San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
La Sele

Giancarlo González, Costa Rica's unsung hero of the World Cup, heads to Italy in $5 million deal

Giancarlo González, the anchor of Costa Rica’s stalwart World Cup defense, will head to Italy’s top league in a record $5 million deal. The Columbus Crew defenseman will join Italian club Palermo after the organization agreed to the largest transfer fee in history for a Major League Soccer defender.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the $5 million transfer fee “will be split among the Crew, MLS and Gonzalez’s previous club, Valerenga of Norway’s first division.”

The final deal is supposed to be announced this week once González passes his physical.

While Keylor Navas might’ve been the heart of Costa Rica’s World Cup defense, González was the rock on the back line. He expertly ran the Ticos’ offsides trap that flustered some of the best teams in the world. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto played González throughout every minute of the World Cup, and he also had a starring role in Pinto’s scheme during qualifying.

González and the back line — with the help of Navas’ theatrics in goal — only allowed one goal during the tournament. And that goal came in the late in the match versus Greece when the Ticos were down a man due to a red card. González, 26, subsequently made one of the penalty kicks to defeat Greece and send Costa Rica to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in the country’s history.

The Guardian named González as one of the tournament’s “10 emerging players.” ESPN FC even named González (along with Navas) to the starting 11 of its all-World Cup squad, noting the defender’s unheralded role in the Ticos’ success.

Not one of the first names in world football to jump out at you, the Costa Rican defender has won an army of new fans with his efforts in the centre of a five-man defence that conceded only two goals in normal time. His vision and strength in the tackle were key reasons why the Central Americans managed to get to the quarterfinals. Columbus Crew might find a host of clubs willing to spend good money to take the 26-year-old out of MLS next season.

The prediction proved spot on with González now set to play in Italy’s Serie A. Six Costa Ricans are now members of clubs in the top four leagues in Europe (England, Spain, Germany and Italy). González will be the lone Tico in Italy. Joel Campbell (Arsenal), Bryan Oviedo (Everton) and Cristian Gamboa (West Brom) are in England’s Premier League.  Defender Junior Diaz plays for FSV Mainz 05 in Germany and star goalie Keylor Navas joined Real Madrid for Spain’s La Liga last month.

La Sele’s World Cup captain Bryan Ruiz reportedly is in talks with German club Werder Breman, so he could join Díaz at the Bundesliga.

Contact Matt Levin at mattcg+mlevin.disabled@gmail.com

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