Nashville’s long-awaited, high-dollar goal scorer is here: Venezuelan Jhonder Cadiz has signed with Nashville SC, and will be cleared to compete for the team after his International Transfer Certificate and mandatory quarantine period are squared away.
The 25-year old is on the books at Benfica in Portugal (after multiple previous stops at lesser-known clubs in the country’s top flight), but spent the majority of last season on loan with Dijon in France’s Ligue 1. He will join NSC on a loan agreement as well, with an option to buy at the conclusion of the loan term if it works out.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty from the club release before we further break it down:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 9, 2020) – Nashville Soccer Club announced today the acquisition via loan of Venezuelan international striker Jhonder Cádiz from Portuguese powerhouse S.L. Benfica. The 25-year old joins Nashville SC as the third designated player through June 30, 2021. The club has the option to exercise a permanent transfer at any point during the loan.
Cádiz will travel to Nashville and be available for selection pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate, P-1 Visa, and completion of any mandatory quarantine period under local government and Major League Soccer health and safety protocol.
“I’m very excited to join Nashville SC and to be a part of this inaugural year for the club,” said Cádiz. “I’m incredibly motivated to showcase my game in Nashville and Major League Soccer and to help the club reach every goal in 2020 and beyond.”
“Jhonder has been an outstanding striker at the highest of levels in both European and South American competitions, and we think his game is tailor-made for Major League Soccer,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “The combination of his athleticism and clinical ability around the box made him heavily sought after. We feel fortunate to be able to add him to our club.”
Since his professional debut with Deportivo Petare FC at age 16, which included an assist against Mineros de Guayana on April 29, 2012, Cádiz has become a promising goal scorer with experience on the biggest stages. The center-forward has competed at the highest level in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana before playing in Europe in France’s Ligue 1 and the Portuguese Primera.
Cádiz made his European debut with CF União Madeira in 2015, and since then he has been a mainstay in Portugal’s top league of soccer. His highest statistical jump came in the 2018-2019 season where the Venezuelan scored a career-high 10 goals while adding two assists in 35 matches for Vitoria Setubal.
The young striker joined S.L. Benfica prior to the 2019 campaign before going on loan to Dijon FCO in Ligue 1, France’s top division of soccer. While in France, Cádiz became the fifth Venezuelan player to score in Ligue 1 over the past 50 seasons when he netted the winning brace in a 2-1 victory over 2020 UEFA Champions League Finalist Paris Saint German on Nov. 2, 2019.
At the international level, Cádiz has made two appearances for the Venezuelan National Team. The striker’s debut came at 23 years-old on Oct. 16, 2018 in a 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates. His second international appearance came as a sub in the final 45 minutes of a 1-1 draw against Ecuador on June 2, 2019.
Benfica has clearly been trying to get Cadiz out and playing in the short term without selling him and losing his rights, with Nashville one of many suitors (including in Peru, Belgium, Spain, and smaller Portuguese clubs) that have been in the mix over the past few weeks. The front office pushed as hard as they have for any target – harder than they did for some rumored transfers that never had a realistic chance of getting over the line – and with that, you have your DP striker.
Cadiz fits a particular profile that I think is a high-value one in MLS: players who are still reasonably young – 25 is no spring chicken for a striker, but he should still have a decade in his legs if the caliber of play remains high enough – and have European experience in leagues just below the “big five” (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain), or experience in one of those prominent leagues, with some mixed success. Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez is the poster child, a Venezuelan initially coming on loan from Torino before a full transfer. Nashville SC has a pair of them, as well: Randall Leal (since he was signed directly from Saprissa, the biggest club in Costa Rica, a lot of folks forget that he had a brief Belgian adventure between stints with Los Morados) and Hany Mukhtar (plenty of success in Denmark, couldn’t quite make a major impact in Portugal, coincidentally also at Benfica). Mukhtar’s situation is slightly different in that he’s actually from Europe, but Cadiz is more in the Martinez/Leal mold as a Western Hemisphere native who headed across the pond to make it big.
Even if he didn’t become a star in Europe, that profile of player can have a lot of success in MLS. The n-values are too low to compare the player archetypes, but you can probably expect more success than the aging DP star we still see occasionally. This vein of player also comes at a cheaper cost – and with potential sell-on value if that’s in the cards long-term.
So, let’s drop some Cadiz highlights aquí to see what type of player is in the fold:
That’s two videos and one thing that may jump out immediately: not a ton of scoring. For a club that’s lacked a pure finisher… Cadiz does not necessarily appear to be that. The numbers bear it out: just two goals and two assists for Dijon (league-only), and nine goals and a single assist for Vitória Setúbal (again, league-only) the previous season in Portugal. Those respective numbers basically scale with his minutes (he played about three times as many minutes in Portugal as he did in France), but they do not tell the tale of a guy who’s getting buckets.
The film tells a couple different stories. First, he’s tall, but a relatively lanky guy nonetheless. Listed at 6-3, he has the height of a target striker, but not the width or mass to make you expect that he would be used as a hold-up player. Spoiler alert: thanks to his technical ability on the ball and spatial awareness, he still has box-out capabilities that allow him to play in that way. He also has decent long speed, and the technical ability to carry the ball while at those speeds. He has the vision to see teammates running and the knowledge to pass the ball off to them (while staying on the run as part of that offensive push).
What he does not seem to have is a rocket shot. A lot of his attempts were actually from his weaker (left) foot in the highlights, but even with the right, he’s more about finessing his looks, and effort inside the box, than the ball jumping off his laces, even to the degree of a Daniel Ríos (a player he’d ostensibly be upgrading upon). He seems to prefer linking with teammates, even from pretty dangerous positions, than being a “YOLO I’m shooting” guy. Of course, he does present the aerial threat (both in hold-up play and as a shooter) that you’d expect from a guy his height.
So the question is two-fold: does Nashville SC want a big body who’s basically a hold up guy and link player (when they have similar guys with a little less height already), OR can Cadiz be more than that in MLS? I think the answer to both parts is probably “yes.” Of course, if part two is affirmative, it doesn’t matter what part one is. Nonetheless, both scoring and being a guy who can unlock the potential of Leal and Mukhtar is the goal here.
Going forward, I would expect Nashville to complete the purchase if the year goes well, and you can see Cadiz’s thought process in coming to the States, too: it’s not quite the Miguel Almirón path, but success in MLS (with a club that wants him, and needs him to perform well) can lead to more opportunities overseas than would continuing to hope he can convince a European club to continue giving him minutes while on loan.