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Gregg Berhalter Confirms Columbus Crew Intent to Sell Giancarlo Gonzalez

Giancarlo Gonzalez became one of the best defenders in MLS in a short time. Now it appears he will continue his career with Italian side Palermo.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Two hours before the Columbus Crew kicked off against the Houston Dynamo, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter announced the inevitable transfer of Giancarlo Gonzalez to Palermo of the Italian Series A.

"Giancarlo is en route to Italy to finalize negotiations with Palermo," Berhalter said to open the press conference.

It has been reported the fee agreed upon is $5 million, which would be the highest ever received for a departing MLS defender. Per league policy, the terms of the deal will not be disclosed.

"Without commenting specifically on the amount, I would say that's pretty accurate," Berhalter confirmed.

There has been immense speculation about Gonzalez's future with the Crew after the defender's performance in the 2014 World Cup. He was an essential piece in Costa Rica's surprise run to the quarterfinals, making a penalty kick in a shootout as well.

The rumors swirled as Gonzalez returned as one of the best defenders of the tournament. Earlier this season, Berhalter admitted discussions and an offer from English Premier League club Fulham F.C., yet the bid was turned down. This time around, the offer was considered to good to refuse.

"It leads us to a deal that was very difficult to turn down considering that eight months ago we paid a small fee for him," Berhalter said.

The Crew boss said earlier this week, the money from a Gonzalez transfer would be divided. He said Columbus must pay the league back for the initial fee paid, a small percentage goes to Valerenga - Gonzalez's former club - and then can be put towards the soccer side of things in Columbus.

"Financially, we now have a big chunk of allocation to work with which helps with the long term building of your team," Berhalter said. "You talk about having that backing that lets you go beyond the salary cap, so we have that for some years to come."

"Then you have funds you can invest in soccer operations. What we've talked about was building a first class organization and that's from the top down."

Berhalter mentioned having scouting resources and enhancing the academy system.

With the departure of Gonzalez comes monetary benefits, but leaves a hole in the Black and Gold's back line in a crucial part of the season. Berhalter believes they have cover in their ranks.

"Tyson Wahl has started 100 games in this league; he has a lot of experience. As our right back position starts to get healthier, [Eric Gehrig] can move to the middle. We already have Michael Parkhurst, an All-Star caliber center back. So some of the pieces are there.

Berhalter did admit Columbus could also make a move if they find the right deal.

"If the right piece came along, we'd certainly look at that. In terms of that position, I don't think we feel the pressure to add someone right away."

The Crew will now turn its attention to life without Gonzalez, who scored his first and only goal in MLS in last week's 4-1 win. The Black and Gold played well defensively during the Costa Ricans' time in Brazil, earning three shutouts over that stretch.

If all reports are true, Gonzalez's time may have been short in Columbus but his impact could be felt on and off the pitch long after his departure.