The contract extension exercised by the New York Red Bulls last year for midfielder Alejandro Gammara ‘Kaku’ Romero went the way of the MLS club, with an arbitrator making the decision on Friday that the player is still bound by his existing deal. The arbitrator’s decision is just the latest chapter in what has certainly been a tumultuous three seasons for Kaku with the club.
On Saturday morning, ‘MLS Multiplex’ reported first on social media that the arbitration between the Red Bulls had gone in favor of New York. At issue was the notification of Kaku’s extension.
The player said he was never notified in writing of the extension, which, per the contract’s stipulations, would make the deal null and void. His representation argued that because this notification was never given, that technically he is a free agent and that the contract signed with Al-Taawoun this year is valid.
The arbitrator agreed with the Red Bull that notification was made and that Kaku should still be under contract with MLS. This despite the fact that he is now a regular with Al-Taawoun and has made a number of appearances for his new club.
In a statement released after news broke on social media of the arbitrator’s decision, the Red Bulls sounded vindicated in their efforts:
"We are pleased with the arbitrator’s finding that MLS’ unilateral option was effectively exercised by New York Red Bulls Sporting Director, Denis Hamlett, and that a valid contract exists between Kaku and Major League Soccer through December 31, 2021. With this decision, we now look forward to seeking further resolution, and will provide updates when appropriate during that process."
Kaku’s signing with the Red Bulls three years ago was paved with confusion. At the time of his transfer to MLS in 2018, the Red Bulls had a long, twisting road to even land the attacking midfielder, needing to pay off his prior representation who still had a percentage in the player’s future.
Then last year, citing home sickness, Kaku and his representation tried to maneuver a move to Club America in Liga MX. Reports indicated at the time that the Mexican giants had interest in the talented player, who is a part of Paraguay’s national team. But the valuation of the New York Red Bulls and Club America were substantially off, leading to Kaku’s return to MLS.
This past winter, there were reports that Kaku was wanted by Tijuana.
Of course, there was the terrible incident in Sporting Kansas City, where a frustrated Kaku kicked a ball and inadvertently hit a spectator in the face. Kaku apologized for the incident and served a league suspension.
There is a sense from those around Kaku that the player and his representation could appeal this decision to FIFA. But if the New York Red Bulls are able to strike a deal with Kaku’s current club, then an appeal might not be necessary.
Kaku has, not surprisingly given his quality, had a strong start to his career in the Saudi Arabian league. A transfer, albeit belated, could help redeem the situation for the Red Bulls and save his new club from FIFA sanctions.