Is Rafa Marquez on the Way to Flamengo?

Whither Rafa?

When MLS "silly season" began we promised not to indulge in baseless rumor mongering. So when a story appeared in Brazilian media yesterday implying that Rafa Marquez was working to negotiate a move to Flamengo, we were naturally skeptical. Apart from the fact that the source seemed to imply that Marquez owned his own economic rights, New York Red Bulls General Manager Erik Solér has continued to insist that Marquez would be back in New York in 2012, once again trudging around midfield in Harrison. In fact, Solér re-affirmed his commitment to Marquez as recently as yesterday.

Today, however, the landscape has shifted slightly, with Flamengo's Vice President of Finances Michel Levy going on the record about the club's desire to sign the Mexican, and claiming that negotiations have taken place. Later in the day, ESPN's Jorge Ramos, who has had Marquez as a guest on his program several times, revealed via Twitter that Marquez is seeking to terminate his contract with MLS and the Red Bulls in order to join Flamengo.

Solér has not yet addressed the Flamengo rumor directly, but the temptation to unload an unhappy, underperforming player would have to be strong. It would open up another designated player slot for New York, provide acres of salary cap space and give the management team a chance to restructure the squad while adding depth. The club may even be able to squeeze a transfer fee out of the Brazilians if they play their cards right.

The question, of course, as it always is with Red Bull, is where sporting ambitions end and marketing considerations begin. Marquez has recently been featured in a Red Bull promotional campaign in Mexico, and one source has told me that the Marquez's marketing pull may outweigh the negatives of having a disgruntled player back in the squad for 2012.

Assuming that the interest from Flamengo is legitimate, if the Red Bulls decline to void Marquez's contract and insist on keeping an unmotivated player purely for marketing considerations, things could get even testier than normal at RBA next season. Stay tuned.

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