The ex-Germany international's agent says his client will end up in Major League Soccer but the Red Bulls are not interested in his services and will sign Stephen Ireland insteadEXCLUSIVE
By Alex Labidou
It is not a secret that Michael Ballack wants to join Major League Soccer this summer. What is surprising, at least to the player's agent, is that the struggling New York Red Bulls appear uninterested in the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder.
According to the player's agent, Michael Becker, New York have passed up the chance to sign Ballack and instead agreed to a deal with Aston Villa attacking midfielder Stephen Ireland.
"Michael would love to play in New York. However, it seems that [New York general manager Erik] 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."
Earlier this month, sources revealed to Goal.com that Aston Villa are holding out for the best possible deal for Ireland, and if the player were to move to MLS, he would demand an increase on his current weekly salary of €95,000. Ballack's contract ends in June and he would be available on a free transfer.
The Red Bulls, who only have found the net only once in two defeats so far this season, are in desperate need of a midfielder who can create scoring opportunities. The lack of creativity has especially hurt Henry, who has had to play deep in the midfield at times to build attacks for his team-mates.
Signing Ireland would make sense for the team as he is a talented attacking player. Meanwhile, it is believed that the Red Bulls view Ballack as only a holding midfielder at this stage of his career, something that the 35-year-old's agent finds offensive.
"Ask Erik Soler why he think Ballack is a central defender or just a holding midfielder. It's a pretty exclusive point of view," Becker said.
"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 is 10 years younger than Ballack but he lacks the big-game experience of the Leverkusen star. Ballack has won six domestic titles in his playing career, playing in England and Germany.
Despite Becker's public statements on New York, he has made it clear that Ballack would like to spend the final years of his career playing for a team that can contend for the MLS Cup. He mentioned Philadelphia, Chicago and Montreal as teams that have expressed interest, but says the number of teams could increase as it gets closer to June."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."