Sports Soccer

Whitecaps in a quandary as Camilo bolts for Mexico

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Camilo sports a Queretar jersey in this picture posted online Monday. (TWITTER SCREEN GRAB)

Camilo sports a Queretar jersey in this picture posted online Monday. (TWITTER SCREEN GRAB)

Is the Vancouver Whitecaps' top scorer gone or not?

Striker Camilo Sanvezzo has reportedly signed with Mexican squad Queretaro FC, having flown down to the country a day earlier. A couple pictures were tweeted Monday with him sporting their jersey, and it seems he's set to play in Liga MX. But this is where it gets controversial.

The Brazilian is still under contract with his Major League Soccer side, and no transfer has been announced yet. That led to Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi heated last-minute press conference Monday, calling his forward's actions "unacceptable and inappropriate."

He added all parties involved have been advised that the striker is still Vancouver's property.

"All the information was provided and to take that next step to be in another club's jersey, I can tell you that when I saw it, it was like a kick to the mid-section," Lenarduzzi said. "How it got to this is something that we'll probably need to ask Camilo's agent and Camilo because they are well aware that he is contracted to the Whitecaps."

Camilo was re-signed by Vancouver in 2012 for two seasons at about $250,000 each, plus two club-option years.

New head coach Carl Robinson said upon his hiring he expected to see Camilo back. And why wouldn't he? The 25-year-old led the league with 22 goals in 2013, earning four player-of-the-week honours and a player of the month along the way. He also took home the MLS goal of the year award.

Coming off that kind of season, Vancouver isn't willing to let him go, and expects him to be at training camp once it begins Jan. 25.

"From where I stand right now, I really believe the situation has been misrepresented to Camilo," Lenarduzzi said. "I'm in a position to not let emotion result in saying something I probably shouldn't say."

After the tremendous campaign that he put up — which also included six assists — Camilo was courted internationally, including interest from Norway's Rosenberg. Queretaro most recently came into the picture, convinced by the player’s representative that he was a free agent. That, of course, is not the case.

However, that hasn't stopped Camilo from pursuing his options, despite having reiterated time and time again in the past of his love for playing in Canada — even welcoming the idea of becoming a citizen and potentially playing for the national team.

Even if he does end up being forced to return to the Whitecaps, the damage may already be done, especially among the Whitecaps fan base.

"We're frustrated with the fact that it's actually got to this stage," Lenarduzzi said. "In the end, you need to take a step back from your frustration and make the best decision available to our club and also hear Camilo out."

This is not the first time Camilo's contract talks have played out like this in public. During the team's first MLS off-season after he led the team with 12 goals, he openly tweeted about his contract, his future, and wanting recognition from the club. A new contract soon followed. This time, new negotiations weren't off the table, especially after the numbers he put up.

"There's no suggestion that we would not have sat down with him and actually looked at a new contract," Lenarduzzi said. "There are unique situations that we as a club believe that there's an opportunity to reward somebody even though they are under contract. Having said all of that, a contract is a contract."

As for a possibility of a transfer sale between Queretaro and the Whitecaps, Lenarduzzi acknowledges no talks have been held.

"At this point, we can't control what they do," he said. "Right now, what we want to do is clarify that he is our player."


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