Major League Soccer’s winter transfer window remains open, but dated rumors are seeping into the sports pages.
According to English journalist Ken Lawrence, the New York Red Bulls made a £1.5 million ($2 million) offer for Callum Styles. The 21-year-old midfielder and wing back known as the “Bury Messi” was also pursued by Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest. Celtic joined the chase but was stymied by a “hardline stance,” while Premier League sides have also monitored his progress. He opted to stay with the Tykes, sticking around for the relegation fight despite the club being open to “taking the money.”
Styles began his career in League One with Bury after being released from the Burnley academy. His entry into the professional level met immediate controversy, with the club earning a point deduction due to improper registration. At 16 years and 41 days, he was the “first Millennium baby” to appear in the Football League.
In 2018, Styles moved to Barnsley for a reported £500,000 ($667,000) on an initial four-year contract that has since been extended until the summer of 2023. [“Burnley, Bury, Barnsley” is quite the tongue twister of a résumé.] The attacker is a key performer for the Tykes, first emerging in 2020 under Gerhard Struber during the great escape. His goal against Brentford in the final match of the season, a well-taken volley, helped stave off relegation. Naturally, a reunion between the two could recreate some of the old magic as the Red Bulls attempt to become more vertical and mobile.
“He keeps us going on the sidelines and switched on and he is basically the twelfth man getting amongst it and keeping us alive and on our toes and on the front foot,” Styles enthused about his manager to the Yorkshire Post in 2020. “It is good. We have come back from lockdown and got together and stayed as a group and said to each other we are going to play to our limits.”
A “box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal” who also thrived as a winger in the 3-4-3 formation, Styles is left-footed, an increasing preference for pressing managers and noted idiosyncrasy of Struber’s lineups. According to All Stats Aren’t We, he is “physically extremely fit and covers an enormous amount of ground every game,” buzzing around opponents. Standing at a sturdy 5’6”, his low center of gravity prevents defenders from forcing him off the ball and enables his bullying solo runs up the field. The 2021 Barnsley Young Player of the Season serves a key role in possession, drifting inside to facilitate possession and creating space for teammates to run into open spaces, all of which would have served New York well but now appears for naught.
Styles is staying put with Barnsley, six points from safety and likely needing another miracle run to remain in the Championship. Now in possession of an EU passport and Hungarian citizenship, his list of suitors should grow longer during the summer window. Perhaps he will consider a move stateside, if his preferred manager is still in charge of New York come the summer.