Sources say the New York Red Bulls are nearing a club record deal for Dante Vanzeir

The New York Red Bulls have made a breakthrough in their effort to make Belgium international Dante Vanzeir their next designated player and the 24-year-old forward is expected to fly to the United States this week to complete a move that will break the record Franchise break could fee for a player. The deal is still subject to medical clearance.

Vanzeir will be signed for $5.3m from 11-time Belgian champions Union Saint-Gilloise, but achievable bonuses in terms of playing time, goals and team success could push the fee beyond the $6.25m the Red Bulls paid Huracán in 2018 for the Argentinian playmaker Kaku Gamarra paid .

been Union one of the most fascinating stories in European football in recent seasons and Vanzeir has been instrumental in their success.

The Brussels club was bought by English businessmen Alex Muzio and Tony Bloom in 2018, with a new owner quickly changing the fortunes of a once-famous side then languishing in the lower leagues. In 2021 they were promoted back to the Belgian top flight, with Vanzeir finishing the season as top scorer in the second tier, only to stun the nation by taking top spot in the Belgian in their first season back in the elite Pro League occupied .

Vanzeir struggled in the Championship play-offs, scoring just one goal in six games and missing a crucial penalty against Club Brugge as Union lost back-to-back games against the eventual champions, finishing runners-up and progressing to Champions League qualification.

The fleet-footed 24-year-old returned to form this season with 10 goals before the forced break for the World Cup in Qatar. He has since added two but ruled out with a hamstring problem in last weekend’s win against Leuven after Union rejected a fourth offer from the Red Bulls for his services.

During the World Cup break, he met the Red Bulls on a trip to the United States and got the chance to quadruple his salary to around $1.2 million by moving to Major League Soccer, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations who asked for anonymity are not authorized to speak publicly about the deal. Union tried to persuade the player to stay and help with the title hunt and the Europa League campaign where they advance to the round of 16 while increasing Vanzeir’s chances of further international recognition with Belgium, but the player succumbed seduce the possibility of moving to the Empire State. Union will now retain $20m striker Victor Boniface, who has attracted interest from Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga.

Vanzeir made clear his desire to go for a new opportunity in America, but Union refused to budge until their rating for the player they signed from Genk in 2020 for an initial $200,000 was met, stressing at the same time that they would have to find a replacement with only a week left in the European transfer window, these sources said. The Belgium international was caught on camera by local media yelling at Union CEO Philippe Bormans while the club waited for the Red Bulls to meet their demands. Breakthrough finally came on Monday night when Vanzeir agreed to waive some money Union owed him to make the move possible.

Interestingly, Vanzeir’s international career could now be in the hands of a former Red Bull. Former Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez called up the in-form striker in 2022 and gave him his World Cup qualifier debut against Wales, but he missed out on the World Cup squad and his chances of pulling a Belgium shirt again could now depend on Thierry Henry should he expected to replace Martinez. The Belgian FA are currently going through their recruitment process but Henry, Martinez’s former assistant, is the favorite for the role.

The Red Bulls will no doubt hope Vanzeir can close a gap in ninth place that has been a glaring weakness since the departure of two-time MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips at the end of the 2019 season. Wright-Phillips is the sixth all-time goalscorer in MLS with 117 and the three-time Supporters’ Shield winner recently returned to the Red Bulls as special assistant to the sporting director.

Brian White led the Red Bulls in 2020 with just five goals. New York signed Patryk Klimala as Celtic’s designated player and the Poland forward led the team in 2021 with eight goals. Winger Lewis Morgan led the Red Bulls with 14 goals last season, while Klimala was the second highest scorer with five.

While Vanzeir is capable of playing in a deeper role or far out there, he spent much of his Union career as a right-sided striker in a front two. At Union, Deniz Undav, who now plays with Brighton in the Premier League, played more of a goalie role, while the speedy Vanzeir covered large areas around him, both pressing off the ball and helping to build play.

Many scouts from Europe’s top clubs who came to see the 1.60m Vanzeir were put off by his narrow build, but his low center of gravity and good balance make it difficult for him to hit the ball with muscle and he benefits from a quick change of direction that centre-backs usually struggle with.

(Photo: Vincent Kalut / Photonews via Getty Images)

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