With a little (huge) help from Jon Coterill
Teams that have partnerships with big companies might seem to be a solution to the lack of organization in brazilian soccer business. But in a country where everyone is trying to take advantage, it creates just another huge problem.
The main issue is that investment companies don’t really care about soccer at all: their only interest is the profit.
Desportivo Brasil are managed by a group of business people and a large company named Traffic. Desportivo’s U-15 and U-17s are excellent. They have great players and also are doing very well in all youth tournaments.
Bruno Gomes is the top scorer of the U-15 São Paulo State Championship. Desportivo are in the semi-finals and have been the best team until now. It’s a similar situation in the U-17 Championship. But the big question is, where are all these talented youngsters going to end up?
Desportivo Brasil’s professional team is in the São Paulo State lowest division but they have no interest in being in the spotlight as that would reveal what the organization is actually doing.
It turns out that Desportivo is nothing but a way for Manchester United to hire Brazil’s U-18 stars: something which is prohibited by FIFA.
Desportivo Brasil, Manchester United and FC Twente have come up with a loophole to get round FIFA’s laws. Other teams are involved, such as Miami FC, from US.
If you look for Desportivo Brasil’s young stars personal profiles on the internet, many of them have pictures at Old Trafford with their personal description saying stuff like: Going to Manchester!
The fact is that Desportivo and United have an agreement that allows the Premier League club to cherry pick the best of Brazil’s youth players. But the process of getting the teenagers to Manchester is complicated.
It isn’t easy to get a European passport or an English Work Visa for non EU footballers. That’s where FC Twente comes in. The players ‘sign’ with the Dutch team until they receive their visas or passports, which would then allow them to play in the Premier League.
Six players have already gone through this system:
- Gladstony – Midfielder, 18 years old: Already training at FC Twente. Desportivo Brasil picked him up from Santos FC.
- Rafael Leão – Defensive Midfielder, 18 years old: Already playing for Manchester United’s youth team. His loan contract expired in June, but was renewed.
- Agnaldo – Forward, 17 years old: He is Desportivo’s top scorer in the São Paulo State U-17 Championship and is playing his last season in Brazil. Agnaldo was originally with Flamengo. He has already played a friendly for FC Twente.
- Aguilar – Forward, 16 years old: With 12 goals in the São Paulo State U-17 Championship, he is also the top scorer of the team alongside Agnaldo. He is considered to be one of the best forwards in his age group in Brazil. He has already played a friendly for FC Twente.
- Lucas – Defensive Midfielder, 16 years old: Has scored three goals in São Paulo State U-17 Championship. Lucas left São Paulo FC for Desportivo in an acrimonious fashion when he was 14. The teenager is not allowed to give interviews. He’s also played a friendly for FC Twente.
- Bruno Gomes – Forward, 15 years old: He is the current top scorer of São Paulo State U-15 Championship and one of the most promising centre forwards in Brazil. Desportivo picked him up from Corinthians.
The above represent just a few names but there are a lot of other players involved. A huge amount of athletes are going to leave Brazil when they turn 18. Many of them because of the agreement between Desportivo and United.
Desportivo have more than a hundred players playing at Porto Feliz, a city in São Paulo State. Obviously, the majority of them will not go to Manchester United.
Desportivo damages Brazilian soccer in two ways. First, it takes great talents from the big teams by talking directly to the players and making them promises, which they sometimes can’t fulfil. Then it sends all of Brazil’s great young talents to Europe.
FIFA says it has strict laws to prevent the exodus of players, but it just doesn’t seem to work. For the Brazilian teams, it is getting harder and harder to keep their greatest young players and the European clubs don’t seem to have an ethical position when it comes to this situation. They just go for the youngsters even before they turn pro, trying to get them at an even lower price.
The law saying that it is prohibited to make international transfers before the age of 18 hasn’t had an effect on Manchester United. In the same way, Desportivo haven’t been put off from offering contracts to the young players before talking to their teams.
The scheme works like this:
- United find a young talent in Brazil. But as international transactions aren’t allowed before a player turns 18, Desportivo Brasil is the outfit that hires him.
- At Desportivo the kid will practice, play, have a psychological follow-up, and English classes. If Man Utd really like him, as soon as he’s 18 he will head off to England or the Netherlands, (depending on his passport situation) and United will pay a fixed price to Desportivo for their services. Interestingly, the price is not set by the quality of the player, but rather by his position.
- While the young athlete can’t sign for the Old Trafford club because of his age, he stays at Desportivo. If he can’t play in the Premier League due to passport or visa’s problems, he goes to Twente. This way, Desportivo more or less acts as United’s franchise in South America.
One curious case is Aguilar.
In 2009, he was a Cruzeiro player and had signed a pre-contract with them. As contracts signed before the age of 16 are not legally valid, Desportivo were allowed to take him when United expressed an interest.
Desportivo talked directly to the player, offering an amount of money that none of the other Brazilians team could offer. Of course, Desportivo only does this because it has the guarantee that United are going to get the player when he turns 18 and also because the English club helps the Brazilian side get the young talent.
The most interesting thing about this, is that Traffic, the company that manages Desportivo, don’t even try to conceal this situation. In an interview with Sportsmail, Jochen Losch, president of international business of the company, said that:
“‘Twente are a partner, helping United to resolve the problem of their EU passports. For two reasons it’s good that a player goes first to Holland. First, after two or three years he’s considered to be European. And of course it’s easier to play in the Dutch league than the Premier League.’
And it’s get worse
‘Manchester United look for young players in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. If they find a good one, they come to us. We’ll get the player, register him with Desportivo Brasil, and we have a contract with United that they have an option to buy this player at 18 for a fixed amount.
‘If the guy turns out to be an Alexandre Pato (the striker who left Internacional for AC Milan for nearly £20million on his 18th birthday) United can still have him for a huge discount because of course we’ll honour the contract. If they don’t like the player, we keep him.’
I believe what the clubs are doing is not only unethical, it’s also illegal. What Manchester United are doing with the help of Desportivo Brasil and Twente is an abuse of their powers and just a way to circumvent FIFA’s laws.
Desportivo also sign up U-15 players on behalf of United. By getting them so young, the English team can even circumvent the law that prohibits international transactions of players under the age of 18.
The saddest thing about all this is that Brazil is having a really hard time trying to keep its great talents. To keep the Brazilian championship at a high level, clubs need to hang on to the likes Lucas Moura, Neymar and Ganso – but this is no easy task.
At the same time, companies and FIFA agents are only interested in quick and large profits. In the end, everyone just wants to take advantage of the situation. European teams are trying to get all the promising players at early age so they can pay less. Because of the money involved, agents are pushing to get their players in Europe as soon as possible. All in all, it’s not a very good situation for Brazilian soccer.