The offseason brings transfer rumors. Most Crew SC fans are looking forward to the reinforcements that might be coming in. The prospect of losing players, however, is usually much less welcome news. The possibility that Harrison Afful leaving would be a big blow to a team that has has significant defensive issues in 2015.
Afful may have been the best right back in MLS since his arrival. He's a perfect fit for the Crew SC, he pushes forward with aplomb and is solid defensively. Head coach Gregg Berhalter puts a lot of responsibilities on his outside backs and Afful has been up to the task.
The shadow of a rumor
The Afful rumor hasn’t sprung up from nothing in the past couple days. The genesis might be traced back to an article on December 19th in GhanaSoccerNet.com.
In the brief article Afful is quoted "There is an option to go back and we are looking at the possibility." in reference to MLS and Crew SC.
Quality players are always in demand, so it's no surprise that someone would be looking into his availability, but this sounds more like a comment from a free agent. It's an odd statement since Crew SC exercised their contract option to keep Afful in town another year on December 7th.
That’s not the first time that Afful stated that he'd be out of contract but would like to stay in town for longer. In early October, Afful was quoted in an MLSSoccer.com article saying "I just hope I’ll be here for longer than this year and help the club to achieve trophies, that’s what’s important,"
The actual transfer rumor broke on Monday, with Ghana SoccerNet stating that Afful is on the cusp of joining Mersin İdman Yurdu of the Turkish Super Lig for triple his salary.
The rumor references that Afful's contract ends at the end of the year and he's moving on a free transfer after deciding to cash in. The story has no quotes from Afful, has no byline, and isn't sourced.
As far as transfer rumor stories, it's a mix of oddly specific on the transfer and vague on how they learned the news. It's only "discovered".
The Rumor Ends
A day later, Afful is quoted in Ghana SoccerNet saying "Those putting up those stories can’t be serious. I’m still a player of Columbus Crew. It was a short contract but I want to renew it."
The statement is doubly odd. The original source of the stories was Ghana SoccerNet and the rumors were shot down in the same outlet. Also, the quote again references that his contract has ended and he's looking to extend.
Columbus Crew SC did confirm Afful's contract situation in an answer to MLSSoccer.com's Andrew King:
Asked for clarification on the Afful situation, a #CrewSC spokesman provided: "Harrison Afful remains under contract with Columbus Crew SC."— Andrew King (@AndrewKingMLS) December 28, 2015
Fact and Fiction
Weighing transfer rumor truthfulness can be a guessing game. First, it pays to consider the source. Ghana SoccerNet repackages news for local consumption, but also appears to be moderately connected within the world of Ghanaian soccer. Perhaps Ghana SoccerNet is crafting something out of whole cloth, but it's also possible someone within Afful's camp is leaking these rumors.
GSN's stories have repeatedly mentioned that Afful is out of contract and it would be easy to dismiss this as a prime rumor mill story from an overzealous site since Columbus has confirmed he's under contract, but Afful has also repeated that his contract is coming to an end to the reputable Andrew King in a story earlier.
So while the truthfulness of the transfer rumors are uncertain, it is fact that Afful is under contract with Crew SC. Either he will return when training camp opens in January or a team will have to come in with a transfer fee to pry him loose. Columbus will have a top right back coming into camp or allocation money to replace him. Berhalter has a good track record either way.