Much has been said in the last few days about the New England Revolution's decision to decline the options on the contracts of Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica, and not a lot of it has been particularly flattering to the organization. Then again, releasing the previous season's MVP (Perovic) - who also happens to be a quality attacking threat - when you've only managed three wins by the month of July is never likely to spark a wave of confidence and euphoria amongst fans or pundits. I already hashed out most of the reasons why Perovic's release especially could turn out to be a very poor move.
Some of the rumblings, though, have been about the nature of Marko's departure, and it would appear that things remain a bit contentious. The Revolution insist that he requested his option not be picked up by the team, but Perovic denies this. I had a conversation with the playmaker via Facebook and while his printed English wasn't perfect, his message seemed clear.
"I only have to tell you that I had a contract with the club and the deal would not comply. Took advantage of what I had hurt and offered me conditions that were not in agreement, this is blackmail, because I do not have the right to negotiate as an injured player...
"Wanted more link to me for a year. All the players at the club know that I came here because my half of the money given to FC Basel and was now turn to New England to regulate."
These quotes, coupled with a conversation he had with a fellow fan (which I will not quote as record because I never asked if I could on that one), lead me to believe that Marko was expecting a bigger contract when his option came up in mid-season and had perhaps received assurances to that from the front office. When he went out for the season due to injury, the Revolution appeared to offer him only what his option would have entailed (somewhere in the neighborhood of $180-$190k), which angered him and led to the dispute.
Whether or not Marko and his agent were jumping to conclusions on his being guaranteed a raise is unclear. The official team stance is that he had two and a half years left on his contract and they wouldn't have declined his option if he hadn't requested it. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Perhaps Marko requested that the option not be picked up because he wanted a bigger contract? Perovic seems to believe that the team used his injury to renege on what was essentially a done deal and not pay him the money he believed himself to be owed.
Perovic didn't stop there. He also had choice words for the way the organization is run and the priorities of Kraft Sports Group. "In any case [people] here are not thinking for the future," he wrote, clearly implying that the front office is not doing a good job of building a sustainable winning team. This is something that bloggers like myself have been postulating for a few seasons now, and it looks like we're finding support for our hunches.
"All players know what is happening at the club" he continued. "I know how all club functions. P[a]triots club is the only important."
These are damning comments, but hardly anything more than the pessimistic element of Revolution fans would expect. Plenty of fans and analysts, both of the Revs and the league as a whole, would be quick to dismiss these statements as the lament of a spurned player. It's important to remember, though, that there is precedent.
"[In New England] we had a great practice field and locker room, but we were, rightfully so, second fiddle to [the Patriots]."
That was Jeff Larentowicz back in November of 2010, speaking with Frank Dell'Apa following his MLS cup victory. "Jeffy" had a lot to say concerning the manner of his exit in that article, explaining that the Revs organization felt no imperative to re-sign players and, as Perovic asserted, everyone on the team knows it.
Predictably, the Revolution organization had nothing to say about Perovic's disparaging remarks, but this is becoming too much of a pattern to ignore. This is the third former player to be openly critical of the front office and ownership group (you can argue that Taylor Twellman's recent affiliation with the Fort Active Supporters' Trust is an obvious expression of displeasure with his former employers) in ways that all but the most casual of fans have been clamoring about all along. One would be an isolated incident, two could be considered a coincidence, but three is a pattern, and not a great one at that.
It's beginning to look as though the fears that drove some fans to form FAST are well-founded. All of these allegations, coupled with the events of June 18th and the lack of a decisive solution in last week's supporters/FO meeting, paint a clear picture of a club that lacks the drive and competency at the upper levels to follow the rest of MLS into the league's new generation.
At least Marko was able to leave us with this: "The whole truth is that I love Boston, club and fans and I wanted to stay here [for my entire career]."
What do you think? Are Marko's comments just sour grapes, or is something truly wrong in Revsland? Get the discussion going below!