Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina is one of the most exciting prospects in Major League Soccer. Less than a year removed from becoming the youngest starting goalkeeper in league history, the 17-year-old Chicago Fire youth product has already garnered interest from Europe’s elite. According to renowned football reporter Fabrizio Romano, a Gabriel Slonina to Chelsea move was in the works before the London club was hit by UK sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Romano reported on Friday about Chelsea’s interest in the youngster, saying the Blues were working on a deal to sign Slonina for around $7.5 million this summer with the plan to loan Gaga back to the Fire until either June or December of 2023.
Chelsea were in advanced talks to sign talented Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina [born in 2004]. The plan was to sign Slonina for €6/7m fee, then loan him back to Chicago until 2023 #CFCTalks have now broken down due to UK sanctions.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) March 25, 2022
Unfortunately for Slonina, the talks stalled after the UK levied sanctions against Chelsea and its owner Roman Abramovich in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been accused of committing war crimes by targeting civilian populations in its attempts to depose the Ukrainian government, and most of the world has joined together to both condemn Russia and impose economic punishments against Russia and its wealthy oligarchs, including Abramovich. The former Chelsea owner gained his billions in wealth in Russia and has been linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin; he is now in the process of selling the club.
Slonina, who turns 18 in May, has conceded one goal in four appearances with the Fire this season. Despite his age, the Addison, Illinois, native has already filled out his 6-4 frame with 194 pounds and has shown impressive maturity.
“He’s 17 but he’s mature beyond his years,” Frank Klopas said of Slonina last year while Klopas was interim Fire manager. “That’s been really impressive to me. I have no doubt about his quality. That’s never been a doubt. You see him in training every day, and he’d make saves, and you’d have to look again because the things that he does, sometimes you kind of shake your head but then he does the stuff almost every day.”
Eligible to represent Poland through his parents, Gaga has played for the U.S. through various youth levels, most recently with the U-20s at the Revelations Cup in November. He received his first senior USMNT call-up in January, though he’s yet to receive his first full cap.
Slonina is worth keeping an eye on for U.S. and European soccer fans. Whether he ends up at Chelsea (where he’d probably spend the next five years getting loaned out) or at another club (Atlético Madrid has shown interest), Gaga’s upward trajectory makes him a likely target of European clubs in the coming months and years.