Emil Forsberg ready to lead New York Red Bulls to new heights after dazzling European career: ‘I’m here to win. Nothing else’

Emil Forsberg Red Bulls
Emil Forsberg (Photo courtesy of the New York Red Bulls)

HARRISON, N.J. — This sort of responsibility is nothing new for Emil Forsberg.

During his decade-long stint with Red Bull Leipzig, the 32-year-old Swedish international midfielder helped gain promotion to Germany’s top flight, the Bundesliga, and then proceeded to lead them to the UEFA Champions League six times in nine years while winning two German Cups. With it has come calls from the Sweden national team where he’s represented his country at two European Championships and, most notably, at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The stage is now smaller and the lights are not necessarily as bright, but Forsberg is being tasked with the same objective here in the United States — finally lead the New York Red Bulls to the top of Major League Soccer.

“I’ve been playing under pressure my whole life,” Forsberg said. “I love the pressure and I’m excited, very comfortable, and convinced about the quality of the team — what I’m going to bring to the team. I’ve done the journey with Leipzig as well, and the most important thing is the team and that we come together. The quality is very, very high in the team… I’m going to keep pushing. I’m here to win. Nothing else.”

The Red Bulls have seemingly been stuck in neutral for a half-decade. While they’ve made the playoffs in each of the last 14 seasons, the club has yet to win an MLS Cup and has been bounced from the first round of the postseason in each of the last five years. It has prompted head of sport Jochen Schneider to make sweeping changes, most notably moving on from head coach Troy Lesesne and bringing on former Bundesliga boss Sandro Schwarz as manager. Player exits were significantly higher than new signings, but it appears philosophy is quality over quantity — and Forsberg certainly hammers that point home.

“This is an amazing signing for our club,” Schneider said. “Emil is not only an outstanding payer but a fantastic human being… We need to do the next step to be able to win these playoff games and that’s why we brought a player like Emil to us. It’s not only him, but it’s his quality to lead a team and make his teammates better on the pitch.”

Emil Forsberg
BRADENTON, FL – January 24 Exhibition match between the New York Red Bulls and the New England Revolution at IMG Academy on January 24, 2024. (Will Vragovic / New York Red Bulls)

Forsberg’s arrival should continue to raise the profile of MLS, which obviously received an immeasurable boost from the arrival of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami last year. The country and North America don’t provide the same sort of grandeur as European competitions do, but the reputation appears to be improving.

“The challenge to come here to MLS and to pay for the New York Red Bulls was for me, a fantastic experience and opportunity,” Forsberg said. “I thought after nine years in Leipzig, I felt I wanted to do something new. I heard about the opportunity and I said directly that this was something I wanted to do. It’s perfect for me.

“I’m very, very motivated, hungry to win and that’s what made me come. I think we can achieve some fantastic things here. From the beginning, as soon as I heard about it, I wanted to do it with 1,000%, so I’m so happy to be here… I think we’re going in a fantastic direction.”

This simply isn’t a top-tier player coming to New York to spend his twilight in the United States. The Swede was still productive in one of the most demanding and high-profile leagues in the world. This season he had four goals and an assist in 22 appearances for RB Leipzig across all competitions. The year before he had nine goals and seven assists.

Last season, no Red Bulls player had more than six goals and that player, midfielder Omir Fernandez, departed the club to join the Colorado Rapids. 

“I know how good I am and what I can bring to the team. I’m going to do that,” Forsberg said. “I have a lot of pressure and responsibility on my shoulders but I love it. I’m here to do it.”

For more on Emil Forsberg and the New York Red Bulls, visit AMNY.com