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Johnny Exantus still open to signing with Red Bulls


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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."


  1. The $20,000 question.

    If you are 18 and you get a full ride to a college – that nets out to what $80k-$120k over four years? But you still have to pay for housing and expenses right?

    So minus the housing/food costs – what you get for free is a college education – which has intangible value.


    18 and you take a $20k salary or $35k+ GenAdidas salary. You still have to pay for room and board like you would in college – so that is a wash.

    So you are left with $20-$35k+ per year in earnings – with more money added from appearance bonuses – and anything you can earn in soccer camps over the 4 months between November and February.

    Even if you wash out of a pro career after 4 years – you are still young enough to go back to college – and frankly you probably will apply yourself even moreso as a result of being more mature – having traveled – and had to handle your own affairs etc.

    If you are smart – you’ve lived off of your per diem – and banked your earnings and with that money – can provide your own scholarship to a good school

    The only scenario where you take a risk by turning pro at 18 – is if you felt you could develop better playing college ball – which increasingly is not turning out to be the way kids are finding the best aveuneus into the pros.

  2. Does anyone really know how good these kids are? If they were so talented, foreign clubs would have been trying to swipe them from the academy. This is not to say they don’t have any ability, but I won’t lose sleep if X leaves to play for a fourth division side. But I do agree the rules in mls are idiotic

  3. Yeah, I’d like to jump in and clarify. The club can sign as many kids as they want to developmental deals. Meaning Johnny X would have to swallow his pride and earn his chops getting paid the development wage. I think the Red Bull would give him that deal now, a developmental deal that is. It’s been reported that Kessel turned down a developmental deal.

    What it boils down to is that these kids know how much they’re worth, and that is more than the developmental salary, so they’re going to hold out for the full salary.

    The catch is we can only offer 1 full salary every 3 years. And while the red bull may want to sign Johnny X to a GA deal, in doing so they risk losing every young prospect due for a full team deal in the next 3 years. I think they’re going to wait and see if the MLS changes the rules (bigger developmental salary) before signing someone to a GA deal and wiping out their youth system.

  4. If he feels Belgium will offer more opportunities, let him go.

    It’s interesting how people talk about developing youth in this country, but if teams keep low-balling them, the top prospects are going to go somewhere else.

  5. Look the red bulls have 4 maybe 5 prospects, but remember, they are just prospects…they arnt the next eddie gavens and danny szetelas and mike magee’s who were playing in the pros at that age…sure they are good, but remember until the developmental contract goes up in amount paid to the player per year, its going to be hard to give a gen addidas and senior spot to a guy who maybe just isnt ready. Does everyone want each team to have 4 18 year olds on it every year, playing in every game….i think the level would drastically decrease, and mls would lose to USL alot more. I believe if Jonny Exantus wants to go to europe, then he should do so. Because even if he signs with the red bulls, whats the chances that he ever plays…how many of the 10 developmental players on the red bulls ever play anyways.

  6. How about signing “gardeners” and “drivers” (or what not) to “personal services” contracts. Then, uh, they kind of show up in uniform one day. What’s good for the Becks, is good for the gander …

  7. Ives, is there a possibility of Red Bull loaning some of these guys out to RB Salzburg to play on their reserve team? I know MLS may not go for that, and that it could require a contract that would take away college eligibility, but seems like Red Bull has some options open to them that they should at least try to get guys like Johnny X and Kassell some playing time against better competition. Might speed up the learning curve on whether these guys are worth signing or not.

  8. personally i think that the team should be able to sign as many academy players as they wish, just so long they fit under the cap and roster space… which they can however, it takes the team to take a chance on a player…. cant be any worse then bringing over an overly-aged beyond prime player just b/c he used to play for X-team….

    also, i think if a team wants to sign your academy player and he wants to go, that team should pay a set price your team’s services for developing the kid…. call it a transfer fee if you wish, say 200k?? this would stimulate the idea of youth development more…

  9. Can someone please explain the rationale behind MLS allowing only 1 signing per 3 years???

    Shouldn’t the whole idea of team youth acadamies be for a team to develop their own players? Hell if a kid has been in the academy for 3 years, the team should be REQUIRED to sign him or release him. Thats enough time to determine if the player will be useful.

    Posted by: Lee | September 23, 2008 at 02:40 PM


    Teams can sign two players this year and three next year. They can only use one GenAd contract every three years. It is believed the academy limit on number of signings will go beyond three the year after next (well it surely will with the new CBA)

    players in the academy for a year are tied to the adult club, unless the team signs the maximum players out of the academy in any given year, then they are free to negotiate (once they reach 17 and have graduated high school) with any other MLS club for the duration of that year.

  10. lee- its not 1 every 3 years

    its 1 Gen. Adidas player every 3 years… as i stated above, this prevents a club from labeling them as thus and the league picking up the paycheck, then allowing the team to spend more of its cap on other players since G.A. dont count towards it…

    from what i understand, the team could theoretically sign 3 kids from their academies before other teams could pluck them in the draft?? but the 1 every 3 yrs is directed to Gen. Adidas

  11. with all due respect, MikeK, would you? would you give up a free ride (or mostly free at least) to college for $20 grand and the chance of something better? one bad tackle and you are flipping burgers. If this was the son of the kid next door who asked your advice, would you suggest giving up all other opportunities to play in a league where people leave to join other careers simply because they aren’t paid as much as your average receptionist? if you’ve got some money behind you, then sure, take a flier. but otherwise, play it safe and go to college, or find another opportunity. This is why the GenAd spots are so valuable, if you wash out (which is more likely than not) you still can do college.

