NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC announced Wednesday the signing of Ivorian striker Aké Loba in a club-record transfer from C.F. Monterrey. The transfer fee ($6.8 million according to MLSSoccer.com‘s Tom Bogert) more than doubles Nashville’s previous club record transfer fee of just under $3 million for Hany Mukhtar. Loba is signed to a Designated Player deal through 2023 with a further option for 2024.
“Aké is an exciting attacking prospect that offers the qualities that our team looks for in a striker, he is a constant goal threat and has the ability to create and finish in a number of different ways,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “We are excited to be able to add him to this group, and about what he represents for our club.”
Nashville’s pursuit of Loba has been lengthy. The club was first linked to the striker in December 2019, when he was on loan to Querétaro from Universidad San Martín. Nashville and Liga MX side Cruz Azul were both in negotiations for the player, when Monterrey came in late and outbid both.
Loba has been on Nashville’s radar even longer, with interest going back at least as far as 2018 when he moved to Peru after two seasons playing in his native Ivory Coast.
Loba has amassed 100 appearances between his spells in Peru and Mexico, scoring 36 and assisting eight for a goal involvement every 140 minutes. At 23, he’s still very young, with several years to go before he hits his prime.
Fast and versatile, Loba is immediately the most dynamic option in Nashville’s striker pool. Capable of playing on either wing as well as through the middle, he has elite speed and can stretch the field unlike any player on the roster. He’s always a threat to get in behind. While he likes to play on the back shoulder of the defense, he’s also capable of mixing things up and occasionally dropping deeper to get involved in the buildup play or open up space for a wide player to make a vertical run.
Loba sets himself apart from other Nashville strikers with his ability and willingness to take defenders on one-versus-one. He’s a more direct dribbler than other Nashville strikers, more along the lines of a Hany Mukhtar or Randall Leal. He’s consistently capable of creating a half-yard of space for himself, either rounding the defender or taking a shot.
Loba will give Nashville a much different dynamic up front. He’ll stretch the field with his pace, but has the ability to link up and connect with the midfield, and will be harder for defenders to put on an island. He’s exceptional at picking out pockets of space in the box, an incredibly valuable trait for any goalscorer.
Through his 5,908 minutes, Loba has averaged 0.71 goals and assists per 96 minutes. Compared with MLS players with at least 700 minutes since 2019 (and not including penalty kicks), he’d rank 13th, behind only Jarosław Niezgoda, Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Adama Diomande, Zdeněk Ondrášek, Emanuel Reynoso, Heber, Kevin Molino, Raúl Ruidíaz, Brian Fernández, and Diego Rossi.
Nashville have acquired an international roster spot from Portland Timbers for $230,000 in General Allocation Money. Aké Loba will have his media introduction tomorrow before their match against Atlanta, and will be presented to fans before kickoff at 7:30.