The Football Lawyer: Once Brazilian players prove their European ancestry, it’s still not easy for them to settle
With the World Cup on its way, the performances of the world’s prominent Brazilians are coming into sharper focus each week. At Barcelona, the arrival of Neymar has given Leo Messi a formidable ally in his team’s attack. At Chelsea, Oscar, David Luiz, Ramires and the increasingly impressive Willian are leading the club’s Premier League challenge. That’s to say nothing of the tremendous promise of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, or the routine brilliance of Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva. The South American country, which hopes to claim its sixth World Cup at home this summer, has long produced the globe’s most coveted footballers.
Ironically, though, the fact that there are so many gifted Brazilians actually makes it harder for them to move abroad. To qualify for a transfer to the European Union, they must typically have played 75 per cent of their country’s internationals in the two years immediately preceding their attempted move. Given the vast strength in depth of the national side, it is difficult for all but the very best footballers to play the requisite number of games.
However, one thing that Brazilians do have in their favour, almost uniquely so, is the extent of their European ancestry. One of the most exhaustive processes that my colleagues and I carry out is tracing their roots to countries like Spain and Portugal, who are particularly favourable to such claims being made. If such a link is successfully established, it makes their access to Europe much simpler; and, once they start playing well in a market with global exposure, they’ll find soon enough that the national team comes calling.
Unsurprisingly, the toughest challenge for a Brazilian player coming to a European country other than Spain or Portugal is adapting to the new culture. Everything is different – not only the language, which is its own great obstacle, but even the mundane details like the food, and the shopping – and so we find ourselves helping out in areas that have little or nothing to do with legal advice, suggesting, for example, suitable places for them to live and go out. They also tend to be very family-oriented, and so we make sure to extend any visa applications that we make on the player’s behalf to his partner, his children and even to his parents. Typically, you’re dealing with an entourage of three or four people, but thankfully this is a cost that the largest clubs can easily afford.
Not all players, however, are stars for their clubs, and with the World Cup approaching they don’t want to find themselves stuck on the bench. Felipe Scolari has given Julio Cesar assurances of his starting spot for Brazil, despite his lack of regular playing time for QPR, but other players do not have such understanding managers. In fact, it is quite the opposite: and some of our clients have therefore been looking for short-term loans to other clubs, eager to keep themselves in their national teams’ plans.
There’s a rush, then, to get everything in place for this summer’s tournament. Many of the most intriguing developments are happening away from the pitch, with the growing concern that some of the stadia will not be ready when the first games kick off. The implications in terms of costs could be weighty indeed; specifically, there’s the question of liquidated damages, which are pre-agreed sums payable upon late delivery of a service by the liable party. As a result, each time a building company misses a key deadline, it will find itself paying out large sums in compensation. However, I suspect that a more immediate concern for most is the destination of this season’s Premier League trophy: and, given the current distraction of that thrilling three-way title race, perhaps we’ll return to this topic another time.Tagged in: chelsea, football, Liverpool, Sport
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