PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – At the stroke of noon Thursday, the Portland Timbers made official what fans have been fearing, and media has been reporting, for weeks: Diego Valeri is leaving the Rose City.

In a statement from the team, it was announced that Valeri, after nine years in Portland, is heading home to Argentina to play for his boyhood club, Club Atlético Lanús.

But Diego hasn’t played his last minutes for the Timbers yet. As part of the transfer deal, Club Atlético Lanús will come to Portland next year for a testimonial match and Valeri will play one half for each team.

In the team statement, Timbers owner and CEO Merritt Paulson said he doesn’t believe there has been a “more impactful” designated player signing in the history of Major League Soccer.

“He changed what clubs looked for in a DP [designated player] – not a brand to put fans in the seats and sell sponsorships, but a rising European level talent who chose to make America his home and legacy,” Paulson said. “In Portland, he has meant everything to us on the pitch and in the community.”

Since originally putting on the Timbers green and white in 2013, Valeri has amassed the most regular-season goals, assists and points. He also ranks second in team history in games played and games started.

“In Portland, he has meant everything to us on the pitch and in the community.”

Merritt Paulson / Timbers owner and CEO

Valeri was named the Most Valuable Player in MLS in 2017 and earned MLS Cup MVP honors in 2015 when he scored one goal in Portland’s 2-1 win over Columbus.

Valeri spent most of the 2021 season as a sub for the Timbers, who lost to NYCFC in the MLS Cup.

“There are no words to describe what Diego Valeri represents to the Portland Timbers and MLS. He gave being a Designated Player a new meaning, setting the highest of standards in the league,” said Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese. “It will be a strange feeling to not see him in our locker room.”