Reports suggesting Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda is considering a move to MLS popped up a few days ago. The rumor suggested Honda - arguably the best-known Japanese player in the world - had attracted the attention of LA Galaxy and New York City FC.
Fair enough. Both those clubs have an ongoing affection for players who have proven top-level talent and top-level marketing potential.
Now there is a third MLS team linked with Honda: calciomercato.com reports the New York Red Bulls "have already made contact" with the player (along with the aforementioned LA and NYCFC). And the rumor has quickly spread. TalkSport suggests Honda will snub Southampton in favor of a move to America, and cites the calciomercato report to back up its claim. The TalkSport version also states any one of LA, NYCFC and RBNY would be willing to loan or permanently sign Honda.
We are still in the very early days of the build-up to the winter transfer window. Most rumors at this stage concern players who aren't getting much time on the pitch, and are coincidentally reported to have options elsewhere. Honda, as it happens, has one off-the-bench appearance for current club AC Milan so far this season.
He is out of contract in the summer of 2017, by which time he will turn 31. That makes him a young player by the standards of NYCFC (whose current stars - David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard - are 34, 37, and 38 respectively), and LA could almost field a starting XI of older players from its 2016 roster. Honda is not over the hill, and he is in that category of globally-recognized players attractive to any MLS team with the budget to win their attention.
RBNY has such budget, in principle: the bottom hasn't fallen out of the market for Red Bull just yet, and Papa was paying for Thierry Henry's time in New York (and that of Tim Cahill) as recently as 2014. But a signing like Honda would be a departure from RBNY's current team-building strategy, which tends to favor younger players and is no longer inclined to allow salary or star power to direct the team's on-pitch identity.
The Red Bulls look a bad fit for this rumor, but we will see if they stick around. The longer Honda can't get a game in Milan, the harder the rumor mill will work for him. Unless he's a Serie A starter again soon, we'll be hearing more about Keisuke Honda's options in the near future.