HARRISON, N.J. — As he sat in a blue director’s chair with his New York Red Bulls teammates on the fourth floor of Red Bull Arena Monday afternoon, Kaku calmly and patiently fielded questions from assembled journalists during the club’s annual Media Day.
Whether the question was in his native Spanish or translated to him from English, the Argentine-born playmaker consistently had the same response.
It almost always included “tranquillo” (calm or relaxed in Spanish).
How does he feel about returning to the Red Bulls for a second season in Major League Soccer?
Are you disappointed that your transfer request to Club América didn’t go through?
Was the very public transfer negotiation with the Liga MX powerhouse a distraction?
That is virtually the opposite of a process that became very contentious last month, with Kaku’s agent accusing Red Bulls management of reneging on what he claimed was an agreed upon transfer fee only to ask for more money.
Even América boss Miguel Herrera got involved, saying his team would not be held for ransom over Kaku. Indeed, Las Aguilas moved on and signed Colombian Nicolas Benedetti instead.
All the while, Kaku was in preseason with the Red Bulls. Speaking to ESPN Mexico, Kaku expressed a desire to move to Mexico, but a month later he told MLSsoccer.com he’s excited about embarking on his second season with the Red Bulls.
“I’ve been training with the team the same way I’ve always done it,” he said. “I was always calm about the whole situation because I was fully committed to being here at the same time. I wasn’t trying to just leave all of a sudden. I knew I had a job to do with the Red Bulls. I feel good about it.
“I was just focused on training every single day with the team. I don’t handle the negotiations on that front so whatever they decided, especially with the Red Bulls now that I’m still here, that’s what I’m committed to.”
The Paraguayan international, who had six goals and 14 assists in his first season with the Red Bulls, didn’t rule out a future move to Mexico. But he emphasized his focus is squarely on his current team.
“I’m happy where I am,” he said. “I love the fanbase here as well, they treat me well, the team treats me well. Whatever happens in the future will happen, but all I can control is what I’m doing now.”
What Kaku is trying to do now is lead the Red Bulls to their first-ever MLS Cup title. While much has been made about Kaku’s production tailing off, by his lofty standards, in the second half of the 2018 season, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas came to his player’s defense on Monday saying Kaku was “good down the stretch.” Statistics, he said, don’t fully tell Kaku’s story.
“When you compare him to [Diego] Valeri or [Ignacio] Piatti around the league, playmakers, no one puts in defensive work like Kaku does,” Armas said. “On certain days, it depends on how you’re looking at it. We see a great game, might not be a great game for you.”