Chicago Fire forward Jhon Duran set to join Aston Villa for $18m

Aston Villa has agreed terms with the Chicago Fire on the acquisition of Colombia international forward Jhon Duran, the Premier League side announced on Monday.

A source with direct knowledge of the deal told ESPN that the Fire will receive a transfer fee of $18 million guaranteed, with another $4m if certain performance metrics are met, a record for the club.

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The Fire will also receive an undisclosed percentage of any future transfer. Colombian side Envigado, where Duran started his professional career, will also get an undisclosed cut of the fee.

The deal is contingent on personal terms being reached with Duran, as well as him passing a medical and securing a work permit.

If the incentives contained in the deal are met, the transfer fee will be among the three highest in MLS history, behind the $26m Newcastle United paid for Miguel Almiron in 2019, and level with the $22m Bayern Munich paid to the Vancouver Whitecaps for Alphonso Davies during the same window.

Duran, 19, had reportedly been on the radar of Liverpool, Chelsea, Benfica and Manchester United, yet it was Villa who won the race for the highly rated Colombian. Combined with the sale last August of goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina to Premier League side Chelsea for upwards of $15m, the Fire could receive as much as $37m combined from the two transfers.

Duran is currently in Colombia preparing to take part in the 2023 South American under-20 Championship. Colombia is in Group A alongside Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, and will open the tournament on Thursday against Paraguay.

The Medellin native made his professional debut back in 2019 with Envigado.

The source added that Duran caught the eye of Fire scouts in 2020 when they were scouting another player. He was transferred to Chicago in January of 2021 for a fee of around $2m with the help of MLS's U22 initiative that allows such players to have a reduced hit on a team's salary budget. At the time of the deal, he was the youngest international signing in MLS history.

He remained in Colombia with Envigado for another season before spending the 2022 campaign with the Fire, where he tallied eight goals and three assists in 28 league and cup appearances, though that production came in just 1,442 minutes on the field. Seven of those goals came after July 1, sparking a surge in interest from overseas clubs.

Those performances with the Fire allowed Duran to make his international debut for Colombia last September against Guatemala. He has since made substitute appearances against Mexico and Paraguay.