Queens Park Rangers New Zealand centre back Ryan Nelsen has agreed to become the new manager of MLS side Toronto FC.
Nelsen, 35, joined QPR in the summer of 2012 after being released by Tottenham and has been used frequently under both Mark Hughes and new QPR boss Harry Redknapp.
Toronto is part of the Western Conference in the MLS and became the first Canadian side to play in the division in 2007. They finished a very poor 19th overall last season.
The news comes as a surprise to most because Redknapp was the man who brought Nelsen to Tottenham, so most would expect Nelsen would be wanted at Loftus Road still. However, MLS side Toronto wants Nelsen as their new manager in time for the new MLS season, which begins in March.
But, the strange part is that QPR still has Nelsen under contract until the end of May this year. QPR has stated that Nelsen should be able to still play a part in their side until May. We can already see some problems may well arise, right?
QPR, bottom of the Premier League with just 2 wins, has also said that Nelsen will still play this coming weekend against his former side, Tottenham.
“I’ve had several conversations with Harry and Tony Fernandes [QPR's Club Owner]… They understand that when I play I am playing on glass knees and glass ankles. It is a bit of a struggle.”
“They know I am at the end but they also know the predicament they are in. It is a major predicament.”
“QPR would like me to keep playing but we have to sit down and talk. If we can get five straight wins, that’d be perfect.. then we can shake hands and part company but we are just going to have to talk and see how things progress”
Nelsen spent five years at MLS side DC United before making the move to the Premier League and Blackburn in 2005.
Nelsen is reunited with Toronto’s President, Kevin Payne, having played under him whilst at DC United,where he captained the side to a fourth MLS title. Payne stated on Toronto’s club website:
“I believe his leadership qualities, intelligence, preparation and character will contribute to his success as a coach. I couldn’t ask for a better person to lead our club.”
Talks and deals are now expected to take place between Nelsen, QPR and Toronto in the coming days and weeks, but things as stated by Nelsen himself are likely to come down to QPR’s own situation regarding form and any players that they can bring in.
From an outsider of the MLS, the news is a very strange one indeed. It does slightly highlight the difference between the World’s Top Leagues and the MLS. An inexperienced coach named the new head of a team in the highest level of American soccer. Nelsen isn’t even seen as anything special in the UK and I don’t think QPR fans will miss him too much. As he said himself, he is injury-prone but he’d still probably be able to offer something as a player in the MLS. At first glance, predicating his success manager, that’s a complete unknown, but maybe he will come good.
Keep an eye on this story over the coming months.
By Stowe Gregory @stowegregory