CHICAGO – Even after he completed his match on Saturday with another clean sheet for the 2022 Major League Soccer season, all the talk was about the goalkeeper’s future destination.

Even Chicago Fire FC manager Ezra Hendrickson knew something major was going to happen with Gabriel Slonina sooner than later.

“Something is very close to happening and I think the kid deserves it. But there’s no signature yet or anything so I really can’t speak on details as far as that goes,” said Henrickson of Slonina on Saturday. “But I’m happy for the kid and it shows that we have some good talent, some good young talent here in this organization.” 

After weeks of rumors, it finally happened on Tuesday, as the 18-year-old from Addison had the biggest transaction of his promising soccer career.

Chicago Fire FC confirmed the transfer of Slonina to English Premier League club Chelsea FC for what they described as a “multi-million dollar” transfer fee, the highest in club history

Per multiple reports, including Fabrizio Romano, Slonina has signed a six-year deal that has a base of $10 million and could go as high as $15 million. No official terms were released by either club.

Slonina was in London to sign the deal early this week, Chelsea’s Twitter account posting a picture of him with the jersey of the club. The goalkeeper will remain with the Fire for the rest of the 2022 MLS season, which was expected even before the deal was signed.

“I joined this Club with ambitions of playing at the highest level and it’s been a dream come true to wear the Chicago Fire jersey,” said Slonina in a statement released by the Fire. “This Club has become my second home, my second family, and there are so many people that have played a big role in helping me get to where I am today. I’m so thankful for all the support that I’ve received from my family, coaches, teammates, and everyone associated with the Club. It’s been an incredible honor to work alongside each one of you.”

“To the fans, I want to thank you all for supporting a local boy from Addison. You have inspired me to work my hardest day in and day out” continued Slonina. “I promise that I will continue to give everything in these final 11 games to help get us back into the playoffs and compete for a championship.”

Slonina started playing for the club’s youth team at the age of ten and signed his first Fire contract in March of 2019, becoming the second-youngest player to sign with an MLS team in history at 14 years old.

On August 4, 2021, he became the youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS match at 17 when he registered a clean sheet in a scoreless draw against New York City FC. Slonina played in 11 matches in his rookie season as he registered four clean sheets for the club in taking over as their No. 1 goalkeeper.

In 23 matches this season, he’s registered ten clean sheets, including Saturday’s scoreless draw with Atlanta United FC, while allowing 28 total goals.

“We’re very proud and happy to see Gaga reach this milestone moment in his career,” said Chicago Fire FC sporting director Georg Heitz in a statement from the club. “Since joining the Club, Gaga has embodied what it means to be a Chicago Fire player. In addition to his incredible talent, he is mature beyond his years, extremely hard working, and a fantastic teammate.

“Gaga is a role model to many young aspiring footballers in Chicago, and this transfer demonstrates that a player can progress to the first team from our Academy before joining one of the biggest clubs in the world.”