Greg Vanney is enjoying total control of the Galaxy’s transfer window. With the future of the club at stake, his handling of Billy Sharp’s departure has many questioning his player management skills.
LOS ANGELES – Professional sports and job security are antonymous, even in the best of cases. After a career of club-legend treatment at Sheffield United, Billy Sharp recently shared his experiences with the darker side of the transfer market. His comments on the No Tippy Tappy Podcast detailed how his last interactions with Galaxy manager Greg Vanney left much to be desired.
Sharp sat down with Big Sam Allardyce and Natalie Pike to talk about Sheffield, his future, and most interestingly for Galaxy fans, an hour-long conversation about the LA Galaxy’s plans for himself. This meeting would have been an important one for the player given his recent experience leaving Sheffield United, where the front office gave him multiple assurances of his continuity before pulling the rug from under his feet at the last moment.
Eager to avoid further destabilizing his family, Sharp came into Vanney’s office in Carson seeking clarity and honesty. Vanney entered the office that morning ready to confirm Sharp’s aspiration of continuing with the Galaxy into 2024. Sharp reports that Vanney told him he wanted Sharp as part of the team for the next 12 months, with the only caveat being that he would play less as a result of the incoming DP striker.
While it was likely comforting for him to hear at the time, Sharp took the news cautiously.
“Look,” he said, “if it is a no, tell me because I’ve been led down the line a few months before this, and I’ve got the family, I just want to get them sorted.” Sharp claims the manager reassured him that his and his family’s future would be in LA at least until this time next year.
Following the seemingly positive interaction, Sharp would take Vanney’s word for face value and moved his family over to California. Unfortunately, their residency in the Golden State would be brief. Sharp’s agent soon received a phone call from someone not called Greg Vanney informing them that the club decided not to extend his contract for the next year after all.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that Sharp’s trust in Vanney was misguided. Despite Vanney supposedly being solely responsible for roster decisions, he wasn’t able to (or decided not to) share an accurate picture of the Galaxy’s intentions with Sharp. What’s more, Vanney was also unable to give Sharp or his team the news himself.
Vanney comes off as either unwilling to share his plan or unaware of what the plan is. Considering he is the man entirely in charge of executing the Galaxy’s vision for the future, the former is far more likely. This confirms suspicions that Greg Vanney doesn’t concern himself with the player management of players that he will no longer be managing.
Taking a step back from the emotions of this situation, Sharp’s story is ridiculously common in professional sports. Contracts like Billy Sharp’s are ALL OVER the MLS. An impressive number of players are on option years, meaning that their club is in total control of their futures. This leads to plenty of scenarios like the ones in this thread, where ex-players share some of their experiences (look out for AJ De La Garza’s comment and Herculez Gomez’s story that takes place 30,000 feet in the air). Cases like these are intrinsic of professional sports; every athlete is well aware of the risks they accept when signing on the dotted line.
As unsavory as it initially seems to let go of a player who came in and performed admirably, with 6 goals in 9 starts, Greg Vanney is simply playing his role in the game of football.
The exact details of what went down in that meeting are only known by Billy Sharp and Greg Vanney. This author’s speculation is that when the time came for the pair to meet in Vanney’s office, the club had not yet made a decision on Billy Sharp, still considering the transfer market and their wishlist. Knowing that Sharp would be looking for assurances, Vanney did his job as a manager and made the player (who at the time Vanney was still managing) feel confident and comfortable. The truth at the time may very well have been that the Galaxy wanted to keep Sharp on the team.
Later on, after a choice was potentially made or developments occurred which changed the situation, the decision was ultimately made that Sharp’s services would be surplus to requirements. As the LA Galaxy reserved the right to do, Sharp was then cut from the roster.
At the moment Sharp stopped being a Galaxy player, Vanney was no longer responsible for managing him. With his sole focus being on preparing the players that will represent the Galaxy in 2024, Greg Vanney made a salient administrative decision. By appointing someone else to break the news to a player who is no longer on his team, Vanney ensures all of his energy is spent only on making sure this team becomes the best version of itself next year.
Again, it isn’t a great look. Especially not when the man who ended up with the short straw is a legend of the game who played well and committed to the Galaxy in a difficult moment. But Vanney cannot afford to be concerned with looks at this point. The seat upon which he is surely spending hours building the best possible squad is incredibly hot.
Sharp confirmed that Vanney is definitely working on bringing in a DP striker before next season. The player he chooses to score goals for the Galaxy is just one of many roster decisions Vanney is responsible for making by the end of the winter window. The pressure is on and the clock is ticking for Vanney to finally build a squad that can compete.
As covered before on Galaxy Nation, Greg Vanney has no excuses if he fails to deliver an impressive playoff run. Failure is not an option if he hopes to avoid a fate similar to Sharp’s. It takes ruthlessness at all levels of an organization to win titles. Vanney is at the top, doing his part to save his job and spread the trend of goal-oriented decision making to everyone involved in Carson.
Should this abrasive style pay dividends and yield an improved performance in 2024, Greg Vanney’s treatment of players like Billy Sharp will quickly be forgotten. If not, Vanney will be a manager who risked everything, including his reputation, to get this team back to winning ways. It’s a risky method that rubs many the wrong way, but it is a gamble Vanney is willing to make to obtain the one thing everyone wants: titles.