Where in the world will Camilo go?

Just where exactly will Vancouver Whitecaps striker Camilo Sanvezzo be playing in 2014? The answer to that question is seemingly far from clear, with the reigning-MLS Golden Boot winner caught up in a bizarre transfer saga between his current club and Liga MX side Querétaro FC.

It all began when ESPN Deportes reported last Thursday that the Brazilian was set to join the Mexican side by the weekend, forcing the Whitecaps to come out and strongly deny those rumours. According to Vancouver officials, no contact had been made with Querétaro over a possible sale, Camilo was still under contract and they expected the player to report for preseason camp later in January.

In response, Querétaro president Adolfo Ríos claimed in an interview that his club had been approached by Camilo’s representatives about a possible move and made an offer which had been accepted by the player and his agent, having been told during negotiations that his contract had expired on December 31. While that may technically be true, the Whitecaps had exercised their star striker’s option on November 28, making him their property for 2014 – a fact the club claim both the player and his agent were fully aware of at the time the news first broke.

This all led to Monday’s fiasco, when Querétaro’s official Twitter account posted a picture of Camilo in the club’s jersey, giving a thumbs up sign with the caption: “And Camilo Sanvezzo greets our fans.”

The announcement evidently came as a surprise to the Whitecaps, who responded shortly afterwards on Twitter also, writing: “Camilo is under contract with VWFC. The club is working with MLS on this matter.”

With club president Bob Lenarduzzi addressing the local Vancouver media on Monday afternoon to further refute the claims as “unacceptable and inappropriate”, the Whitecaps then released a statement which stressed that both MLS and the Canadian Soccer Association had provided proof of contract and proof of registration, respectively, to Querétaro earlier that day. The Liga MX side later deleted any Camilo-related tweets, though it seems that is far from the end of this dispute.

So where does that leave us now? As Fox Deportes’ Eric Gómez has reported, Querétaro have made it a point they won’t back off, while Camilo’s agent claims the player’s contract is unilaterally binding and thus invalid. The Whitecaps are reportedly desperate to get out of the situation as soon as possible and even reached out to the Mexican club to try to arrange a transfer, according to Gómez. The sides however have been unable to agree on a fee so far, thus leaving the saga rumbling on.

However you look at it, the whole situation is clearly a complete mess. With Querétaro jumping the gun with their announcement, if Camilo goes through with the paperwork and breaches his Whitecaps contract, there could be serious repercussions for both the player and the Mexican club, involving the likes of suspensions and/or transfer bans – as was the case when French defender Philipp Mexes controversially moved from Auxerre to Roma in 2004. What initially appeared to be nothing more than the Brazilian and his agent indirectly expressing their displeasure over the player’s current contract could thus very quickly evolve into something much more unpleasant.

It should be said that Camilo certainly had grounds to demand a bigger pay rise after his impressive 2013 season. Scoring 22 goals with six assists, the 25-year-old established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate, as the Whitecaps largely looked like a one-man team for stretches of the season. With 22 of their 53 MLS goals (41.5%) coming from the Brazilian as the rest of the side’s output dried up, only the Montreal Impact’s Marco Di Vaio came close to matching that impact (40%). However, making a base salary of just $210,000 for the year, Camilo was nowhere near the club’s top earner and evidently far from happy about it. And as designated player Kenny Miller made over $1.1 million whilst dealing with injuries and struggling to consistently find the back of the net, once could argue why should he be?

In that very sense, this Camilo mess also highlights a couple of MLS’ major flaws – firstly, the problems posed by the league’s contract system and, secondly, the major salary discrepancies between players. While you can certainly see how the financial structure which commissioner Don Garber and co. have championed over recent years has been so pivotal towards creating the thriving product we have today, the time will come when the league will have to step up and deliver a more player-friendly scheme, or face losing yet more talent to better deals overseas.

As for Camilo, whatever way the situation is resolved, it’s hard to envisage a scenario in which he returns to Vancouver after the past few days. For a player who was such a fan favourite there – even talking about taking up Canadian citizenship in order to represent the national team – and who clearly brought a lot to the league, that’s certainly a sad way to end things. Whether or not his head has been turned though, Monday’s events likely burned the last bridges.

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