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Agent frustrated by Red Bulls' Long valuation

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The New York Red Bulls are determined to hang on to U.S. international defender Aaron Long, despite an improved offer from an unspecified French club.

The latest offer of $4 million -- confirmed by multiple sources -- was made earlier this week, and would match Giancarlo Gonzalez's move from the Columbus Crew to Palermo in 2014 as the highest transfer for an MLS defender. But according to Long's agent, Shaun Higgins, the Red Bulls have placed a valuation on the defender that is inconsistent with his standing in the Red Bull soccer empire.

"They told Aaron yesterday that he was worth $15m, which is ridiculous," Higgins told ESPN via telephone. "[The Red Bulls] say they're not going to sell Aaron unless they get $15m. They don't think Aaron is good enough for RB Leipzig or Red Bull Salzburg. But the Red Bulls are saying even though he'll be 27 years old [in October], if a team really wants Aaron, they'll come in for him and that his value is similar to defenders in the Premier League."

Long was making just $73,125 in 2018, a season in which he was named MLS Defender of the Year. Long signed a new deal in February that now pays him $800,000, and Higgins said that during negotiations MLS held a tight line and compared Long to defenders already in the league. Now the comparisons are being made to Premier League prices.

Earlier this summer, Premier League side West Ham United made multiple offers for Long, but the last offer was made in mid-July and with the fee topping out at $3m.

If the Red Bulls were to sell Long, they would receive three-quarters of the transfer fee with MLS pocketing the rest. An attempt to reach Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett was not successful, but a club source indicated given Long's annual guaranteed compensation of $800,000, as well as the fact that his deal has two-and-a-half years to run, a $4m fee would barely amount to a break-even proposition. This would make replacing Long difficult, even though his departure would free up considerable space in the salary budget.

The Red Bulls are also keen to make a run at MLS Cup. At present they are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but just five points behind the first-place Philadelphia Union. It's possible then that New York would wait until the offseason to move Long.

Long has seen his stock skyrocket in the past two-plus seasons. He was cut twice by MLS teams, and was playing with New York's reserve team in 2016. But he has become a mainstay with the Red Bulls, earning a starting spot in 2017 and winning the league's Defender of the Year award in 2018. All told, Long has made 83 league and playoff appearances, scoring five goals.

"Long wasn't even invited to the MLS Combine. He wasn't brought into New York's first team. This is all a result of Aaron's hard work," Higgins said.

Long has also become a centerpiece with the U.S. national team. He started five the U.S. team's six matches during the just concluded Gold Cup, and overall has made 11 international appearances, scoring twice.