Kevin Thelwell on Aaron Long (above): “He wants to perform at the highest level. He is able to do that. He’s going to be a very exciting player for New York Red Bull.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
When the smoke clears from the COVID-19 pandemic sometime in the future, Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell to see a much-changed transfer market, at least temporarily.
Yes, some of the brightest stars of the game will demand and get top dollar, but the players below them might not be in the money or as fortunate.
“I’m sure everybody is going to see a very different marketplace to where it was before,” Thelwell said during a media conference call Friday. “It is very, very difficult to understand exactly what it is going to look like. Lots of people I talk to who work in the game say probably the top three, five percent of the transfers, at the very highest level, won’t be affected. But it’s likely that it will be the case at lots of different levels.”
Teams – it is difficult to say how many – might not have the available funds throw around money to purchase players, at least in the beginning.
“It will be interesting to see how the football market gets back on its feet and people start to understand exactly what the future looks like for their football club and in particular what the finances available are like at their football clubs,” Thelwell said. “Then we’ll figure out the market has changed or not. For sure, it seems like its going to be a very slow rebuild in that transfer market in the first instance and I’m sure that will have some sort of affect.”
Speaking of transfers, last year it was reported that the Red Bulls nixed a transfer of 2018 MLS Best XI defender Aaron Long to West Ham in England. That was prior to Thelwell being named to his new post Feb. 3.
“I am aware of the interest,” he said. “I had a conversation with Aaron and his agent about it and they’ve been very, very good about it.”
Thelwell indicated that he didn’t think the non-transfer will affect Long’s performance or attitude.
“He’s an extremely committed individual,” he said. “He wants to perform at the highest level. He is able to do that. He’s going to be a very exciting player for New York Red Bull. … When you have top players who play for your football club, that’s what’s going to happen. People are going to be interested in taking him elsewhere.”
So, how do the Red Bull keep Long satisfied, especially when the money in the English Premier League can be quite enticing?
“What we have to do is exactly what we had to do at Wolves,” said Thelwell, who was sporting director at Wolverhampton Wolves FC, “and that was to try to match those ambitions of those individuals. And that’s certainly what we’re going to try to do here. We’re going to try to work with Chris [Armas, head coach] and the team and to continue to build the roster to be as strong as it possibility can be and hopefully we will get ourselves in a position where we’re able to challenge for silverware, challenge for trophies.”