Official: Union sign Tranquillo Barnetta

Photo: Daniel Studio

It’s official: Philadelphia Union have signed Tranquillo Barnetta.

On  Wednesday afternoon, the club announced the signing of the 30-year-old Swiss international, who has been linked to the Union for weeks and began training with the team on July 24 in what was described as an opportunity to get to know the team.

As per usual, the terms of the deal were not announced. However, the signing announcement said Barnetta arrives on a free transfer with the deal involving the use of Targeted Allocation Money, which means he will not occupy a Designated Player spot at present. He will officially join the roster pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.

How the Union will open up an international roster spot for Barnetta — by releasing an international player, securing a green card for a player on the roster, acquiring an international spot via a trade with another team, or some other means — remains unclear.

Union technical director Chris Albright said of the signing, “To add a player of Tranquillo’s quality will help us tremendously in what we’re trying to build. He’s a player with a real pedigree who chose to continue his career here in Philadelphia over other options. His experience and leadership will also be a great addition to our group as we push for the playoffs and make a run at The Open Cup.”

A left winger with pace who can also play centrally, Barnetta began his professional club career with hometown side St. Gallen in 2002. He moved to Bayer Leverkusen in 2004, making 187 appearances and scoring 23 goals through 2012. He then was signed by Schalke 09, where he scored 3 goals in 44 appearances. His time in the Bundesliga included a loan spell with Hannover 96 in his first season with Bayer Leverkusen, during which he made seven appearances while scoring 3 goals, and a season-long loan to Eintracht Frankfurt after signing with Schalke, during which he scored 1 goal over 22 appearances.

A member of the Swiss national team since 2004, Barnetta has scored 10 goals in 75 international appearances and was a member of the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Swiss national team.

News of Barnetta’s signing first arrived in a report from SI’s Grant Wahl published less than an hour-and-a-half before the official announcement from the Union.


  1. Great signing! Excited to see him combine with Maidana and Noggy (when he gets healthy).

  2. Where did we get the extra international slot?

  3. yes have some

  4. WestmontUnion says:

    Great signing, and a real quality addition who can hopefully give us multiple seasons of competitive action. I still view this as a cheap signing by Sak/Sug as they used league money to complete this deal. When we’re in the mix for a young South American who commanded a $2M transfer fee, I’ll stop feeling like Sak/Sug are being propped up by League money and aren’t completely mismanaging the Union.

    • there is no question that this team is mismanaged but i have absolutely no problem with smart free transfers using league money to supplement a good player’s pay. i would say the more often they can make moves like this the better

      • Agree, and id say this definitely qualifies as a “moneyball” signing, ala the Sapong trade – acquiring an undervalued asset for comparatively small outlay.

      • Moneyball = desperate and poor.

      • Soccerson says:

        He hasn’t started playing yet. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

  5. This seems like a fantastic signing in our area of greatest need. Probably too late to help this season, but will be great anyway, especially for next season. I wonder if the Union and M’Bolhi agreed to mutual termination of his contract to open up the international spot.

  6. Great One says:

    Nothing bad to say about this, we desperately needed a winger of quality and experience, great job by the FO.
    Not to be a cynic, but it is kinda funny that we found a guy on free transfer AND are using special free league money to pay for him.
    Smart move though, gotta hand it to them.

  7. I cannot wait to see this guy serve a cross to Sapong and/or Nando.
    This is a great signing, and a huge step in the right direction.

    • Amen to this.

    • I think this move will allow Nando to shine.
      Right now, because opposing defenses are not concerned with our wing players, they can devote a lot of players to beating up our forwards. Nando and CJ are constantly doubled up with big, physical CBs.
      Now, with a player of this caliber on the wing (or playing in place of the injured Nogs), they must take a player away from the striker to cover Barnetta, making life easier (even if just a bit) on the striker.
      Look. Say what you want about the front office. Facts show, though, that they may not be as clueless as complained of. Two years ago, our midfield was a mess, they went and got Chaco, Nogs, and Edu. Last year our striker situation was lacking, enter CJ and Nando. This year, our wings are weak…voila, Barnetta.
      They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t so blind that they don’t realize how thin the roster is. I’d expect that Vittoria ($400k) and M’Boli ($375K) are coming off the books next year, and with that money can come depth where we need it.

  8. So Carlos Valdes was the first domino to fall, acquiring Tranquillo Barnetta is the 2nd domino, could the International Spot that needs to be vacated be M’Bohli?

    If M’Bohli is gone, then were the rumored “other targets” start to fall into place?

    It would be nice to see more pieces coming into the club and a picture/outlook for where things are headed. I am still not sold that Curtin is the right manager for this job, and Chris Albright is NOT a Sporting Director.

    Hopefully the right dominoes begin to fall and this club begins to look like and compete like professionals and not look like a bunch of guys who run around really hard.

