Mike Petke

New York Red Bulls name Mike Petke new coach


I’m feeling a little wishy-washy on today’s MLS news maker that Mike Petke is the new sheriff in town around Red Bull Arena. The team named Petke, who has a long history at the club, its newest manager this morning.

I applaud the choice because it checks an important box, the one labeled “MLS experience.”  I am on the record with my disdain for hiring figures from abroad who couldn’t spell MLS if you spotted them the “M” and the “L.”  The league’s peculiarities and unique challenges can be difficult on even the savviest tactician.

So, good on the Red Bulls new upper management for acquiescing on that one, after once appearing determined to land a manager with an accent.

But Petke’s hiring does have me leaving the table a bit hungry. Some questions keep troubling me.

Foremost, if he was their man, why take so long? Why wander through two important player personnel exercises (the MLS combine and the draft) without a solid hierarchy of leadership? Yes, I am aware that Petke was front-and-center in the combine analysis and the draft selections. But to say that he was provided carte blanche to make those choices within a larger, structural vision would seem to be walking back on the reality of the situation. Frankly, I wouldn’t buy it.

A source I trust told me earlier this week the Red Bulls really wanted Portuguese veteran manager Paulo Sousa, and were attempting to work through the visa process. Something clearly derailed that effort.

Does Petke have the experience? There are young, first-year head coaches just north and south in Ben Olsen at D.C. United and Jay Heaps at New England. Jason Kreis, who was a first-time head coach when he took over at Real Salt Lake back in 2007, is yet another contemporary. Olsen has things moving north at RFK, and Kreis’ successes cannot be questioned. So this approach clearly can work.

Then again, all three of those scenes were of the re-building variety. New York has certainly reconfigured its roster for 2013, but to call a team with Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and several other experienced, proven parts a “re-build” is a massive stretch. Truth is, this is a team that should compete for MLS Cup this year. Those other groups could absorb a learning curve in hiring a first-time head coach; the Red Bulls in 2013 cannot.

Does Petke have the confidence and the gravitas to command  a locker room where King Henry clearly rules? A wise, highly experienced man like former manager Hans Backe had issues in being able to steer the ship where he wished – so Petke’s challenge in this area seems formidable.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?