New York Red Bull are, however, understood to be ready to pay a fee close to the £1.2m that took him [McClean] from Sunderland in August 2013
No source is credited for this understanding, but "close to" $1.8 million (GBP 1.2 million) is not without precedent: it's in the ballpark of the sum paid by RBNY for Tim Cahill in 2012 - reported as approximately $1.5 million (GBP 1 million) at the time.
The Belfast paper's report is at odds with the perception that Papa Red Bull is reluctant to splash the cash as freely as he did when luring Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, MLS-legend Dwayne De Rosario and Cahill to the club in the period 2010 to 2012. Since then, RBNY has appeared to pursue a more economical policy: still finding some well known players - Juninho Pernambucano, Peguy Luyindula, Sacha Kljestan - but not top-tier names requiring top dollar (at least by MLS standards).
McLean's reputation fits the more modest reputation of recent acquisitions, but the alleged willingness to throw a seven-figure fee at his current club is a throwback to the enthusiastic spending habits of what had seemed a bygone era for the Red Bulls. RBNY paid Anderlecht for Kljestan this January, but the amount was not revealed and the team was able to structure whatever combination of fee and salary was required within its salary cap without having to put the player on a Designated Player contract (essentially one of a limited number of cap-exemptions MLS grants each of its teams).
So it is not preposterous to suggest Papa might pay a transfer fee for McClean: he has shelled out low seven-figure payments for key signings in the past, and he paid something presumably not insignificant for Sacha Kljestan just six months ago.
But it is a surprise, given the more low-key acquisition policy in place at Red Bull Arena in recent years.
It also may not be enough: "close to" $1.8 million is not very close to the $4 million price tag Wigan Athletic was reported to have slapped on McClean.
The Belfast Telegraph notes the Republic of Ireland international is keen to quit Wigan since League One is not the ideal stage for a player seeking to stay in his national team's plans. This is not a contentious point: the player himself has confirmed it.
But it has been suggested that a move to MLS would not necessarily be ideal if McClean wants to retain credibility with Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Not so, suggests the Telegraph, pointing out Robbie Keane has kept his place in the Ireland national team since moving to LA Galaxy in 2011, and fellow Irish international Kevin Doyle recently joined Colorado Rapids. Furthermore, McClean's former Wigan teammate, Scotland's Shaun Maloney, is in his country's squad for its June fixtures, despite having joined Chicago Fire in January. MLS is no longer necessarily out of sight and out of mind for (some of) Europe's national teams.
While noting the recent emergence of Leeds United as a rumored candidate for McClean's services (largely because former Wigan head coach Uwe Rosler has just taken over at the Championship club), the Belfast Telegraph suggests "a move across the Atlantic is more likely." And while the paper notes Orlando City is also thought to have an interest in him, RBNY would appear to be the front-runner in the race to sign him, based on its reported willingness to at least pay Wigan what it spent to acquire McClean in 2013 and the suggestion that the player has already met with Red Bulls' staff.