    • Look, Jim is obviously green as a coach at this level, but he clearly is a knowledgeable soccer mind, knows the MLS game, and has talent. Has he made his share of mistakes this year? Of course. But, do you see the potential for him to grow with a team like this over the next few years? I sure do. I think it would be a huge mistake to replace him…let him grow with this team and let him have a big say in molding this roster. Now, is there an argument to be made that the team needs a more experienced Sporting Director than Albright? Absolutely. But, Chris should work hand in hand with this experienced individual so that when it’s his time, Chris can either take over here or go somewhere else. I don’t like to jettison, just for jettisoning purposes. Nowak and Hack? Both needed to go. But Jim? Hell no…talented guy who just needs a little experience. And we’re not winning anyway this year, except for maybe the Open Cup. So let him grow and learn…in Philadelphia.

      • My only counter point is that the league has moved beyond the level that Jim played at, and to be quite frank the Union look (on the field) more a kin to MLS version 1.0 than 2.5. I was hoping Jim would have been the understudy to a more experienced coach that had a philosophy that was in-line with how the club wants to move forward. Jim then could learn on the job without any pressure and grow from within. Then either get promoted into the Manager role, or become a manager for another team. Either way it’s better for the growth of the players, better for the growth of the management staff, and better for the growth of the club. However, this FO is abject sh*t and consistently cuts off its nose to spite its face. Having Jim and Chris fumble around for the foreseeable future is Not the Answer, and truly does a disservice to themselves and to the actual growth of the club. I am not one for “knee-jerk” solutions (of which the Union are guilty of plenty), but real dynamic changes need to be implemented before the competition completely leaves the Union behind. The Civil War and WWI were so bloody because tactics didn’t match technology… out grew the other faster than anyone wanted to admit. The train left the station, and now the Union need to react before it derails or goes way of the Dodo.

      • WestmontUnion says:

        Ian, I completely agree with you (MLS 1.0 standard at best with his tactics, subbing and eye for talent).

        VDS, while it’s nice to be sentimental about a ‘local guy’ and think that Curtin will, with time, get more technically astute and improve his soccer IQ, unfortunately that’s just not going to be the case. Curtin has done well to mold a team with no depth into a just about watchable group of players however next year the league will be even better and under Curtin resigning players like Fred, Casey and Carroll and playing Wenger when he’s clearly not at the level to make a starting 11 in the MLS, all proves we need to move on. As with NYRB and Petke, sentiment does not win out. Hiring Marsch was a great decision and he formed without big name signings a great squad that players an attractive style of football. We need to bring in a coach who can raise the level of tactical play and skill level, while having a better eye for talent to bring in new players.

      • Really? Curtin doesn’t know Jack Shit about coaching at this level!

  9. Hard to argue with this. The guy is a quality 2nd tier player. Sign a bunch if quality second tier players… Have a system/philosophy for them to thrive in and good things can certainly happen.
    Next on my wish list….not pissing away 2 and 3 points when we carry a lead in a game…. Start doing that regularly and just maybe…….

  10. He asked for #85 with plenty of “better” ones open? This is off to a bad start. (That’s a joke, of course)

    • It is his birth year. 1985.
      I think his past numbers were 7 (Carroll), 16 (Marquez), 27 (Pfeffer), and 25 (was Williams).
      I guess he didn’t want to take the old number of the player moved to help fund his purchase and was respectful enough to not ask any current player to give their number up.

  11. Dr. Union says:

    Barnetta is a good signing I will agree with that having seen him play a bit. But more needs to be done this roster is still a mess and we still need a new FO, that will never change. Can’t say I am happy yet because pressure still needs to be put on this FO. If the FO gets rid of M’bohli pulls off a trade to get (Poku from NYC or Tchani from CLB or someone in the mid) and a defender then I will say they are making some progress. They also need to pull some international roster spots out of nowhere somehow.

  12. Credit where credit’s due, this is a very good signing that I was thoroughly unconvinced was going to happen as of a week or so ago. What is also encouraging is that clearly Barnetta saw something here that he wanted to be a part of, turning down what would certainly be more money to play in England or Spain. That at the very least speaks to a positive culture in the dressing room and his opinion of the coach, right or wrong.

    • +1. It is heartening that guys from Europe like Nogueira and Barnetta are interested in coming here. Speaks well of both the team and the city. It sounds like Barnetta, who’s spent his entire career in Germany, really wanted to live in the US for a change of pace.

    • Well said, 100% agreed.

  13. Dr. Union says:

    I doubt he would get more in England and Spain. From my understand of the new targeted allocation money and his apparent value he is likely making $625,000/yr with likely a 5 year deal would be my guess. In Europe I see him getting a deal like that but at best for 2 years. I mean he only played 22 games last year I think. Hopefully he can make it through a whole season for the union. Plus some moves by European players are made more for their families to move to the US.

  14. The Black Hand says:

    This is more like it. Not going to save this campaign…but a strong move for next year. Now, sign Hercules Gomez and we’re on to something.

  15. Great signing. Still work to do, but it’s a good start

  16. The Chopper says:

    Going to throw this out there just because I think it needs to be said. Kudos to Chris Albright. Yes we need a sporting director, general manager, head of soccer operations whatever you want to call it, but in his first year on the job Albright has ably navigated the very difficult terrain of MLS signings and transactions.
    It’s not easy and he will be quite valuable if a non MLS person comes in as the new boss.

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