Speaking at his first official press conference as a Chicago Fire player, Shaun Maloney has revealed that he chose MLS over a Premier League return largely due to head coach Frank Yallop’s flawless sales pitch.
Maloney, 31, was out of contract at Wigan Athletic at the end of the season, and had attracted interest from former club Celtic this month, with manager Ronny Deila hinting to the Daily Record that a potential approach was in the works.
The Scottish playmaker was also on the verge of a £1 million move to Leicester City but, after further talks with Yallop, believed the opportunity presented by Chicago was too good to turn down.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I met and spoke with the manager in early January and on a personal level I got on very well with him. We discussed the vision of the club and I just bought in straight away. I’m very motivated and happy to be here.”
Yallop added: “Shaun had choices. He had other clubs where he could’ve turned, but said ‘no, I want to go to Chicago.’
“I think that says a lot about the fellow sitting next to me that he wants to come here and start a fresh challenge, but not to just see it through – he wants to win. That’s a great trait to have, and it makes it a great signing for us.”
A regular for the Scotland national team at present, Maloney also revealed that he had received the support of manager Gordon Strachan prior to making the move across the Atlantic.
“I spoke to him pretty early in January when I decided that this move was what I wanted,” the ex-Aston Villa man added. “I spoke to him again a couple of days before I travelled over just for a second reassurance and no problems. He was actually very excited for the move and the new challenge.
“The national team means the world to me, it’s a huge motivation, so it was good that I got the green light from him, there were no issues whatsoever with it.”
The Fire have had a busy offseason as they look to rebound from 2014’s disappointing ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, bringing in fellow Designated Players and forwards Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam from Swedish sides AIK and Helsingborg, respectively, as well as ex-Southampton favourite Guilherme “Guly” do Prado.
With all that attacking firepower on the roster, Maloney is confident that his new team can challenge for an MLS Cup title right off the bat.
“I’ve seen the results from last season, and I think the team’s very different this year,” he noted. “They’ve made a lot of new signings and I’m very hopeful I can play a big part in changing the path for this club.”