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What was in the latest Red Bulls payroll reveal?

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Contrasts among new additions and young players catch eyes as players union releases new numbers

MLS: Inter Miami CF at New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls and Inter Miami saw their contrasting spending habits put into relief on Wednesday.
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Major League Soccer Players Association published an updated database listing player salaries from around the league. This new list, reflecting activity done through the summer transfer window, offered New York Red Bulls fans both a window into the arbitrary-yet-indicative financial value of some of their newest players as well as a chance to gripe about some of the same old contracts they already knew about.

Without any further fuss (besides the groans and winces from supporters, players, and management alike from such reveals), here were some of the tidbits that stood out:

NEW HIRES

Lucas Monzón might have felt like an underwhelming transfer deadline splash in August. But the teenage Uruguayan center back’s $244k salary illustrates the sort of quiet bidding wars the Red Bulls are increasingly pursuing for prized young talent, having had to reportedly fend off Spanish league power Real Betis for his signature. In contrast, Issiar Dramé, a young French center back signed as a free agent after an aborted career in Ukraine, is on just under $100k.

Shockingly, team MVP candidate Sean Nealis is still on just $81k even after signing a new contract in August. One assumes that the center back who has made huge steps establishing himself as a reliable pro this season would not have committed to a longer stay in New York without a raise, so the Long Island native’s quote will be one of the most anticipated of next year’s salary spreadsheet.

HALL OF BUSTS

The team is still retaining relics of the misshapen 2019-2020 recruitment period who are on relatively large contracts of unclear length. Mathias Jørgensen, Mandela Egbo, David Jensen, and Jason Pendant have played a cumulative total of 44 minutes for the Red Bulls in MLS this year, all while costing the team $1.4 million of salary and several international slots. At this point (particularly after an exit was arranged for the apparently more useful Amro Tarek) each player appears to have a non-existent market for a direct transfer, with only Jensen finding a taker for a short-term loan in the second division of Belgium. Jensen, Egbo, and Pendant have only fulfilled one full year of their contracts so far, and may be stuck on the team’s books for some time longer unless Kevin Thelwell and Denis Hamlett can get creative - for unclear reasons they have refrained from using the league’s annual one-case salary cap buyout clause (perhaps most famously used by the club on Muhamed Keita in 2018) on any of these outcast imports.

SPENDING TOO LITTLE OR NOT ENOUGH?

In gross total, the Red Bulls check in as the second-lowest squad payroll in MLS according to this week’s numbers (as reported by Sam Stejskal of The Athletic) at just barely under $10 million. Concerns about the long-alleged lack of financial backing from the Austrian mothership will certainly receive an oxygen boost from this latest ranking. But on the other hand one could mention the club’s alternate investment in high-end backroom staff and coaches…or point out that a payroll gap that only ranges between 10 million and 20 million and is concentrated on the top end of rosters is somewhat insignificant…or that many if not most the league’s highest-spending teams have been disastrous on the field this year…or…ok yeah, I’m insufferable.

YOUNG MONEY

Despite being largely unchanged from the early season chart, some attention focused on the marginal differences between salaries on the team’s bottom end. The aforementioned low Nealis wage raised eyebrows, while frequent fanbase piñata Tom Barlow earns slightly more ($95k) than more productive contributors such as Kyle Duncan ($94k), John Tolkin ($86k) and Wikelman Carmona ($66k). Also gaining attention in this context was the $88k annual guaranteed income for 15-year-old academy product Bento Estrela, who has largely remained on the fringes of the USL team and remains far from any first team action. Benefiting from his Portuguese passport and youth national team ties, Estrela now has plenty of money to buy…uhhh, Crazy Bones…or like, a Crazy Bones app, or…a Tamagotchi? Whatever kids do these days.

What stood out most to you about the new Red Bulls payroll list? Sound off in the comments below…