Revolution hold firm on Twellman
Taylor Twellman admits he could not have envisioned 2007 playing out the way it did, in what could be best described as a dream scenario.
From emerging as a U.S. national team regular and playing a part in the U.S. team's Gold Cup victory, to enjoying another all-star season in MLS, to finally drawing serious interest from a European club that wishes to acquire his services -- it was almost everything Twellman could have asked for.
If Twellman had envisioned 2007 going the way it did, he might not have signed the lucrative, multi-year deal with the New England Revolution that he agreed to a year ago. He simply would have held firm and played out his previous deal, and he would have gone into this month's European transfer window a free agent, with a chance at European glory at his feet.
There is one small problem. Twellman did sign that deal. That signature gave the Revs and MLS control of his professional future, control the Revs used to say no when English club Preston North End came calling with a $2.5 million offer.
Twellman isn't happy about it and is letting it be known that he doesn't want to see what could be his best chance to play in Europe slip away.
"I'm not going to lie; $2.5 million is not an offer I ever expected to see," Twellman said. "Here is a team that clearly has interest in me, and here I am, in a position to be able to get a [U.K.] work permit, and it's a chance that I don't know is going to come again."
For New England, the decision to turn down Preston North End's offer was a simple one. It wasn't worth that amount of money to sell a player they would find extremely difficult to replace. As for Twellman's unhappiness with the team's decision? Club officials point to the contract he signed, the one that makes him the team's highest-paid player.
"It needs to be made clear that [Twellman] signed a long-term extension with MLS last year and we fully expect that contract to be honored," said Mike Burns, New England's director of soccer. "I think by not accepting the offer, it says a lot about the Revolution and the league that this deal has been turned down.
"We want to show our fans and our team that we want to put the best product on the field -- without Taylor, that lessens our chances of being successful, and that was, in part, why the offer wasn't accepted.
"This situation didn't make sense for the Revolution. If it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, perhaps it would be viewed differently."
This is where the sides disagree. For Revs management, the offer isn't enough to make the team consider giving up its most dangerous attacking player and one of the league's best forwards.
For Twellman, a chance to play in England at the same club where Eddie Lewis and Brian McBride began establishing their European credentials is an opportunity that might never come again. And that opportunity appears to be fading now that the Revs have rejected Preston's most recent bid, up from an initial $2 million offer.
"My point is, if they're just going to turn it down in the blink of an eye, and they didn't even think about it, that tells me they're pretty much not selling me under any circumstances," Twellman said. "So if I'm not for sale under any circumstances and I'm going to spend the rest of my career with the Revolution, then something's gotta give.
"If I'm that valuable and mean that much to the team, then how do they justify me not being their designated player? It isn't even about that, though. It's about a chance that I may not get again. You only do your career once, and this is an offer I'm not sure they'll ever see again."
Ultimately, Twellman doesn't have much recourse, since he signed that contract a year ago for the security it offered and the increased salary he was hoping for. Just because circumstances have since changed, the fact remains that Twellman already committed.
That is what New England's management is quick to point out in the Twellman case. If he hadn't signed that contract a year ago, he would have been free to take the offer from Preston, or he could have used it as a bargaining tool to potentially score a designated player salary from New England. Instead, Twellman chose not to gamble on the uncertainty of playing out his old contract and chose the peace of mind of a new contract.
What happens next? Based on the impression Revs management is giving, you shouldn't expect New England to budge. The Revs didn't budge when it came to ace midfielder Shalrie Joseph's desire to move to Celtic, and they aren't likely to budge now.
Unfortunately for Twellman, there isn't much he can do. Preston North End needs help immediately and is likely to move on to its next transfer-window target sooner rather than later. All Twellman can do is make the most of his national team opportunities and keep scoring goals for New England, with the hope of better transfer offers this summer. There is no guarantee the Revs will listen then, but they already have made it clear they aren't going to listen now.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.) and writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.