In his own words, Gerhard Struber is a hot commodity.
The New York Red Bulls manager gave a season wrap-up interview with Austrian outlet Kurier following a playoff loss that “hurt a lot but has now been digested.” The ambitious rebuild – featuring “new players, guys from different cultures who at times could not support the intensity of [the tactics] and were injured” – was made all the more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, which shortened a stop-and-start preseason. The team managed to persevere and overcome a dismal summer stretch, lending a positive outlook to next year, if the Austrian is around to lead the charge.
Amid reported interest from Werder Bremen, Struber revealed that there are, in fact, several clubs monitoring his status. “My contract in New York runs for another two years and I will do everything I can to take the next step here,” he revealed. “I have no intention of giving up this project now. There are inquiries from clubs in Germany, England, and one or two others in Germany. I’m very honored, but I’ve settled in very well in New York and a team that gives hope for more.”
Werder Bremen appears to have pursued him for a second time this year and once again headed in another direction. According to Deich Stube, the negotiations came down to financials and the Red Bulls “will not let him go in vain,” having already paid a reported $2.3 million transfer fee to acquire the manager from Barnsley. Local noted insiders of the Worum message boards have posted more details of a compelling nature that travel further along the Nung River, for those who choose to traffic in such murky and sometimes tenuous corners of the internet.
In the interview with Kurier, Struber indicated the “design” of the upcoming winter transfer window will have a significant impact on his tenure, hoping to “strengthen massively in order to do justice to what we all want.” While the club aims for a title, there is “a lot to do.” However, if the right moves are made, he could envision “staying for a longer period of time,” a nonspecific measurement unit despite remaining under contract through 2023. This also ignores the oft-hinted but never outright stated assumption of an eventual appointment to lead Red Bull Salzburg.
While not rushing to catch a red-eye flight to Europe, Struber appears intolerant of failure in the transfer market. The departure from Barnsley was driven in large part due to the club’s inability to secure many of the desired players required to fit his unique tactical structure, notably at the striker position. In his recent postseason press conference, Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell indicated that there will be significant moves ahead of 2022 due to the available salary cap room and available resources, although not at a rate comparable to the previous year’s 12 additions.
Struber described the run to end the season as “a ride on the razor blade,” a journey few survive outside of Colonel Kurtz’s snail. With little room for error and a little more pace than the shelled gastropod, the Red Bulls reached the playoffs – crawling, slithering, and surviving. As European clubs continue circling and perhaps inquiring as to the flexibility of the manager’s presumed buyout clause, the upcoming transfer window takes on an even greater importance.
As of now, the Red Bulls have been built in a singular direction, signing players befitting a specific pressing-and-vertical-attacking style specific to Struber. His premature departure would render the previous season’s rebuild all but useless as the club attempted to realign under a new manager’s preferences and ideals. The transient European realities of trafficking in the mobile and valued can run counter to the stodgier Major League Soccer structure that almost seems built around the fiscal year, thus the delay in most major personnel moves. Carrying holdover players is an anvil around the neck in a salary cap league, as even a few unwelcome salaries’ weight can cause a plummet down to the shadowy depths of the table.
Following the rumor mill is meant to be an enjoyable practice for fans, trawling through various international news sources and waiting for the near finality of a brief social media post from a local journalist. Reading those same stories takes on a different tenor when involving a manager, magnified by a club’s recent journey centered on his grand vision. As Struber continues to receive interest, there may be an overture that is too enticing to turn down, from a party willing to pay the demanded buyout clause for his services.
There are two destinies for any contract: completion or a premature ending. Struber may see his through and lead the Red Bulls to a title or two, building on his incredible defense with additions that could be needed all over the formation. The upcoming transfer market machinations will be judged by an observant and scrutinizing group, of which the most important member is a manager chased by a host of bona fide suitors.