New York City FC officially has a massive hole to fill in its attack.
A few days after Alexandru Mitrita was the only player allowed to leave the club for international duty, NYCFC announced Thursday the designated player will join Al-Ahli Saudi FC on loan at the end of his current stint with the Romanian national team.
The loan runs through January 2022, ruling Mitrita out for the remainder of this MLS season and the next. The 25-year-old may have played his last match for NYCFC last Saturday, when he scored two goals in a road win over Inter Miami, as the deal includes an option for the Saudi Arabian club to buy out his contract.
Mitrita is tied for the team lead in goals this season, matching right back Anton Tinnerholm with four. With fellow attacking players Maxi Moralez and Héber recently out with injury, Mitrita seemed to be settling into a steadier role in the offense.
Earlier this week, however, the club announced Mitrita had traveled to Romania for the current FIFA international window with no mention of a potential loan, citing a personal matter as the catalyst for an exception not granted to other players called up in this period. Reports from Saudi Ariabia linked the winger with Al-Ahli Saudi FC soon after.
"It has been a very challenging time for me and my family. My wife and I are expecting the birth of our first child in the coming weeks and she was not able to be with me in New York," said Mitrita in a statement released by the club. "I want to sincerely thank the Club for allowing me the opportunity to play football and be with my family. From day one the support from our fans has been excellent and I want to send love to all of the supporters. I wish the Club and my teammates all the best for the rest of the season."
Mitrita’s departure gives NYCFC an open spot for a designated player and international player in 2021. NYCFC paid a reported $8.5 million transfer fee to sign Mitrita from his home country in 2019. According to a report by the Athletic, NYCFC will receive a $2 million loan fee.
"Due to Mitri’s personal circumstances during this pandemic, we felt it was the best move for all parties at this time to loan him to Al-Ahli," said club sporting director David Lee in a news release. "Given the current fixture list, he would have missed the majority of NYCFC’s remaining 2020 regular-season matches as well as a number of potential playoff games. This loan allows Mitrita to continue playing competitive football while also attending to family matters which we know are a priority for him."
In two MLS seasons, Mitrita played 41 matches, starting 32 times, and scored 16 goals with four assists. His most memorable performance came in NYCFC’s 2019 home finale, when he recorded his only MLS hat trick in a 4-1 win over defending champion Atlanta United FC.