Stephen Ireland was one of the last people I thought conspiracy theories would surface about.
It's been quiet, almost too quiet, on the designated player front for the New York Red Bulls.
The only real personnel discussions this summer have been about Luke Rodgers, which have taken the form of arbitrary deadlines tossed out to placate the media. But this afternoon the internet went crazy and suddenly the Red Bulls are in for four different guys and there's a vast league-wide conspiracy from keeping the Red Bulls from making a deal for the player they really want.
Then it gets a little murky. Brad Davis (not the player) posted a rumor to the Vipers Nest page on Facebook. He's essentially swearing that a "former MLS Rookie of the Year" told him Stephen Ireland was as good as in a Red Bulls kit, but the league, and a handful of select teams, were holding the process up. The rumor was a $5 million transfer fee with the Bulls matching his Aston Villa wages.
That "former MLS Rookie of the Year" has to be Kyle Martino -- he's tweeted about the mythical third designated player, in a faux clandestine way, too -- and if Martino-through-Davis is to be believed not only does the league not want the Red Bulls to sign Ireland, they're trying to foist Michael Ballack on the team and are reserving Kaka for NY2 in 2014.
It all sounds a bit far-fetched, and anonymous insider-ish, especially since it started on Facebook by a guy who's doing an awful, awful job of protecting his sources. But at the same time, it benefits teams to be coy and the payoff for a random dickhead sitting behind a keyboard is huge if he gets it right. Regardless of where this started, this is MLS, so that Facebook post touched off a relative ton of speculation.
So Dave "Emperor of Soccer" Martinez started asking questions at practice. Apparently, the Red Bulls are in discussions with a third designated player, they're trying to hash out personal terms and that there is no interference from the league, as Mr. Davis' Facebook post would lead you to believe. Further, Martinez reported there's nothing to the rumors that Ireland's agent was at practice.
For whatever reason, this whole thing turned on the transfer rumor spigot that seemed rusted shut in this transfer season. Now the Red Bulls are, apparently, in for Argentine Juan Riquelme and former Arsenal and Barcelona man Alexander Hleb, too.
But are they? The Red Bulls are apparently looking for a younger player and Requelme and Hleb are on the wrong side of 30. Plus, Hleb is pretty damn injury prone. Ballack, who the team, for some bizarre reason keeps being connected to, is older, too. Oh, and his agent called Erik Soler "clueless" earlier this year. So I'm sure that did a ton for their relationship.