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Reports link Zenga to Red Bulls (UPDATED)

Walter Zenga (Getty Images) 

The New York Red Bulls coaching search has long been believed to involve two types of coaches: ones with MLS experience and foreign coaches. There now appears to be a candidate who fits both descriptions. That man is Walter Zenga.

The former New England Revolution goalkeeper and head coach has fashioned a modest coaching career in Italy, having enjoyed a good run with Catania before taking a more high-profile job with Palermo. He was recently let go by Palermo and is now being linked to the Red Bulls job.

(UPDATE-SBI has been learned that Zenga has NOT spoken with the Red Bulls about their coaching vacancy, but he IS interested in returning to coach in MLS. What does this mean? You can expect a Zenga-Red Bulls meeting to happen, unless Red Bulls GM Erik Soler is already closing in on one of the European-based candidates he is supposedly eyeing.)

New England fans who remember Zenga's failed tenure as Revs player-head coach in 1999 will probably scoff at the idea, but Zenga has worked hard in the past decade to establish himself as a well-respected coach in Europe, with a return to the Serie A sidelines a very real possibility. That is assuming he doesn't come back to the United States.

Would Zenga really return to MLS? You can bet on it.

Sources have told SBI for some time that Zenga has been wanting to come back to the United States, and while it might seem unlikely that a man who is a candidate to return to the Serie A coaching ranks would choose to come coach in MLS, Zenga is apparently eager to live in the USA.

Would a Zenga hire be good for New York? If the Red Bulls can convince Richie Williams to stay on as an assistant to Zenga, the club could wind up with the best of both worlds. They could have the big-name coach who could draw respect and interest from foreign players, while also keeping an MLS-savvy assistant who could help Zenga make up for the fact that he has been away from MLS for a decade.

Just to clarify, I still think hiring Williams is the best move New York can make, but since the Red Bulls look intent on hiring a foreign coach, they could do worse than Zenga, who while he has bounced around as a head coach (ten teams in ten years), he has enjoyed his share of success.

What do you think of the possibility of Zenga coaching the Red Bulls? Share your thoughts below.


  1. lalas and agoos PLAYED in europe….THEY DID NOT COACH!

    playing and coaching are two totally different things abroad

    dont complain about this, NYRB want a foreign manager and its obvious by now

    if you have a problem with him, give another suggestion b/c its not likely you can get a decent european coach with MLS experience

  2. Kasper, get on your BBerry and get Zenga’s Italiano ass over here in DC. Red Bulls would do themself a favor by hiring Richie Williams as their manager

  3. Zenga? I can’t say it wasn’t predictable. I knew they were going to pick another foreign coach. I’m sure they would have been much better off with Richie Williams. Even without Williams, this is a lousy pick. How many foreign coaches does this franchise need before they get the message? With rare exception I think that MLS teams are better off with American coaches who can relate to the players better and better understand the league, and will not be infuriated by it.

    Look forward to more poor results and a frustrated coach making excuses and blaming the league for his team’s problems. I also don’t believe he will care much one way or the other, and it will just be the contract he’s after. After all, isn’t that his history anyway?

  4. The more disappointing aspect here is that there is not yet a coach and the draft and transfer window are rapidly approaching. This does not leave a warm and comforting feeling after the season that we just endured. The bulls need to make some personnel changes that start with bringing in some fresh talent that can work together to build off the set pieces that already exist. Letting Agoos make these decisions will lead to more acquisitions like Khano Smith and Leo Krupnick that did nothing but kill our cap money.

  5. I wouldn’t mind Zenga at all… Of course I think Richie is the best choice right now, but if we could get Zenga and keep Richie as a glorified #2, that would be great… I really like him when he coached Catania, but like many have said, who knows if he’s really that good of a coach

  6. good point. the fact that 4 teams passed on Williams sounds like there is something about him that just won’t convince a major league GM hire him as a head coach.

  7. It could be nice to see Zenga come in, and take over the club. I would think that coaching in Italy for a while would have him bring in the Italian style of football, and help improve the Red Bulls deffense. Will he bring in some names, I realy dont think he will be the man to go out and say hey Luca Toni, if you cant get a team in Italy why dont you come to the MLS. I do think that he could get a player or 2 from the lower table or 2nd division Italian clubs to come over. I do have to say that if the Red Bulls are going to get a international coach I say bring in Klinsmann. Theg guy is moving back to the US with his family, and the guy as already been living in the US for a while and does know how the leauge is run. I think he could help in bring in an international player or 2. I am just hoping that the team finds a coach very soon.

  8. I think I speak for most Revs fans when I say that yes, we do scoff at this idea. He was a brilliant keeper during his stint with the Revs but his coaching/managing skills left much to be desired. Hopefully, for RBNY, he has grown up and learned how to run a club.

  9. Sorry, I have to laugh everytime people talk about how much “RESPECT” a coach brings. The salary cap is low enough that only secondary foreign players whom are out of contract will be available.

    Occasionally, a top player (usually getting on a la Beckham or lundberg) may sign up for their own reasons, i.e. a last paycheck or the desire to do something different.

    But the coaches in MLS are not the reason why Ronaldo and Messi are not playing in the US/Can.

    Until the money starts flowing, the coaches won’t make too much of a difference on the talent pool.

    Zenga had a horrible year in MLS coaching. This isn’t a big hit on him given that coaches can only adjust so much of the talent in a single year and the short rosters guarantee that a string of injuries can decimate a team.

    But his fame strikes me as yet another publicity stunt. I’m not saying he can’t be a good coach in MLS, at all.

    But we’ll see.

