The New York Red Bulls gave Fredrik Gulbrandsen about the biggest vote of confidence a player can hope for when joining a new club: he was on the pitch in a competitive game inside his first 24 hours with the team. And the Norwegian looks to be on the fast track to at least trying to nail down a place as a first-team starter. His head coach at RBNY, Jesse Marsch, has said Gulbrandsen is being considered for a start in just the second game the Red Bulls have played since his arrival in the USA, against Seattle Sounders on March 19.
But RBNY took the edge off the warm welcome just a tad with a statement to Metro's (no relation) Kristian Dyer that quashed the notion that Gulbrandsen might be able to return to Salzburg in the summer of this year if his loan from RBNY's Austrian sibling isn't working out.
The loan is for the full MLS season and does not include an out for the player to leave this summer to return to Salzburg, so says a team spokesman to Metro.
Fair enough, RBNY.
Of course, the idea that Gulbrandsen might have an early-exit agreement built in to his loan - officially or unofficially - came from Gulbrandsen himself. In an interview with Norway's Verdens Gang, the player talked about his enthusiasm for his (at the time) pending move to RBNY, and was also indirectly attributed with the observation that he also had the option of cutting his time in New York short and returning to Salzburg in the summer.
It stood out as unusual statement - players don't often publicly admit to the possibility that a move to a new club won't work out - but it described a not-unprecedented scenario: RBNY fans will be aware that Anatole Abang's current loan to nowhere was precipitated by the fact his loan to somewhere (Hobro IK in Denmark) was terminated prematurely in January.
Why would RBNY take the unusual step of calling one of its own players a liar (in effect) for the sake of correcting a relatively minor - and still, one suspects, possible - point?
Well, the club is not in the habit of arguing with its players in the media, so perhaps fair to assume the Red Bulls are not calling Gulbrandsen anything at all. The team has simply issued an official response to a direct question.
"Is there an agreement to allow Fredrik Gulbrandsen to leave RBNY in the summer if so desired?"
"No," says RBNY.
It is possible VG misreported or misunderstood Gulbrandsen's statement in his interview. Such things happen from time to time:
It is also possible Google Translate warped the meaning of the report's original Norwegian. And it is possible (perhaps most likely) that VG reported what Gulbrandsen said accurately, he said what he knew to be true at the time, and the facts surrounding his loan arrangement have since changed.
But what is important, of course, is the simple correction of the record: whatever may have been said in the past, the loan deal that has brought Gulbrandsen to New York is for a full MLS season, with no expectation or facilitation of its early termination baked into the contract.
Barring an Abang-like exception to the rule of loans, Gulbrandsen will be playing for RBNY until the end of the 2017 season.