United States men’s national team center back John Brooks will be wearing a new club shirt at the time of the 2022 World Cup.
That is if the defender is in Gregg Berhalter’s plans after being left out of the USMNT camp for World Cup qualifiers last month.
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Wolfsburg and Brooks have announced that the 29-year-old will not sign a new deal with the Bundesliga outfit, not a huge surprise as he is out-of-contract and could sign a pre-contract with his next club before the end of the season.
Brooks says he’s seeking a new challenge and Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schafer says they respect the center back’s decision to seek something different.
What did John Brooks say?
Brooks joined Wolfsburg from Hertha Berlin in 2017 for a fee that was then a record for an American player. and has been linked with transfers over the years including a rumored Manchester United move in 2020.
“I’d like to thank the VfL Wolfsburg management for their honest discussions, but I’ve decided to take on a new challenge once again,” Brooks told the club. “I’ve had the opportunity to play football at a high level for five years and it’s obviously not easy for me to leave after such a long time. I wish the team and the entire club all the best and will give my all for VfL until my last game.”
Wolfsburg: ‘We respect his decision’
“We’ve had five intense years with many highlights, including reaching the Champions League, but there have also been difficult periods on the pitch that we’ve conquered together,” added VfL sporting director Marcel Schäfer. “We’d like to thank Jay for that and wish him and his family all the best. We respect his decision and are certain that together, we’ll take on the challenges that still await us this season with total commitment.”
What’s next in John Brooks transfer news?
The writing was on the wall for Brooks, who has clashed with club and apparently country in recent months, but where might he sign?
Some MLS fans have begun lobbying for their clubs to sign him but he’s in his prime as a center back and has performed at a high level for Wolfsburg.
Known for his ambitious long-range passing, Brooks has posted strong defensive numbers. According to FBRef.com, the imposing back is delivering in many categories when ranked relative to players in Europe’s top five leagues:
- 87th percentile in interceptions (2.64/game)
- 80th percentile in clearances (5.75)
- 76th percentile in tackles (1.98)
- 83rd in progressive passes (3.80)
- 73rd in expected assists (0.02)
The same web site compares him favorably with Real Betis’ Marc Bartra, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu, and Wolfsburg teammate Maxence Lacroix. SofaScore ranks Brooks as Wolfsburg’s second-best performer, behind Maximilian Arnold and just ahead of Lacroix and now-Burnley forward Wout Weghorst. WhoScored ranks him fourth (minimum 400 minutes).
Oddly enough, Lacroix’s emergence is perhaps what’s made Brooks’ departure a bit more palatable for Wolfsburg (assuming they can hold onto him. Brooks and Lacroix both rank in the Bundesliga’s top 20 in clearances this season, even with Brooks missing some time.
Injuries have been an issue for Brooks, who has only played 30 or more matches once in his career. Brooks has 45 caps for the USMNT and, of course, the memorable goal to seal a 2-1 win over Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.
It seems clear that Brooks will want to continue his prime with a team that will be in European football or contend for it. In terms of the Bundesliga, a number of teams make sense but what about the Premier League? Brooks’ massive stature and aerial prowess could raise the eyebrows of a team like Tottenham, and perhaps the American could be lured to new-money Newcastle’s bid to join Europe’s elite.
The market for his services will tell USMNT fans a lot about whether his supporters or detractors have been more in-line with his reputation on the world stage.