The Danish press is reporting that Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has targeted Danish left winger Brian Nielsen as a player who can bolster the New York midfield.
MLSsoccer.com chatted with Soeren Hanghoej Kristensen, a journalist with Danish soccer weekly Tipsbladet.dk, about Nielsen. Kristensen has been covering the story since the news broke about Nielsen on Tuesday afternoon.
MLSSoccer.com: What type of player is Nielsen? What are his qualities and characteristics?
SHK: Brian Nielsen is a very talented young winger. He has got great technical abilities and vision, good speed and he can shoot and pass with both feet. Offensively, he has almost got the whole package. He is one of the most talented younger Danish players for sure.
But there have been a few problems and off-field issues in his career. Probably because of his talent, he has a rumor of being a bit lazy. He is not good at taking part in the defensive part of the game and, on the training ground, he is not a player to lead the pack.
He has had quite a few red cards and some parts of the Danish soccer community see him as a bit of a problem child. But still, he has been talented enough for two of the biggest clubs in Denmark (Odense Boldklub and FC Copenhagen) to show an interest in him. And he has been on a trial in the German Bundesliga with Schalke 04. He is talented, but a prospect. In Denmark, we have yet to see his full potential.
MLSSoccer.com: He played most recently for Vejle Boldklub in Denmark's second division. Is he a first-division caliber player?
SHK: Brian is without a doubt a first-division caliber player. There has been a lot of interest in him from bigger Danish clubs, but I think he wanted to try himself abroad. If New York Red Bulls (and Salzburg) had not bought him, a larger Danish club would have. He has the potential to go far.
MLSSoccer.com: He played regularly at the youth level for the national team. Is he someone who would be good enough to play for the senior national team?
SHK: Nielsen played a lot of matches in our national youth teams. But he is not ready for the big scene on our senior national team. Not yet. Before he can come into consideration, he has got to prove himself as a good, stable player for a longer period. He is yet to do that. Furthermore, he has to stop getting into disciplinary problems. When he does that, he can get into consideration. But right now he is not close to the senior national team.
MLSSoccer.com: It seems that he is a left-footed player. Is he a strong crosser of the ball? Does he have good pace?
SHK: Brian Nielsen has a fierce shot, especially with his left foot. But he can also shoot with his right. His crossing is OK, but he can certainly get better. His pace, on the other hand, is above average. He is a fast player who can also dribble in high speed. His heading is also quite alright.
To sum up, he is quite a complete player offensively. But he needs to get better defensively and he needs to be a bit more humble—on and off the field. But Hans Backe is a great manager, so hopefully he can help him live up to his potential.
MLSSoccer.com: Finally, what is the perception of MLS in Denmark, as a league?
SHK: In Denmark, MLS isn't a league that people are watching. It is being perceived as a league you go to when your best years are behind you. Therefore, it is remarkable that a 23-year-old Dane is going there. But right now, we have some good players in the Danish league who have played in the U.S. (Chris Rolfe, Benny Feilhaber and Yura Movsisyan), so I believe the respect for MLS is rising here in Denmark. And 'm sure that the two Danes in the MLS, Brian and Jimmy Nielsen, will mean a lot for the interest of MLS in Denmark.