Tough year shaping up for Brazilian club Flamengo

Tough year shaping up for Brazilian club Flamengo

Published Jan. 19, 2012 10:40 a.m. ET

Brazil's most popular football club is facing a moment of unparalleled crisis, with top players like Ronaldinho protesting over unpaid wages and threatening to quit the team.

Ronaldinho said this week he may leave Flamengo unless he is paid what he says are five months of salaries. For the same reason, defender Alex Silva refused to travel to Bolivia for a Copa Libertadores match. And midfielder Thiago Neves already fled the team and signed with Fluminense, the club's main rival.

Although Ronaldinho traveled with the team to Bolivia for the Jan. 25 game against Real Potosi, he has said he won't play unless an agreement is reached over the 3.75 million reals ($2.1 million) he says is owed to him.

According to the contract the former Barcelona and AC Milan forward signed with Flamengo early last year, most of his wages would be paid by sports marketing group Traffic.


Ronaldinho's agent and brother, Roberto Assis Moreira, said many teams in and outside Brazil are interested in signing the 31-year-old player if he is not paid.

Meanwhile, local media reports say that Ronaldinho and coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo are barely speaking to each other after Luxemburgo reportedly found the player with a woman in a hotel in Bolivia while the entire team was supposed to be on lockdown, preparing for the upcoming match.

Rio de Janeiro's Extra newspaper said Luxemburgo demanded that Ronaldinho be released from the team because he flouted club rules, but that team executives pushed back to keep their star on the team.

Flamengo President Patricia Amorim has denied the team is facing a crisis or that it owes any back wages - but she is being torn to pieces in the Brazilian sporting press, which calls her blind for being the only person not to see the peril Flamengo is confronting.

''A lot of silliness is being said about a financial crisis. This is simply not true,'' Amorim said this week. ''And it is important to say that no back wages are owed.''

Yet within 48 hours of her comments, Fluminense said it had signed Neves.

''It is now official. Fluminense announces it has reached an agreement with Thiago Neves,'' the team said on its website. ''Financial negotiations have been successfully concluded.''

Amorim said Fluminense had been ''unethical'' for signing Neves at a time when Flamengo was trying to persuade him to stay on for another season.