The New York Red Bulls have apparently spurned Michael Ballack and are instead focusing their attention on Aston Villa's Stephen Ireland, according to Ballack's agent. During an interview with Goal.com, Michael Becker called Red Bulls sporting Director Erik Soler "clueless", presumably because he was pursuing the 25-year-old Ireland instead of his 35-year-old client.
"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.
Why the Red Bulls would choose to pursue Ireland instead of Ballack probably shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone not on Ballack's payroll. While Ireland clearly lacks the name recognition of Ballack, he has many more good years left in him.
At 25, he's already played in more than 150 English Premier League matches. This year, he's made 16 appearances for Aston Villa -- including 11 starts with a goal and two assists. His best season was in 2008-09 when he had nine goals and nine assists in EPL play with Manchester City, added another four goals and four assists in other cup competitions and even scored four times in five matches with Ireland.
The bigger question is whether or not the Red Bulls can convince him to move to MLS and pay him the appropriate fees. He is currently paid €95,000 a week and his transfer fee is supposedly in the tens of millions of dollars, which is far more than a MLS team has ever paid.
For more on this developing situation