In a move first reported last night by Cincinnati reporter Pat Brennan, the New York Red Bulls have traded midfielder Florian Valot to FC Cincinnati, who held the Red Bulls to a 0-0 draw less than 24 hours ago. New York will receive $50k in General Allocation Money as compensation, with a potential add-on of $50k based on performance clauses.
The fee is a not-insignificant haul for a now 28-year-old player with unfortunate fitness struggles in both the short and long-term who was clearly outside of the club’s future plans. Valot’s farewell substitute appearance against New England was only the third appearance of 2021 for the Frenchman, who had struggled again with ligament issues following a start against LA Galaxy earlier in the year, an unfortunately familiar turn of events for the otherwise popular playmaker.
A product of the AS Monaco youth system, Valot first arrived in the New York area to attend Rider University on a soccer scholarship. Following his career with Rider, Valot was invited on trial with the Red Bulls II reserve team in the summer of 2016 and became a regular soon after, helping the reserve team to the USL title later that year.
The peak of Valot’s time in New York was undoubtedly the first half of the 2018 Supporters Shield-winning campaign. Playing in what Jesse Marsch described as a 10-and-a-half role on the wing, Valot’s fluid movement on both sides of the ball and subtle technique in possession made him a key part of the team that charged to the top of the league table early in that euphoric regular season.
But Valot’s late bloom in the professional game was cut painfully short before that season even finished. It was announced in July that he suffered an ACL tear in training and he would miss the remainder of that season’s record-breaking campaign.
Valot would eventually return to the lineup the following year under now-manager Chris Armas, but was a victim of the cruelest fate one could bring upon a professional in his situation. A clumsy tackle by San Jose defender Judson in March put Valot on the medic’s table for a further year.
The now-veteran had a brief resurgence in last year’s covid-restrained season, most notably scoring in the opener of the MLS is Back tournament. Certain websites even called for him to be considered for the league’s comeback player of the year award.
But such bright form would again end up short-lived, though this time at the softer hand of a management change rather than a catastrophic injury. Despite a perceived lack of cohesion in the team’s attack in recent weeks, Gerhard Struber has still gone with newer, younger options in the attacking midfield roles instead of Valot.
Much of the Red Bulls fan ecosystem is understandably dismayed by the departure of Valot, a photogenic, well-spoken symbol of a successful era in the team’s recent past. But by now it is clear that any success that might be found by the current model being built by Struber and sporting executive Kevin Thelwell would not involve a 28-year-old coming off severe long-term fitness issues. If Valot can avoid injury, then Cincinnati has found a clever, intelligent ball-carrier with perhaps 2-3 more top-level seasons left in the tank, but more importantly for this audience’s sake, the Red Bulls will double their income for a player who was likely to leave for free at the end of this season anyway.