Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan will move to Major League Soccer to join the Chicago Fire, his Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang announced on Thursday.
Signed from Atletico Madrid exactly a year and a day earlier, the 31-year-old endured a nightmare start to his career in China with an 8-0 thrashing suffered at the hands of Shanghai SIPG on the opening day of the season.
He recovered to play 28 league games for the newly promoted team with his two goals and seven assists helping Dalian finish 11th, four places above the relegation zone.
"From the perspective of the overall planning of the club and its long-term development, after agreeing with the player, Nicolas Gaitan joins Chicago Fire," Dalian said in a statement that gave no details of the deal. "The club would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to Gaitan for his contribution to the team -- and wish him all the best in the future.
"With outstanding technique and excellent organisational skills, he was a key member of midfield, playing a positive defensive and offensive role."
Gaitan was a firm favorite among Dalian fans but fell victim to the Chinese Football Association's regulations that limit each club to just four foreign players.
His exit follows the arrivals of Marek Hamsik from Napoli and Emmanuel Boateng from Levante earlier in February, with Zimbabwe's Nyasha Mushekwi and Yannick Carrasco of Belgium already on the club's books.
The Chicago Fire begin their MLS season at the LA Galaxy on Sunday.