Red Bulls’ GM: Team will make ‘significant investment’ in roster in 2024

de Grandpré says club remains committed to developing U.S. players, but roster will be supplemented by 'players from all over the world'

The massive infusion of energy — and interest — in Major League Soccer since Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami CF earlier this summer has begged a question among league supporters: Why not sign more international players?

New York Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpré said the team intends to do just that.

De Grandpré, in an interview Monday discussing Messi’s upcoming visit to Red Bull Arena with Inter Miami CF on Saturday, said the Red Bulls remain firm in their commitment to signing and developing the next generation of U.S. players — but that they also intend to supplement those players with players from around the world.

And do it in a substantial way.

“I can tell you that, next year, we’re going to make a significant investment into our roster to make sure that we can compete at the highest level in MLS consistently,” he said. “There’s no doubt that we’re going to.

“You’re going to see a lot more investment coming from us, targeting players from all over the world again, with the hope that we can bolster our roster and really giving our fans something to get excited about for next season.”

Another Messi-type signing is not likely for one simple reason: There is no other such player, de Grandpré said.

“Messi is one of one,” he said. “There’s only one player who could do what he’s done now for the league.”

And de Grandpré said the club is committed to building the next generation of stars, too — pointing to a new training facility it is currently constructing in Morris Township.

Marc de Grandpre. (File photo)

“We’re truly focused on developing young, young talent, and, hopefully, mostly from the New York/New Jersey area through our academy system,” he said. “We’re going to invest in (the facility in) Morris County. It’s not only for our first team, but it’s for us to attract the best young talent and help them develop with the best facilities and resources.

“That’s going to continue to be our goal. We want to give them the opportunity to establish themselves as professional players on our pitch at Red Bull Arena, eventually. That model won’t change.”

It’s just being updated.

De Grandpré said the desire to increase spending on international stars was not spurred by Messi’s arrival — it already was in the works, he said. Messi’s arrival, however, more than confirmed the potential of the plan.

“The result of having Messi here has been as powerful as we expected,” he said. “And I think it’s only going to continue to grow as each club elevates their performance and elevates the product on the pitch.

“Messi is just sort of a North Star that helps us continue to elevate our game and pushes us to get better, ultimately, across the league.”

The debate over the signing of international stars has been waged in the U.S. for generations — going back to the NASL days in the 1970s that saw the signing of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Cruyff and a host of others.

While it brought excitement, it did not sustain a league that ultimately folded.

The Red Bulls’ earliest attempts at international signings — starting back when they were formed as the MetroStars — fell flat. as big-name players such as Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthaeus and Branco appeared well past their prime.

The Red Bulls had greater success recently with French star Thierry Henry, who scored 51 goals in 122 games in 2010-2014. A player such as Henry, or Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimović, who had 52 goals in 56 games in 2018-19, certainly would have impact.

Of course, the competition for players has never been greater. The professional league in Saudia Arabia is offering contracts exponentially greater than anyone can offer.

De Grandpré, however, is confident that the Red Bulls not only will be able to find talent — but that they have to do so.

“As the league evolves and continues to improve and everyone who continues to invest in the product, the quality keeps being elevated,” he said. “It behooves all of us across the league to make sure that we continue to invest and deliver the best product we can on the pitch to attract more fans to the game and make sure that the league continues to go on the rise as the World Cup comes around the corner here in 2026.”