Carlos Tevez’s probable departure for Corinthians feels incongruous. South American players returning to their home continent is no novelty, but they tend to go only when they can no longer play with the best inEurope. Ronaldinho, Deco, and Adriano have all returned in recent years, but all did so in the downswing of their careers.
Tevez, though, is playing the best football of his life. Rather his departure signposts the increased financial power of the Brazilian league.
The fee and wages for Tevez will amount to more than for any other player inBrazil. But Corinthians, one of the biggest clubs in Brazilian football, are uniquely able to afford him. This is primarily due to a television deal the club have negotiated, the largest in the country.
After a collective deal between the clubs could not be reached, Corinthians capitalised by arranging their own. They are the best-supported team in Sao Paolo,Brazil’s largest city, and the second biggest team in the country, behind Flamengo. This popularity has allowed them to negotiate a deal thought to be worth between £40million and £50m annually. It provides the financial muscle required for them to compete with the European elite.
Beyond TV rights, Corinthians’ prestige and popularity ensures one of Brazil’s best commercials deals; pharmaceutical giant Neo Quimica sponsor them, paying £15m for the right to advertise on their shirts last season. Neo Quimica are thought to have contributed to the wages of Liedson, the Portugal striker who returned to Corinthians from Sporting Lisbon in January, and who now earns £40,000 per week.
The deal to sign Liedson is no isolated case. Sponsorship money is flooding into Brazilian football, thanks to the wealth generated over a decade of economic progress. Growth last year was a record 7.5 per cent, and 48.7m Brazilians have entered the middle or upper class since 2003. This has inevitably led to more revenue for teams. “People have more money, salaries are up, they can spend more on tickets and shirts,” said the Flamengo president, Patricia Amorim.
Brazil’s larger clubs can pay wages they previously would not have been able to afford. Ronaldinho earns £100,000 per week at Flamengo, largely thanks to corporate sponsorship. Another pharmaceutical company, Unimed, helped to pay for Fluminense’s double-signing of Deco and Juliano Belletti from Chelsea in 2010, which helped them to that year’s Campeonato Brasileiro.
Of course, Tevez is different, because of the presence of Kia Joorabchian, who has part-owned the striker before and may do so again. Joorabchian was a director of Corinthians when he first took Tevez there fromBuenos Airesin 2004. But even without his influence, the cycle of Brazilian growth and investment in football is only going to continue, to the signing of Tevez and beyond.