Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rumor Mill Begins to Turn: Markus Holgersson to RBNY?

Holgersson: Defensive Help on the Way?
"Quiet" doesn't begin to describe the New York Red Bulls media profile since the 2011 season ended. The only addition to date has been young homegrown signing Connor Lade, while a whopping ten players have departed, according to the club's official "Transaction Central" page. Apart from the odd Rafa Marquez rumor, Tim Ream to England speculation and the hubbub around Thierry Henry's impending two month loan move to Arsenal, there has been precious little to report. Today, however, we have our first truly juicy rumor, as media in Sweden are reporting that Markus Holgersson, a 6'3", 27 year old central defender from Swedish champions Helsingborg, may be on the verge of joining the Red Bulls after failing to agree to a new contract with HIF and becoming a free agent.

Erik Solér and Hans Backe have spoken repeatedly about the need to strengthen an error prone defensive corps that struggled throughout the 2010 campaign. Holgersson would seem to fit the bill perfectly. He started 26 games for the Allsvenskan champs last season, while chipping in on the offensive end with five goals over three seasons. In addition to the 2011 league championship, Holgersson won the Swedish Cup twice (2010, 2011) and the Swedish Super Cup once (2011) with HIF, so there's also a recent history of success. Holgersson's positive form at Helsingborg has also landed him on the radar of the Swedish national team and earned him a call-up (his first ever) for Sweden's January friendly in Qatar.

All signs point to this being a plausible move - the lack of a transfer fee, the provenance of the player, as well as his age and size. If the Red Bulls can add Holgersson, it should go a long way toward addressing one of their primary areas of need. Now to solve the goalkeeping conundrum, reveal the identity of these mystery "young American" signings and look for some midfield creativity.

UPDATE: Hans Backe has now confirmed the deal. Backe's quotes, via Swedish media and Google:
"I've talked to our GM and he said Holgersson has accepted to play with us"
"It's a good acquisition for us. I've had good scores on Mark by Jesper Jansson and we need a strong physical back to our team. I talked to our general manager a while ago and he said then that Mark had accepted. It remains a visa and little else, but I expect him."

A few other items of note:
  • Joel Lindpere wants to play in England. That's the main takeaway from this video interview from Estonia. According to Lindpere, he has interest in his services from a number of clubs in England, but the decision by MLS/Red Bull to pick up his option year may keep him from moving. Joel talks vaguely about "verbal agreements" and having his agent explore options in January. Solér has spoken in the past about trying to work out a new deal with the "Estonian Express," but Lindpere doesn't sound inclined to stay in MLS long term. It's doubtful that the Red Bulls would sanction a move to England at this point, but it seems equally unlikely that Lindpere will be a RBNY player beyond 2012. So enjoy him while you can.
  • NBC Sports Network is finally operational, and one of their first ads features Lindpere taking a corner kick at Red Bull Arena against Philadelphia Union. You can check it out here
  • The Tim Ream to England transfer speculation has died down, for the moment at least. Solér threw cold water on the idea when he spoke with the Post's Brian Lewis. It has always seemed to be a bit of an odd rumor, as questions surround Ream's likelihood of qualifying for a visa in England.
That's all for now. Hopefully this is the beginning of a very busy news cycle.

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