    (SBI-I’ll have to disagree with you Matt. Established Foreign players have come to MLS to play for coaches they respect. Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Youri Djorkaeff both came to MLS and played for relative peanuts in part because of their believe in coaches Sigi Schmid and Bob Bradley. Bradley actually convinced Djorkaeff to come here and play for a fraction of what he could make in Europe.

    Now we can’t assume Zenga will get players to do that, but something tells me if there are players who are thinking about coming here to play and live in the USA, it might be an easier decision to make if the head coach is someone they know, respect and/or have actually heard of.

    There is also something to be said for the respect that will come from within the team for a known coach. Something tells me Thierry Henry might be more inclined to listen to and follow someone like Zenga, who had a storied playing career, than he would an MLS lifer he’s never heard of.

    Does that mean Zenga would be a good MLS coach? That’s tough to say, but I do think it’s safe to say he’s a better coach now than he was ten years ago when he was a player/coach with no coaching experience.)

  10. If the Red Bulls hired Jesus Christ himself, he would not be good enough.

    It’s an interesting choice. Zenga has obviously gained some experience coaching since has last stint in MLS. Just be grateful they are not talking to Lothar Matteus.

    Seriously, who are they going to hire that will make everyone happy? New York has had Zambrano, Bradley, Arena, Milutinovic, Parrera, Queroz?

    You guys have had some good coaches come through there. Some with MLS experience, some without.

    The biggest foreign coach failure was Ruud Gullit and that was because he was a bad choice in the first place. He likes being a media pundit in England anyways.

    Zenga just may be a good fit.

  11. Zenga is probably not the best coach, but he gets a lot of attention. The real reason he has bounced around is not necessarily that he is a bad coach…it’s where he has been coaching (in leagues that tend to fire everyone every year). In these leagues they fire everybody quickly. He did very well with Catania.

    Zenga is a big part of my soccer experience as he was a prominent player in Italy when I started watching soccer (including 1990 World Cup – his ass saved a tying goal against the US), pleyed and coached in MLS. He was/is a big deal and he is passionate. Having said that…I think he would last no more than a year in MLS. RedBulls could do worse.

  12. Interesting idea on both sides, with problems for both.

    For Zenga: does a move to MLS tarnish his chances at a return to a Serie A manager position? An “inferior” league might not boost his chances.

    For NYRB: what happens if he does want to get back to Europe quickly and he jumps ship after a year or two?

    (SBI-Former MetroStars head coach Carlos Quieroz went on to coach Real Madrid, Parreira went on to coach Brazil while Zenga already came from coaching in MLS to landing gigs in Serie A. If you already have an established name I don’t think it can hurt you.)

  13. Really, Richie Williams is just as unproven as an MLS coach as Zenga. The odds that they succeed are probably about the same.

    However, I think the Red Bulls clearly have more to gain by going with Zenga. The primary reason that most European coaches struggle in MLS is because they lack understanding of the league. To get a (relatively) big-name coach with top-level European credentials who also has MLS experience is about as rare as it gets.

    Also, there’s probably a reason why D.C., Toronto, and seemingly Chicago and New York passed on Williams. I think you’re pinning a lot of credibility to an experienced assistant who had a solid stint as an interim.

  14. Zenga is a terrible coach. There’s a reason for bouncing around and his successes amount to nothing notable. You make it sound as though he’s won some Serie A cups or leagues.

    Either they go with established MLS experience in a coach or a name everyone knows and commands respect.

    Saying Zenga would entice people over is way off the mark. Who has he been able to grab in 10 years of note?

    Terrible choice but at least they appear to be continuing their search. DC has been dead for a few days…

  15. Zenga won’t stay or last. It’s a disaster of a choice. And I sincerely hope Richie Williams has more self-respect than to accept being demoted again to assistant. We should have signed Zambrano. Best move Vermes ever made for his team. Sigh. Here’s to another season of below par soccer striving for mediocrity. (At least it will be in a nice stadium.)

  16. As a fan of the league, but not a NY fan, I think this would be a nice move. It would be one more thing to add some attention to this club opening a new stadium, and if he is terrible, at least Stoler will have had some time to get caught up on the league and maybe make a good hire for yr 2 of the new stadium. Plus who knows, maybe the infusion of new coaching would do the league some good.

  17. Nothing says stability then a coach whos managed 10 teams in 10 years….

    (SBI-Given New York’s track record, doesn’t that make it a perfect marriage?)

  18. lalas had experience playing in italy and general managing. but he still stinks. likewise with agoos.

    experience doesn’t equal ability. would you want eric mangini coaching your nfl team?

  19. Good idea. Keep R. Williams as assistant coach and the Red Bulls could have made their 2nd good move in their history (the first: building the new stadium).

  20. you know what else could work — hiring richie williams.

    (SBI-As much sense as that move makes, it seems pretty clear the Red Bulls aren’t going to do that.)

  21. I think that this could be a great fit – a coach who has coached at a high level in Europe who also has been a player in MLS. He might have some concerns now that he will be a coach and not a player, but he understands the league and the USA. If he comes, I think it could be a great hire.

  22. Interesting….”Spiderman” was always a character. I recently read he had is team drop their shorts while in the wall on free kicks. Zenga is never short on new ideas.

  23. What am I saying, NO don’t do it Red Bulls! Hire someone just out of high school with no soccer experience. That’s who you need. If you hire Zenga you might be competitive next year.

  24. Hope they pull the trigger, we need some new blood in the coaching ranks. And he won’t be completely oblivious to the way MLS works since he’s played here before.

  25. Agree that it would be a good hire meeting many needs. Now if we can get Waldo @ the Fire and Harkes @ DCU, then the rivalries just get better, with Nowak at Philly.


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