"Infamous may be a better word," the MetroStars general manager said after spending two days giving lengthy interviews in the German press to deny reports that Lothar Matthaeus could stay with Bayern Munich until June.
On Nov. 14, the 38-year-old Matthaeus, a veteran of five World Cups, played his world record-tying 143rd full international in Germany's 1-0 win over Norway. The next day, he was meeting with Bayern officials to plot a way in which he could stay in Germany until mid-summer -- after the German season and the European Championship are completed.
Initial press reports in Germany said Matthaeus would stay with Bayern, whose German and European Champions League title hopes have been hampered by injuries and suspensions.
"We expect Matthaeus here Feb. 20," said Stillitano, who has MLS paperwork on his side.
Not only does Matthaeus have a one-year contract, reportedly worth $1 million, with MLS starting Jan. 1, the league has a release form from Bayern with the same date.
But one week after a five-day visit to New York that included welcoming press conferences, Matthaeus started talking about his allegiance to Bayern, where he played in 1984-88 and since 1992.
"I would gladly remain available to Bayern for the next few months," Matthaeus said.
The MetroStars are used to Matthaeus delays. They originally planned to have him for the end of this season, but Bayern held on. This time, they want him by preseason.
"My conversation with Lothar [Nov. 15] was, 'It's not a problem,'" Stillitano said. "'They asked me to help out because of Jens Jeremies' suspension and Thomas Strunz's injury, and I told them it's up to the MetroStars.' I relayed to Lothar we need him here at preseason.
"He said he would honor the contract, period, and be here Feb. 20."
Matthaeus told the German press he's leaving his arrival up to Bayern and MLS. Stillitano says MLS vice president Ivan Gazidis said he won't allow Bayern to delay Matthaeus' release.
The German press also reported that Matthaeus didn't enjoy his New York visit.
"I got a hand-written note from Lothar's agent thanking me for the great time he had," Stillitano said. "He said he did not like the traffic in New York, that is true."
Matthaeus' quest to become the only MetroStar living in New York City left him frustrated.
"He was hoping to find an apartment in New York," Stillitano said, "and anybody who's tried knows that's not easy. But we have a few months to find him one. I think it was just the traffic."
by Soccer America executive editor Mike Woitalla