'Zero chance' Henry returns to Red Bulls; Club's owners losing interest
One of the big questions facing the New York Red Bulls is Thierry Henry: Will the most accomplished player in MLS history extend his contract with New York after it runs out at the end of this calendar year? Well, Red Bull soccer boss Gérard Houllier hinted at things over the summer when he said that he didn't think Henry would extend with New York, and a source with knowledge of Red Bull’s plans now tells SI.com there is “zero chance” that Henry will sign an extension. (That doesn’t necessarily mean that Henry will retire, however.)
Part of the reason is Red Bull has dramatically reduced its investment in New York as Red Bull’s global profits have declined, and its soccer interest has shifted toward its teams in Europe. The Red Bulls didn’t spend to acquire a third Designated Player during the summer transfer window, and plans to start a USL Pro team have been shelved.
While Marc de Grandpre, the club’s head of commercial operations, says the team is not for sale, one source says that if a buyer approached Red Bull and offered $300 million for the Red Bulls and their stadium, the deal would get done within 48 hours.
In fact, team and stadium sale talks were indeed held by Red Bull a couple years ago with a New Jersey-based investor group and then again with Manchester City before the club acquired its MLS expansion franchise along with the New York Yankees, but neither set of talks led anywhere.
Long story short: Don't look for Red Bull to be involved in MLS in the long-term future.
In other news from the world of soccer:
• The 2015-16 English Premier League season will start earlier than usual on August 8, a source tells me, with the Community Shield taking place on August 2. Moving the start of the season earlier is a response to Premier League managers’ concerns over schedule congestion during the busy Christmas season.
• UEFA debuted its new head-injury protocol in this week’s Champions League games, which allows for the game to be stopped for three minutes if a head injury occurs and for the team doctor to have the final say over whether a player can continue or not. Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the leading experts on sports concussions, told SI.com the new policy was a good start, but things could still improve.
He said most concussion diagnoses take more than three minutes, and he said UEFA would be better off by following the NFL policy of having an independent doctor at every game instead of using doctors who are paid by the teams.
Still, he’s encouraged that soccer is finally taking some steps after being what he says is at least five to 10 years behind U.S. pro leagues in addressing concussions.