Jamaican defender Kemar Lawrence’s transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht has been finalized, sending the standout left back to Anderlecht for a reported fee of $1.2 million in a deal that was completed just before the close of the European transfer window.
The Jamaican signed a three-year deal with the club, signaling his first move to Europe.
NEWS: New York Red Bulls Transfer Kemar Lawrence to R.S.C. Anderlecht
Thank you, Kemar.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) January 31, 2020
The transfer ends a five-year stay with the Red Bulls for Lawrence since joining from Jamaican side Harbour View. Lawrence totaled 132 combined appearances for the Red Bulls, scoring four goals. However, after totaling 25 appearances or more in his first four seasons with the Eastern Conference club, Lawrence only made 12 in 2019.
“Kemar has had ambitions to play in Europe and we received an offer that makes this mutually beneficial for the club,” Red Bulls Sporting Director Denis Hamlett said. “We wish Kemar the best for this next step in his career.”
The 27-year-old Jamaican international has been one of the best defenders in MLS since emerging as a standout with the Red Bulls during his five seasons with the club. He earned MLS Best XI honors in 2018 as a key figure on a Red Bulls defense that was the best in MLS, and a unit that helped the Red Bulls win the 2018 Supporters’ Shield.
Lawrence is the latest high-profile starter to leave the Red Bulls this offseason, with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles both let go after the 2019 season, and Murillo, who was sold in December. Wright-Phillips has yet to sign with a new team, but has been in camp with Los Angeles FC, while Robles has joined Inter Miami.
Lawrence’s departure comes amidst rumors of continued efforts by English Premier League club West Ham United to acquire USMNT centerback Aaron Long, with recent reports emerging that the Red Bulls rejected another bid last week.
The Red Bulls had already begun to make contingencies for a potential Lawrence departure, trading $100,000 in allocation money to move up to the 10th overall pick in the 2020 MLS Draft to select Marquette left back Patrick Seagrist. The Red Bulls also announced on Thursday the signing of English right back Mandela Egbo to provide some fullback depth.
The addition of Egbo could allow the Red Bulls to deploy Kyle Duncan at left back until Seagrist is ready to be a regular starter. Rece Buckmaster is another option at right back.