By FRANCO PANIZO
With every offseason comes unfounded rumors about the New York Red Bulls being on the verge of signing big-name players.
This one has apparently been no different.
New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke spoke to a handful of reporters via a conference call on Thursday to discuss the club’s two selections in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, but he also took some time to address recent reports linking the Red Bulls with signing either Barcelona midfielder Xavi or Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba as their third Designated Player for the 2014 season.
The Xavi rumor has especially gained traction in recent days (though he has also been linked by foreign media with a move to upcoming expansion side New York City FC), but Petke wasted no time in pouring cold water on that rumor as well as the one about Drogba.
“Listen, there was a rumor not long ago about Ashley Cole. There’s always rumors,” said an amused Petke. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that any team would want Xavi or even Drogba as well. Are we linked to them? I’m linked just automatically in just the fact that something like that came out in the paper. Man, I’m linked right away.
“Have we been flying over to Spain and meeting with (Xavi) and on the phone? As far as I know, I haven’t been. But if there is a desire on his part there and he’s into it and Red Bull would do something like that, I’m pretty sure any team would jump on that but a lot has to fall into place.
“I know I skirted around that, but as far as I know we have not been actively chasing or meeting with Xavi. We’ll see how this plays out.”
One player that Petke admitted the club has “been presented” is Venezuelan playmaker Ronald Vargas. The 27-year-old Vargas currently plies his trade with RSC Anderlecht in the Pro League in Belgium, but he has been associated with a move to New York on more than one occasion.
Still, Petke made it clear that signings are not imminent just because the Red Bulls consider players.
“The one thing that everybody needs to realize that just because we say we’re looking to add a certain key or certain position, it doesn’t always work out,” said Petke, referencing his comments from earlier in the offseason in which he said New York wanted to sign a creative player. “There’s a lot to take into consideration. Again, I know, yawn and same thing over and over again, but the salary cap, what we have money to spend on. But you also have to realize that we accomplished something last year with a certain system.
“To bring in a player solely for a withdrawn (role) behind two strikers or creative attacking midfielder changes the way you play, so a lot of things go into it. In a perfect world, I would love to have the ideal playmaker at midfield, but you can’t just snap your fingers and get something.”
Petke then went on to use Toronto FC’s recent acquisitions of U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Michael Bradley and England international Jermaine Defoe as an example of how teams who struggle are the ones capable of really making a large overhaul during the offseason.
“For instance, the signings for Toronto, the big signings they’ve had recently, this is a team that finished towards the bottom (of the standings in 2013),” said Petke. “They really cleaned house, freed up money, and they saved their allocation added over the years and were able to do something like that.
“We realize that we don’t need to make a big change. We do have to add some certain positions and certain things, but right now, where we are, I wouldn’t be devastated (if things stayed as is).”