European agent calls out Red Bulls over Michael Ballack pursuit – but there’s more to this story


Today’s big talker around Major League Soccer comes out of New York, where European agent Michael Becker is sounding off about the Red Bulls’ allegedly redirected pursuit of former German captain Michael Ballack last summer.

Becker resorted to name calling as he chastised Red Bulls management for allegedly pursuing Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland rather than his own client, Ballack. Becker called Red Bulls sporting director Erik Soler “clueless” over it all.

Soler certainly has been a lightning rod. A darn good one, too; Becker is hardly the first to question Soler’s proficiency at running the brand name club in Major League Soccer’s most influential media market. But this instance in itself hardly speaks ill of Soler – not until we know more, at any rate.

Michael Lewis has the story at Big Apple Soccer. But there’s more yarn in this spool; we just need to pull more out of it.

Some important points here:

Becker says Ballack, 35, will wear an MLS kit by this summer. That’s a nice scoop in itself.

Second, there are, as we all know, two sides to every story. Soler and the Red Bulls haven’t had their say in this one. They really need to.

More importantly, this is an agent who wants the best for his client – and for himself.  He would presumably reap a handsome sum for any big-dollar Ballack deal, so he’s vested in all this.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are well within their rights to pursue the player they want, not the player some European agent prefers them to pursue.  That in itself hardly makes anyone “clueless.”

You could certainly say that the 0-2 Red Bulls could use Ballack’s midfield expertise and engineering.  But there are other issues to consider here, like team chemistry or individual desire.  Because an aging midfielder in MLS, on the back end of his playing days, asked to gut out the travel and heat of a Major League Soccer summer while dealing with artificial turf fields and referees who are way too lenient about the “rough and tumble?”  In New York? Hmmm. We’ve seen that movie a few times, haven’t we?

And without knowing the asking price, this debate is pointless. Because Ballack at “X” is one thing. Ballack at “2X” or “3X” is something completely different.  If the Red Bulls interest in Aston Villa’s Ireland amounts to so much “bargaining” and “leverage,” then they’d be clueless not to engage in a bit of old-fashioned fiscal gamesmanship.

Ballack in MLS? Yes, I think the experience and ability could certainly add something to a team. But the fit and the money must be right.

I’m not saying Soler or the Red Bulls are right, necessarily. But there is more to consider and play out here.