The Earthquakes have announced the signing of Georgian international midfielder Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili on a multi-year, Designated Player contract. Vako joins from Dutch side Vitesse, with whom he has tallied twenty-five goals and ten assists in just over a hundred league matches in the Eredivisie, and turned down multiple offers from Europe to join San Jose.
Vako was most recently on loan at Legia Warsaw in Poland and has also played in the Europa League and Champions League since his Vitesse debut as an eighteen-year-old in 2011. Additionally, he has notched five goals in twenty-three international caps for Georgia.
General Manager Jesse Fioranelli, who led the recruitment effort alongside Director of Methodology Alex Covelo and Head of Scouting Bruno Costa, fielded questions from Quakes Talk and other media outlets via conference call after announcing the signing.
Despite Vako’s lack of name-brand recognition, Fioranelli’s confidence in the quality of their addition is borne through the depth of their extensive six-month search. “When you sign a player that has the qualities of Vako, it means you are literally scouting dozens of markets and hundreds of players,” he said.
Vako is only twenty-four-years-old, lending long-term ambition to the move, but is already a proven goalscorer and creator. Fioranelli views him more as a second striker than an attacking midfielder but doesn’t want to “put a stamp on” Vako’s positioning as of yet.
“[Vako] has a lot of presence in the midfield but really dominates when it comes to imposing himself in the final third,” Fioranelli said. “We realized that we had a margin for improvement when it comes to creating goalscoring opportunities, so having looked at [Vako] for more than three years, from the time that he was playing at Vitesse, we were really excited when we knew that he was on the market and could reinforce our team.”
Although Fioranelli emphasized that no single player will define their season, he said that Vako is “has that spark that [they] have been looking for” and will offer unpredictability and creativity up top. Fioranelli deemphasized the role of media fanfare in the process of signing a DP, but he said that portraying the image of a young, forward-looking club was still an important factor.
“We strongly believe that the quality on the field is more important than any headlines that derive from a signing on day one because those types of things fade,” he said. “However, the lasting memory of a winning team is something people like to look back on.”
Fioranelli is “completely satisfied” with the current squad, but did not categorically rule out any further summer additions.
Vako will be eligible to play starting July 10th, which would make him available to play in a friendly match against Eintracht Frankfurt on the 14th.