  12. Is it supposed to make sense to me that the league is losing players to international matches while they develop domestic players that never get signed and go off internationally.

    The only way it could get better and the circle would be complete is if Johny Exantus goes to Belgium and ends up becoming a Belgian national team player then he comes back to the MLS as a highly paid player and misses 5+ games a year for international dates.

  13. I think the limitation on the Academy signings is a huge limiting factor as to why academy’s arn’t developing faster but there are financial aspects the league has to worry about.

    Why not just make an exception that owners can pay for contracts of kids out of the academy’s with their own money (ala DPs) up to some reasonable amount. I don’t think Red Bull would have a problem with forking over 125k a year to sign top prospects in the NY/NJ area. Same with the other big owners.

    But if this becomes another “parity” issue then chalk one more up for stupid communist soccer.

  14. That maybe true Eugene, but what happens if Exantus does get signed by a European Club and he does light it up. We all know any prospects or future talent needs to have a chance to show what he has. At that time Mo Johnston loved what he saw and wanted to sign him up a.s.a.p., but sadly at that time these Child Labor Laws and the league rules denied Johnny X that chance. It’s sad, but that was the situation.

    Still these rules that signing a player from your youth academy and not signing another one in the same year is bogus and disgusting.

    If Exantus is frustrated, I don’t blame him. Sadly this isn’t RBNY’s fault, this is the league telling the club to use your senior rosters spots carefully.

    The designation of Roster Spots has to be changed as well as the roster should be expanded for senior spots. The Internationals are a start, now it’s time to remove the Dev contract and just add these player to the main roster.

  15. Can someone please explain the rationale behind MLS allowing only 1 signing per 3 years???

    Shouldn’t the whole idea of team youth acadamies be for a team to develop their own players? Hell if a kid has been in the academy for 3 years, the team should be REQUIRED to sign him or release him. Thats enough time to determine if the player will be useful.

  16. So this was quite obviously a bluff type move. He’s threatening to walk to Europe and trying to force the team into a decision. Divisive, but I see where he’s coming from. He might get his way… But then we lose Kessel. Esh…

    Can’t the kids be humble and take a developmental deal?

  17. For those who don’t know, there are a number of interesting prospects that the Red Bulls could sign out of their youth academy (Exantus, Kassel, Hines, Blacido, perhaps others).

    It would be silly to sign Exantus simply because he’s the most visible or because people have heard of him instead of signing the kids that are the best qualified.

  18. Bottom line is if the club feels this was the right player to sign, they would have signed him already or they will sign him soon. The guy is trying to leverage the Red Bulls into more than a developmental contract on the basis that otherwise he’s going to a Belgian 4th division team?

    Doesn’t sound like much of an ultimatum to me. If he really wanted to play for the Red Bulls, he would start with a developmental contract and work his way up from there. The club obviously hasn’t thought he’s worth more to this point. Perhaps the club is wrong, but there is no evidence to indicate that at this point based on Royal Racing of Montegnee’s interest!

  19. I hope the GenAd rule for academies changes in the next CBA. It’s ridiculous. Punishes teams for spending money on trying to develop their own players, which is what the league should have been doing 5 years ago, if not from Day 1.

  20. nuck- “If the RedBulls have 5 quality prospects the rules should encourage the kids/program.”

    i understand your issue with the rules, i have the same… however, i can see MLS’s reasoning for limiting the Gen. Adidas spots…. for every prospect the US has, how many actually pan out?? if academies could drop Gen. Adidas spots on any prospect and watch them flop the MLS would feel the impact…

    not to mention with G.A. spots not counting towards their roster cap, the team could load themselves on gen. ad. prospects and have more cap space to spend on a starting XI….

    limiting the G.A is simply financially responsible of the MLS… if the Redbulls want the kid, perhaps they should offer him the G.A or simply an senior spot.. otherwise quit your whinning Bulls..

  21. nuck: there is no requirement, far as I know for developmental deals only to prospects, that’s just the only thing the team has felt like offering so far. Senior spots are precious, and you better be damn sure the guy can play first.

  22. Why would MLS limit the number of GenAdidas players through development programs?

    If the RedBulls have 5 quality prospects the rules should encourage the kids/program.

    What is MLS afraid of – NY/NJ having an advantage over the Revs who don’t have an academy program yet? The rules should encourage the Revs to start their own program pronto – not reward them for it as is the case now.

    I mean – only being able to sign prospects to Dev contracts is ridiculous – and given how unpredictable young players are – to force an MLS team to have to hem and haw trying to use their one slot on the absolute best player – is counter productive – and likely to miss promoting the kids who develop into special players.

    Clint Dempsey at 18 would not have been picked by an MLS team under these conditions.

  23. what are they waiting for on the GenAd spot? is there someone in the pipeline more impressive than Exantus? They wanted him at 16, but aren’t willing to pay more than $20k at almost 19? ridiculous. if he’s good enough, sign him, if not, let him go. at almost 19, he should be a freaking professional already if he’s going to be. he’s only two weeks younger than Jozy, and still playing high school ball?


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