The Red Bulls have been lacking, for quite a long time now, the kind of player who can make plays from the midfield.
That type of player -- one who can pull the strings from the middle of the field, set up teammates and make the incisive final pass -- has been so few and far between that Nick Chavez, writing at Empire of Soccer, listed Rafael Marquez and Tim Cahill as "creative distributors."
But the wait could be over. Of course, Xavi would fill that role, but a more realistic solution might be to the north, and a bit east of Barcelona. According to reports out of Belgium and Venezuela picked up by local New York media, the Red Bulls and Ronald Vargas are in talks to bring the 27-year-old Anderlecht midfielder stateside.
Vargas, as the New York Post's Brian Lewis points out, was a Red Bulls' target in 2008 when Juan Carlos Osorio was interested in the player. Hometown club Caracas' asking price was too high, and Vargas made his way to Belgium and Club Brugge before making the switch to rivals Anderlecht.
Now, with playing time on the wane in Belgium, Vargas has an eye for the United States, if only to be closer to family, as his sister reportedly lives in New Jersey.
Whether or not Vargas can hack it isn't really a question. He's tallied 34 goals and 25 assists in 129 career games and he's got plenty of technical ability to back up the numbers.
But it's not a question of skill, really. It's a question of health and finance.
Those impressive numbers? Precious few of them have come since 2011, as Vargas has fought knee injuries since tearing his ACL in Feb. 2011 while with Club Brugge. He'd move to Anderlecht that summer and since, he's scored three goals and this season, has made just four appearances.
If that's worrisome, take solace that Anderlecht's demands might keep the deal from materializing at all. According to Lewis' most recent report, his club has set an asking price of €3 million. That's $4 million American dollars, meaning that any deal they make, that $4 million would need to be spread out across the length of the deal to calculate his cap hit, meaning the Red Bulls would have to use their third designated player slot to make it happen.
Of course, there are ways around it. It's reported Anderlecht is open to a loan, and that Varga's deal expires in June, meaning the Red Bulls could loan him, then sign him. And there's still plenty of time to make a transfer deal happen, too. If there's a will between player and team, there's a way.
And while Vargas might tick off the box for "creative midfielder" something on Head Coach Mike Petke's off-season shopping list. However, Petke didn't seem enthralled with the idea (as quoted by Lewis)...
"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. There's a lot to take into consideration,'' said Petke. "Again, I know... 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."
Regardless, though, this could be a high-risk, high-reward move for the Red Bulls. If Vargas is, finally, healthy, he can be the sort of player the team has been missing for years. But that's a big if, and only if Anderlecht is willing to part with Vargas at a discount.