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Johnny Exantus, the Haitian-born striker and former star of the Red Bulls Academy team, has left the Red Bulls Academy team and has been linked to Belgian club Royal Racing of Montegnee, but that doesn’t mean he has given up on playing for the club that he has spent the past three years developing with.
Jules Gama, Exantus’ guardian and cousin, attended Red Bulls practice on Tuesday and revealed that Exantus is still open to signing with the Red Bulls if the circumstances were right.
"This is still a possibility," Gama said of Exantus signing with the Red Bulls. "This is where he wanted to be for years, for two or three years. It’s what he’s worked hard for.
"It’s just the fact that after waiting so long, like everybody else, he wants to look at other options," Gama said. "Johnny would love to play for the Red Bulls, but it’s got to be the right situation."
Reports linked Exantus to the Belgian club Royal Racing of Montegnee after the club released a statement that it had signed him. Acccording to Gama, Exantus is in discussions with Royal Racing, and is set to travel to Belgium soon, but has not signed anything binding and is exploring a variety of options.
Exantus first made headlines in 2006 when he turned heads as an academy player training with the Red Bulls first team. The Red Bulls were interested in signing Exantus to a first-team contract at the time but labor laws and league rules prevented them from signing him.
With professional soccer not an option, Exantus has spent the past two years playing for the Red Bulls Academy team and Columbia High School in New Jersey. After turning 18 last November, Exantus figured to have a contract offer from the Red Bulls at some point, but the club has expressed reluctance with signing Exantus or any other academy player to anything but a developmental contract. Teams can sign one academy graduate to a Generation adidas contract, but if a team uses that mechanism on a player, it can’t sign another academy graduate with the same mechanism for three years.
Tired of waiting, Exantus left the Red Bulls academy program this summer and began discussions with Royal Racing of Montegnee, a professional club that markets itself as an alternative to college soccer. Exantus will travel to Belgium this fall and is considering joining the club, which serves as a player development program that puts players on the fast-track to European work permits and offers players the chance to be seen by European scouts.
"He’s anxious because he feels he should be in his second year as a pro already," Gama said of Exantus. "He’s already here, this is already home. He thinks he’s ready and he wants to get (his career) going."