Soccer

Botafogo fans upset with young player's transfer

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SAO PAULO (AP)

Clarence Seedorf's Botafogo is getting heat from its supporters because of the imminent transfer of the team's most promising star in the middle of its title run in the Brazilian league.

After the announcement that 19-year-old sensation Vitinho is set to join CSKA Moscow, fans quickly took to social media to express their disappointment and some wrote complaint messages on the walls of the team's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

The messages attacked the team's president and even the player, calling him a ''mercenary.''

The complaints prompted Vitinho's wife to defend the player and say it was an opportunity that he couldn't pass up.

The transfer comes with Botafogo in contention for its first Brazilian league title since 1995. Led by Seedorf, the team is second in the 20-team standings near the halfway point.

Police had to be called in to keep the group of fans from causing more damages at the team's headquarters late Monday night. Local media reported that the windows of the team's official shop also were painted.

''The love is over,'' said one of the messages, below a series of dollar signs painted on the wall of the headquarters.

Vitinho's wife, Thayane Santos, ranted against the critics on social media.

''It's not about money,'' Santos said, according to GloboEsporte.com. ''He has a family. It's about an opportunity.''

Vitinho, who has a young daughter with Santos, was expected to leave the country on Tuesday to undergo a physical before signing with the Russian club.

CSKA reportedly is paying (euro) 10 million ($13.4 million) for the talented striker, who has been considered one of the tournament's top players so far.

Former Botafogo president Carlos Augusto Montenegro, who is still influential at the club, said there was little that could be done to avoid the transfer, especially because several agents were pushing for the transaction. The club is expected to keep 60 percent of the transfer fee, with the rest going to Rio de Janeiro club Audax, which is where Vitinho started playing.

''It all happened really fast,'' Montenegro told local Radio Tupi. ''The Russian club is willing to pay the buyout clause. There is not a lot that we can do.''

Montenegro said the high salary being offered to the player also played a decisive role. He said the youngster started the year earning 15,000 reals ((euro) 4,700; $6,300) per month, then got a raise to 35,000 reals ((euro) 11,000; $14,700) and was promised to get 200,000 reals ((euro) 63,000; $84,300), but CSKA reportedly offered about 500,000 reals ((euro) 157,500; $210,700).

Botafogo has been struggling financially despite the recent success on the field, and players reportedly have been facing salary delays of up to two months.

Since winning the Rio de Janeiro title earlier this year, Botafogo has already sold three other players - Fellype Gabriel, Jadson and Andrezinho.

''It's football, we have to move on,'' Montenegro said.

Part of the money from those transactions was blocked by Brazilian authorities because of the team's debts, and there were fears the same could happen to the money coming from Vitinho's transfer.

Although Vitinho's transfer hadn't been made official, the striker had already been removed from Botafogo's squad that will play a Brazilian Cup match against Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday. Vitinho scored one of Botafogo's goals in the 4-2 first-leg victory in the competition's round of 16 last week.

FC Porto and Turkey's Galatasaray reportedly had also showed interest in the Brazilian youngster.

Vitinho had scored four goals in this year's Brazilian league and had been receiving a lot of praise from Seedorf, the Dutch star midfielder who took over the team's leadership after arriving in Brazil last year.

Botafogo is one of the four traditional clubs in Rio de Janeiro but it hasn't won a significant national title since the 1995 Brazilian championship. It hasn't contended for the league title in a long time and now it's only two points behind leader Cruzeiro after 16 of 38 rounds. Its next Brazilian league match is against Sao Paulo on Sunday.

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