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The First Major Aston Villa Transfer Rumor Of The Winter Window Has Arrived, And It's Just A Bit Suspect

Richard Dunne leaving Aston Villa makes a fair bit of sense in isolation, but current rumors of his imminent departure to New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer just don't pass the sniff test.

Drew Hallowell

With January just around the corner, we've begun to see the first signs of silly season cropping up here and there. There isn't typically all that much to these early rumors; more often than not, it's young foreign spaghetti being thrown at the Premier League wall in the hope that something sticks. Occasionally though, something interesting will come along. And today, a few somewhat dubious sources are reporting that Richard Dunne is on the verge of joining MLS side New York Red Bulls on a free transfer, potentially within the next few weeks.

As someone that follows MLS obsessively, I can honestly say that some things about this rumor make a bit of sense. Red Bulls desperately need some help in defense seeing as how their high-powered attack was hampered by a leaky back line last season and kept them from moving into the sphere of elite MLS clubs. And with Rafa Marquez gone, Red Bulls have a designated player slot available and it would make a lot of sense for them to use it in an effort to shore up their defense. Dunne seems unlikely to get enough playing time in the Premier League this year to make himself an attractive target to move elsewhere once his contract expires at the end of the season, and were he to come to MLS he'd likely get a nice little wage bump above what he would expect to make should he remain in Europe.

So it's not as though this is a total non-starter, at least on the balance of things. Both sides could benefit, and there's little doubt that Aston Villa would be happy to get Dunne's salary off of the books. But if Richard Dunne were to sign for Red Bulls, there's one man that would have to sign off on the deal that seems just a wee bit unlikely to do so. You see, Red Bull owns several football clubs the world over, and as part of an operational reorganization, they've hired one man to oversee all of them. That man? Gerard Houllier.

Football is a business and hatchets are buried with some regularity, and it's worth pointing out that New York Red Bulls do have their own dedicated General Manager that likely maintains some level of autonomy. It's not as though the idea of the Villa defender moving to Red Bulls is completely implausible. But given the widely reported acrimony between Houllier and Dunne, there's plenty of cause for skepticism. There are more than a few aging but still serviceable defenders that would likely be available on free (or near-free) transfers kicking around the world over. If that's the direction Red Bulls are looking to go, signing a player that's openly clashed with his (ostensible) boss-to-be doesn't seem like an especially likely scenario.