of the contracts, meaning a big fee could make him a DP.
Given that Laryea went to Forest for around $1 million, it’d be fair to imagine them wanting a similar fee for him now, which spread across a two or three-year deal on a salary of around $1 million a year, could push him right up to the DP line.
TFC has a DP spot, so if he were a DP it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but typically teams in MLS don’t pay for DP full backs, so it’d be a bit of an unusual move. Plus, given some of the salaries they’ve paid for other players, it could be a bit tight on the salary cap even if he’s not a DP.
Therefore, if the dollars just don’t add up for TFC, it could lead Laryea to explore some different options.
GOAL 🇨🇦— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 26, 2023
OSO ➡️ LARYEA ➡️ JO DAVID 🎯
Just like @KristianJack wrote it up on our pre-game show:
- Instinctive timing ✅
- Run-in behind ✅
- One-touch finish ✅
And #CanMNT are up 1-0 ✨
🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/4Z5V4QhjDW
For example, some other teams in MLS were interested in him last year, and might have more room to make a potential deal work, if he wanted to stay in the league.
If not, there could certainly be some other clubs in Europe who’d be interested, such as some Championship clubs, or teams in other top European flights like Belgium, the Netherlands or more.
Plus, Forest’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis, also owns Greek giants Olympiacos, which could be a club that would make a lot of sense for Laryea to play at, as it’s a good team in a good league.
As a result, it could make a lot of sense for Laryea to make a move like that within Europe, especially if Forest stays up in the Premier League, allowing him to still get his feet wet and push to that next level.
Either way, one thing’s for sure with Laryea - a big crossroads is coming up for him, making it interesting to see where he lands after all the dust settles, be it back in Toronto, with Forest or somewhere else.