Atletico Mineiro backs off deal to sign Anelka
SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro said Tuesday that it will not sign former France striker Nicolas Anelka because the player took too long to report to the club.
Atletico Mineiro director Eduardo Maluf told a media conference the player had until Monday to arrive and sign his contract. He said the club was advised by one of Anelka’s agents that he would not be able to come to Brazil until the end of the week.
Maluf said it was the third time the player and his agents “gave excuses” for his failure to report to the club.
Atletico Mineiro president Alexandre Kalil announced the deal to sign Anelka on April 6. The club said a pre-contract had already been signed and had been heavily marketing the player’s signing even though his arrival kept being delayed.
Maluf said he was caught by surprise on Tuesday when the agent said Anelka was in Kuwait for a religious trip.
“He had the obligation to let us know about this in advance,” he said. “Atletico is much bigger than this, the deal is off.”
Maluf said the club is considering filing a complaint to FIFA against the player and his agents, saying they broke their agreement with Atletico.
The Associated Press was not immediately able to contact Anelka or his agents.
The 35-year-old striker has been without a club since West Bromwich Albion said it fired him in March following a five-match suspension for a racially aggravated goal celebration. Anelka said he was the one who terminated his contract with the Premier League club.
The former Manchester City and Chelsea player was suspended for performing a gesture that is known in France as a “quenelle” and regarded as anti-Semitic.
At Atletico, he was set to form a duo with former Brazil star Ronaldinho, his teammate at Paris Saint-Germain in the early 2000s. Brazilian media said the players had talked and Ronaldinho helped convince the Frenchman to join the club.
Atletico Mineiro is the defending champion of the Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s most important club competition.
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