By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001
Mutiny midfielder Carlos Valderrama is expected to sign a two-year contract extension with Major League Soccer in the next few days that likely will keep him with Tampa Bay until the end of his career.
Valderrama, 39, hinted the 2000 season may be his last because his contract expired. That changed after he had a league-high 26 assists last season and played in a fifth straight MLS All-Star Game. Exact terms of the contract were not released, but Valderrama likely will earn the MLS maximum of $215,000 per year.
"I think it's good for us," Mutiny general manager Bill Manning said. "He had a great season and proved he can still play. It was just a matter of whether he wanted to still play."
Valderrama did not arrive in Tampa from Colombia until Wednesday because of problems with his son's visa. He missed 10 days of training, but Manning said Valderrama may play 15-20 minutes in Friday night's exhibition match against the Glasgow Celtic.
Valderrama, a former member of the Colombian national team, is MLS' assist leader with 89 in five seasons. He spent the 1996 and '97 seasons with Tampa Bay before being allocated to Miami in '98. He returned to Tampa Bay during the '99 season.
Valderrama has played 70 regular-season games with the Mutiny, second to Steve Ralston.
UP FOR SALE: Manning said he will meet a second time with an Orlando investment group about a possible sale of the team. The meeting will be in early February at the MLS SuperDraft in Fort Lauderdale. The group will meet with Manning and MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Manning said this is the furthest negotiations with a possible investor have gotten since he took over a year ago. The private investment firm Warburg Pincus & Co., Inc. expressed interest in both D.C. United and the Mutiny last season, but negotiations for each fell through. MLS owns the Mutiny, Dallas and D.C.
"It's in the preliminary stages at this point and there is still a long way to go," Manning said.
As for a rumor the Buccaneers may buy into the Mutiny, Manning said, "No comment."
FRIENDLY MATCH: Friday's 7:30 p.m. exhibition against Celtic may draw as many as 3,000 spectators, mostly Celtic fans from around the United States, to the 4,000-seat Pepin/Rood Stadium. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for 19 and under and may be purchased through Ticketmaster at (813) 287-8844 or the Mutiny (813) 386-2000.