Austin FC “Did Everything” to Avoid Rigoni Release, Borrell Says

Sporting director discusses DP exit, next steps

Austin FC sporting director Rodolfo Borrell was candid in his account of how the club parted ways with DP Emiliano Rigoni (credit: Austin FC)

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The breakup between Austin FC and now-former designated player Emiliano Rigoni could have and should have been much cleaner, according to sporting director Rodolfo Borrell, who spoke to media Thursday afternoon in the wake of the club parting ways with the 31-year-old Argentine.

“Is this the ideal exit in this moment? No, it is not the ideal exit. Is this how I like to do things? No, it is not how I like to do things. But we were pushed to do this.”

Austin FC on Wednesday announced the contract buyout and subsequent release of Rigoni, coming after the winger had made 11 appearances for the club this season. Borrell confirmed that if Rigoni had made a 12th appearance, a clause in his contract would have automatically triggered an extension through the 2025 season.

Rigoni, who recorded just six goals and six assists across 58 total appearances since joining Austin FC in August of 2022, was the club’s second-highest-paid player, making just over $2 million annually.

Borrell said that Rigoni’s appearance clause, negotiated by Borrell’s predecessor, Claudio Reyna, was one of “lots of surprises” that greeted the Spaniard when he first dug into Austin FC’s accounting books upon taking the job.

“The shocking thing to me is how you make a DP that triggers a clause because of appearances. Because a DP is meant to be playing all the time,” Borrell said.

By the conclusion of the 2023 season, it was clear to Borrell that said clause was going to eventually become a problem for Austin FC. Rigoni – though by all accounts a hard worker and consummate professional – simply never made the kind of impact on the pitch to justify his high wages. So Borrell picked up the phone and got to work.

“At the end of last season, I’m calling the agent of Rigoni and I’m saying, ‘We need to find a solution. Because I don’t see it [working out with Austin FC].” By solution, Borrell seemed to mean another club to take on Rigoni’s contract.

“He didn’t find any solution. I found a solution. Two solutions. Two. Extremely good solutions,” Borrell emphasized. “For whatever reason, the demands were at the level that it couldn’t happen. So we did everything from our end. But for whatever reason, this was not accepted.”

Rigoni’s agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Borrell’s account of things.

The result was a sudden and unceremonious end to Rigoni’s lackluster two-year stint in Austin, but also a chance for player and club to move forward in their separate directions.

For Austin FC, that now includes an open DP position for the first time in Borrell’s tenure as sporting director. Wednesday morning, multiple reports including one from The Athletic’s Tom Bogert stated that the club was already close to filling that open position with 25-year-old Ghanaian winger Osman Bukari of Red Star Belgrade.

Borrell was unwilling to confirm such reports, dismissing them as “rumors” and even suggesting that a new DP signing may not be finalized before the end of this season. He shot down any suggestion that the club’s current form – Austin FC currently sits third in the Western Conference – would have any influence on the urgency to fill the open DP slot, despite the help that a high-priced player could provide in the short term.

“Players will come at the moment it makes sense to bring them. And I know it makes sense immediately to bring them. But I am going to bring what I believe are the right players. And if we can bring them today, it’s going to be today. And if it’s not possible, it’s going to be tomorrow,” Borrell said. “I am not willing to make panic decisions.”

For more Austin FC news and analysis, visit The Austin Chronicle's Austin FC hub. Follow The Verde Report columnist Eric Goodman on X: @goodman.

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