Blink and you’ve missed it. That’s how fast things happen at Palmeiras as of late.
In the morning, the unpleasant news that excellent press officer Fábio Finelli had been sacked.
The order didn’t come from newly hired head of Communications Fernando Mello, but rather higher up in the hierarchy. The reason for his firing is 100% political, although precisely how is unclear. One would however rather safely assume that president Nobre felt pressured to make his pawn sacrifice: it’s not pretty, but one can only hope that we in a not so distant future can look in that rear view mirror and see it was worth it. In the meantime, Finelli is taking up a position at Mello’s agency “Press F.C.”, recently awarded the contract to handle Palmeiras’ communication.
Our most sincere Thank You to Finelli and the quality work at Palmeiras during the last seven years.
The day, however, had only started.
Before lunch, the second surprise – and if the first one was a grenade, this was a small, nuclear charge: Barcos leaving Palmeiras for Grêmio.
First, we need to look at the bigger picture. President Tirone led Palmeiras into such a financial mess that the club’s Financial Committee, with only months remaining of his presidency – took the unprecedented decision to strip him of his mandate to sign contracts and players. Newly elected president Nobre inherited this situation, which includes some unpaid player wages (for example, Palmeiras owe Barcos roughly US$ 750.000 linked to merchandise rights) and the last instalment to LDU (coincidently, also US$ 750.000) for the transfer of Barcos to Palmeiras.
Palmeiras have a limited squad: an additional 10-12 players are needed to fill positions, according to coach Kleina’s wish list. The season is long and the competitions many: São Paulo Championship, Brazilian Championship (second division, with the absolute obligation to ascend), Brazil Cup, Libertadores Cup, South America Cup.
What to say about Barcos? The charismatic top scorer showed serious commitment from day one and quickly conquered the palmeirenses, especially the kids who couldn’t get enough of “The Pirate”. His success in our jersey also caught the attention of Argentine national coach Sabella, who called him up for duty in last September’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru.
Is it possible to hold on to a player like this when relegated to the second division? A player practically told by the national coach that he won’t stand much of a chance to be called up again unless he transfers?
Barcos is no São Marcos. He might like Palmeiras a lot, he might have bonded with the supporters. But his heart is not Palmeiras. It couldn’t be.
The logical would have been for him to leave right after relegation. But he didn’t, in part due to his feelings for the club, in part due to a hefty pay raise. Still, Barcos never made his concerns a secret and also stated that if an irresistible offer materialized, he could be leaving.
This is the scenario when Grêmio make their move. The first-division club are also in the Libertadores Cup. Based in Porto Alegre, Buenos Aires is only an hour and a bit away by commercial flight. Grêmio offer Barcos a slight raise: from US$ 250.000 to perhaps US$ 300.000 monthly.
What’s in it for Palmeiras? Well, Grêmio offer US$ 2 million in cash in addition to assuming Palmeiras’ debts with Barcos and LDU (US$ 1.5 million), bringing the total up to US$ 3.5 million. Grêmio also offer five players to be include in the deal: centre-back Vilson, defensive midfielder Léo Gago, offensive midfielder Rondinelly, strikers Marcelo Moreno and Leandro. These players would all transfer permanently to Palmeiras except for young Leandro, considered a future star and only coming on loan until the end of the year.
In my point of view, accepting the offer makes sense. Without cash and with a seriously limited squad, swapping five for one is a good deal, especially as Barcos was open for the opportunity. But the news divided palmeirenses, with criticism coming down hard not only on Barcos, but also regarding the quality of the five involved in the swap, the fact that Palmeiras were getting rid of their only idol, that Barcos was going too cheap, etcetera.
If the situation was tense already, imagine the outcry when Brunoro holds a press conference, flanked by Barcos himself, announcing the closure of the deal but not confirming exactly which players from Grêmio would de facto be involved. “Grêmio have agreed, but we need to negotiate with the players also, who are free to decline”, was Brunoro’s words. One of the players – and none other than the most important of the five: Moreno – has apparently already announced his intention to stay at Grêmio.
President Nobre, I dearly hope you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, your impeachment might come faster than you can say “cock-up”.
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