By Felipe Mekhitarian –
For the second year in a row, Brazilian champions Corinthians arrived at the Florida Cup with the weight of massive changes taking place in their roster. As is common for many Brazilian clubs, Corinthians sees a massive turnover in their squad year after year.
Last year, the topic surrounding São Paulo’s expat community in the Sunshine State, was the looming contract renewal (or lack thereof) of club idol and FIFA World Cup hero, Paolo Guerrero—he would eventually sign for league rivals Flamengo.
Corinthians – More than 25 Million Fans
But despite the fact that Corinthians lose players every year, this off season the situation took an entirely different and more dramatic route. Timão (or the big team as the club is often called by its fans), which according to Forbes have more than 25 million fans, have lost two of the best midfielders of last year’s Brasileirão this winter break. The club’s second best goal scorer, and league top assister, Jádson (who used to play for Shakhtar Donetsk from 2005 to 2012), as well as the league’s MVP Renato Augusto, who came close to signing for Schalke 04.
Both players were acquired by the booming Chinese Super League, which has become the public enemy number one for the club’s fans and board. The management of Brazilian club’s say that “they have their hands tied”, when the Chinese arrive with an endless amount of cash-in-hand to deal directly with the players and their agents, offering them staggeringly high wages, unheard of anywhere else in the world for players in a certain age range (28+). Hence, the recent departure of several top players from Brazil has shown the fragile financial situation of the Brazilian economy (football included).
After the departure of Jádson and Renato Augosto, former AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato is the biggest name on the squad. Yet Pato has become a persona non grata at Corinthians in recent weeks. After arriving in 2013 for €15 million, Pato has so far failed to live up to his price tag. In fact Pato’s best season since arriving back to Brazil from AC Milan was while he was on loan at Corinthians’ crosstown rivals São Paulo FC. The board has been dying to sell Pato, and a deal with an English Premier League side is just around the corner for the 26-year-old forward, who didn’t even travel with the group to Florida, staying back in Brazil to deal with his future.
Corinthians and the Chinese Exodus
All in all, the club have lost four starters – Jádson, Renato Augusto, captain Ralf, and former CSKA Moscow and the league’s second top scorer, Vágner Love. It has been reported today, that a fifth starting player’s departure is just a signature away as defender Gil could be leaving for Shandong Luneng.
The departure of several high profile players has been an incredibly tough blow for the only ever football club from the Americas to be included in the Forbes Top 20 Richest Clubs list, and a team considered favorites, alongside the likes of continental powerhouses Boca Juniors and River Plate, to go all the way in this year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.
The Copa is a trophy that Corinthians will hope to lift for the second time, after a magnificent 2012 had them winning it in unbeaten form, with the same coach, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi (Tite) in command; an eloquent, passionate, charismatic gray-haired tactician, and perhaps the answer to keep this team from losing its course in the new season, despite having lost many first team players. Most Corinthian’s fans believe that the club may have lost their backbone, but the brain remains intact.
Sport Club Corinthians Paulista
Founded: September 1, 1910
Place: São Paulo, SP (Brazil)
Stadium: Arena Corinthians (47,605)
Main Titles: 2x FIFA Club World Cup, 1x Copa Libertadores, 1x Recopa (S. American Supercup), 6x Brazilian League, 3x Brazil Cup, 27 São Paulo State League
Former Main Players: Teleco (FWD), Domingos da Guia (DEF), Gilmar (GK), Rivellino (MID), Sócrates (MID/FWD), Casagrande (FWD), Neto (MID), Dunga (MID), Marcelinho Carioca (MID), Dida (GK), Rincón (MID), Gamarra, (DEF), Vampeta (MID), Carlos Tévez (FWD), Ronaldo (FWD), Paolo Guerrero (FWD)
Current Main Players: Cássio (GK), Elias (MID), Danilo (MID), Marlone (MID), Malcom (MID)
Past/Present Corinthians/Shakhtar Players: Willian, Dentinho, Jádson