BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Michael Ballack has long been rumored to join the New York Red Bulls as their third designated player. That assumption may have just been put to rest. According to an interview with Goal.com, the midfielder's agent, Michael Becker, claims Red Bull General Manager Erik Soler has other plans.
"Michael would love to play in New York. However, it seems that Soler already made massive promises to Stephen Ireland in October. This is an unbelievable incident," Becker told Goal.com. "There are a lot of places where Michael believes he would be a good fit, but in New York with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, that's a title-winning team in his mind."
It is no secret that the Red Bulls are in the market for an attacking midfielder. Ballack, 35, has had a long history of success in the role, but his recent stint with Bayer Leverkusen has seen him suffer a drop in form.
While speaking to the media earlier this year, Soler made clear that he was looking for a younger midfield option in his "20's and early 30's," seemingly dismissing the possibility of obtaining Ballack, who turns 36 this year. Becker alluded that New York believes his client would be incapable of playing the attacking role they sought, and perhaps would be better suited in a defensive capacity
"Ask Erik "clueless" Soler why he thinks Ballack is a central defender or just a holding midfielder. It's a pretty exclusive point of view," Becker retorted. ""Why would you go for a no-name player who no one knows, who hasn't started in months, when Michael Ballack is available?"
Ireland, 25, does not have the resume of a Michael Ballack, but he does represent a younger, more dangerous option with a greater upside both on and off the field. It is no secret that Ireland has shied away from the international spotlight – retiring from the Irish National Team in 2007 after an incident where he lied about a death in the family to tend to his wife's miscarriage made national news. He has toiled in Aston Villa over the past two seasons, struggling to find playing time. Prior to that, he featured prominently for Manchester City. Nevertheless, the explosive midfielder brings with him the workrate and creativity New York believes will better fit their needs.
Regardless of Soler's opinions, Becker expressed confidence that Ballack would land in the United States at one point or another. "July 16 (the day the MLS teams can sign players from abroad) is around the corner," Becker said. "I'm sure you'll see Michael playing somewhere in MLS at that stage."
After these comments, the chances of that place being New York are all but non-existent.