Guillaume Gillet is a 31-year-old right-sided player who can play in defense or midfield. He has been attached to Anderlecht since 2008, where has picked up a string of trophies, scored more than the usual number of goals you might expect from a defensive player (he had 14 in the 2011-12 Belgian Pro League season), and accumulated most of his 21 caps for his national team (Belgium).
And he is a friend of former Anderlecht player, and current New York Red Bulls' midfield dynamo, Sacha Kljestan. It is a friendship that, according to Gillet himself, Kljestan would like to see rekindled on the field at Red Bull Arena. As he stated in a recent interview with Het Nieuwsblad:
my friend Sacha Kljestan calling me every week to get to New York Red Bulls. He is the main player, the coach can convince and the new season starts in March. New York appeals to me.
Oh. Well, the Red Bulls can be assumed to be looking ahead to 2016. The right back position is currently staffed by Chris Duvall (recovering from serious injury), Connor Lade (for whom right back is arguably not the best position), and Sal Zizzo (traditionally believed to be an attacking wide-man, though doing a good job of converting to a more defensive role). Throw in the inevitable off-season departures necessitated by salary cap management and the realities of professional soccer, and it is entirely reasonable to believe RBNY might be in the market for a senior, international-grade utility player with a knack for scoring goals.
Indeed, the Red Bulls' defense may be the part of the roster that needs most attention in the off-season. Center back Damien Perrinelle just went down with an ACL tear that will require a long time to be made right; Ronald Zubar is fragile; Matt Miazga and Kemar Lawrence are reaching a point where their greatest value to the team might be as assets in a trade. RBNY Sporting Director Ali Curtis will do well to retain the core of the RBNY back line this winter, and it is inconceivable that he hasn't got a few ideas for his next moves if the roster does prove to need significant defensive reinforcement.
But Gillet doesn't quite seem to fit the transfer policy the Red Bulls have in place: he will be 32 by the time the 2016 MLS season kicks off, and it is extremely unlikely his value will rise over the course of his next contract. RBNY has reached for older players to strengthen the squad since entering its current RalfBall era: Shaun Wright-Phillips and Dan Richards being perhaps the two most obvious examples. But there are only so many times one can make an exception to a rule before it becomes the rule itself.
Only Curtis really knows how the roster is likely to change over the next few months, so only he can really say whether a 32-year-old right back would be making the 2016 squad older (and less well-aligned with RalfBall) than the 2015 version. The Red Bulls did just sign a 16-year-old (Tyler Adams) to the first team, so perhaps there is good reason to be looking for a senior player to balance the youth being brought through from the academy.
But the priorities of RalfBall are not the primary reason to raise an eyebrow at Gillet's assertion that he is being courted by RBNY. The primary reason to raise that eyebrow is this isn't the first time Gillet has linked himself to the club.
Back in April, Gillet was reaching the end of a season-long loan to Ligue 1 club Bastia SC. As his allotted time in Corsica drew to a close, his future appeared uncertain, but he provided an interview to Belgian outlet dh.be in which he described a few options, including a move to MLS facilitated by his old friend, Sacha:
He works for me. It is preparing the ground for bringing me in MLS one day (laughs).
When in doubt, it would seem, the Kljestan connection springs readily to Gillet's mind. As he makes clear in the interview that triggered this report, he is approaching another career crossroads. Since returning from Bastia, he has been getting regular playing time in all competitions for Anderlecht. But he jokes that he is regarded as a "grandpa" in the squad. In recognition of his service to the club, he says he has been told he can seek a free transfer in the January window.
He does not rule out renewing his contract with Anderlecht, or returning to France, or even returning to Liege, his hometown and first club, where he has promised he will end his career. And he also wants us to know he has a good friend in America who wants him to come play for the New York Red Bulls. Just like he said the last time it wasn't clear where he would be playing next.