Go on, admit it: there was something a little flattering about seeing the New York Red Bulls linked to just about every wantaway Italian soccer player this winter. Daniele De Rossi, Cristian Ledesma, Antonio Di Natale, Cristian Zaccardo: for a while it seemed like every time there was a contract negotiation in Serie A, RBNY was the go-to threat a player's agent would leak to the press to try to gain a little leverage.
Mario Balotelli doesn't play in Serie A, but he is Italian, so he doubtless knows many of the same agents advising those men who have allowed their names to be linked to RBNY when they needed a little profile boost. For Balotelli, the issue is one of playing time at Liverpool, since his form has not been great and the club has other options at his position. Increasingly, he's a bench player, and not one guaranteed a run - he didn't play in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Manchester City on March 1.
Hardly surprising then that the English press should start to carry whispers of a Balotelli move away from Liverpool. And, given the recent popularity of MLS as a negotiating tool for Italian players, no surp...actually, it is a surprise to hear Balotelli's name linked to a MLS team.
He is 24, and scarcely a year into a three-year deal that cost Liverpool the best part of $25 million plus a salary in the region of $200,000 a week. Is there really a MLS club willing and able to pay a sum in that ballpark to persuade the Reds to part with their under-performing star? Is Liverpool so convinced that a 24-year-old who has scored goals at pretty much every club he's played for except his present one isn't going to work out that it would be willing to let him go at a cut price?
We'll see. For the moment, this rumor looks like nothing more than a bit of mischief on the part of the British press, or an enterprising agent, or someone at Liverpool Football Club.
What is the rumor? The UK's Express is reporting Balotelli has an MLS suitor for his services in the summer. He's Italian, he's unsettled - it can only mean one thing...Orlando City Soccer Club.
Oh. Maybe RBNY has lost a little currency with the rumor mill. Maybe the team's quota of transfer rumors involving well known Italian footballers is full.
It's early days. Plenty of time for a whole bunch of MLS clubs to get linked to Balotelli. Still, it's a little disappointing to see whoever came up with the rumor reach for Orlando City. There used to a be a fairly predictable pattern to big-name foreign transfer rumors: LA or NY, then the rest. That pattern is changing, and we saw Sebastian Giovinco drift over to Toronto FC with scarcely any suggestion he was even considering any other MLS teams.
And now we've reached a point where a disgruntled star player apparently doesn't even give RBNY a second thought when rifling through his list of places he could go if his current club doesn't give him what he's expecting. It is to be hoped this doesn't start a trend. A steady flow of far-fetched transfer rumors is one of the perks of being a Red Bulls fan. It would be a little disappointing to see the well run dry.