In its search for a general manager who can align sporting operations from its first team right through its youth academy, Minnesota United decided Khaled El-Ahmad is worth the wait.
The club last week hired him to replace fired decision-makers Adrian Heath and Mark Watson. It did so uncertain when El-Ahmad's current team — Barnsley F.C. in England's third division — will find replacements for him as CEO and sporting director and release him from a contract that expires next summer.
"I don't love that from a timing perspective, but I believe 100 percent he is the right candidate," Minnesota United CEO Shari Ballard said Wednesday. "He's the person I wanted in the job. Having a bit of a delay is worth the tradeoff in my judgment."
Ballard calls El-Ahmad's arrival to start work full time "TBD," during an off season when decisions on contract options, free agents, draft evaluations and, most importantly, a new coach soon must be made.
Until then, El-Ahmad will help make those decisions along with Ballard and, among others, current staff members Hank Stebbins, Sean McAuley, Manny Lagos as well as ownership.
"He's not here full time, so he's not making all those decisions," Ballard said in a media teleconference. "But he has the ability to have input on that."
About a timeline, Ballard only said the head coach will be hired by preseason training, which begins in early January.
"People are communicating really well," Ballard said. "I have a lot of confidence in the people already inside the club. We're aligned how we're thinking about things. I'm super happy the way things are going."
Ballard said El-Ahmad, 42, convinced her after their second interview — and before a visit to Minnesota — both because of his work and life experience.
The son of a Lebanese father and Czech mother, he was raised in Sweden and played and studied collegiately at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Professionally, he has been an agent, a video guy, scout, recruit, CEO and scouting director. He has worked for City Football Group that owns powerful Manchester City in England's Premier League and New York City FC in MLS.
He also speaks at least five languages in such a multicultural sport.
"Once I had my second conversation, he rose to the top of my list," Ballard said. "Then it was about whether we could get him."
The Loons did, even if it will take some more time.
"I'm impatient by nature, too, and if I were our fans, I'd be going crazy probably because I get it, people care," Ballard said. "I don't love it, but am I losing sleep over it? Absolutely not. I want him here for what he's going to do for the club. I like his energy. I like who he is as a person. He's great technically, but he'll also be a great leader for the club."