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Another stark warning for clubs with rich owners
Almost exactly three years after signing a lucrative partnership deal with London-based Media Sports Investments (MSI), Corinthians, one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, have been relegated to the second division.
The episode is a stark warning to all clubs with rich owners as to what can happen if the plugs are pulled.
For the first 18 months of the partnership, MSI pumped money into the Sao Paulo-based club and allowed them to go on a spending spree which their rivals could only dream of.
Carlos Tevez, now with Manchester United, was signed for a South American record fee of $18 million from Boca Juniors and other top names were brought in including former Argentina captain Daniel Passarella as coach.
Corinthians duly won the Brazilian championship in 2005, although even then it was clear that the club’s board and MSI were pulling in opposite directions. The two sides disagreed over signings while four different coaches were employed in the first 12 months of the partnership. These included Passarella, who lasted only 15 games.
The deal began to fall apart last year. MSI’s big plan had been for Corinthians to win the South American Libertadores Cup, the region’s equivalent of the Champions League, and go on to play in the Club World Cup in Japan. But it fell apart when Corinthians were knocked out of the Libertadores by a River Plate team coached, ironically, by Passarella.
Tevez and his compatriot Javier Mascherano left the club to join West Ham United. The investors, who had taken on the responsibility for paying the wages of the big names, shut off the flow of cash and the club floundered.
As the debts built up, Corinthians were this year forced to sign low-profile players from second and third division clubs or prematurely promote youngsters from the youth team.
Three years and 10 coaches after signing the MSI deal, Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Gremio condemned the four-times Brazilian champions to a stint in the second division.
On flying back to Sao Paulo, Corinthians were forced to sneak out a back door to avoid a possible hostile reception from their fans, who also sprayed graffiti on the wall’s of the club’s headquarters and even vandalised a Christmas tree.
It was a sad end but, for the many critics who said from the outset that not enough was known about MSI and their funds, also a predictable one.
PHOTO: Corinthians goalkeeper Felipe reacts during a match against Flamengo at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, October 31, 2007. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos