A twist in the Chicago Red Stars tale has come to the fore as three sources confirm that the Brazilian club Santos had its eyes on partnering with a team in WPS for the 2011 season. On November 12, a report surfaced in Folha de Sao Paolo – regarded as being one of Brazil’s biggest newspapers – that included President of Santos’ women’s soccer team Murillo Barletta stating, “[WPS] really wants us to be part of the league. I can say we have a 60% of reaching an agreement.”
It can be exclusively revealed that the WPS team of interest was the Chicago Red Stars. The two teams were involved in a long-standing relationship that one source suggests was initiated back in March or April. It is believed that Santos had an interest in forming a partnership in WPS beforehand as well.
At the center for the deal was the signing of superstar Marta, who is fresh off her WPS Championship title with recently-defunct FC Gold Pride. Marta has appeared on loan for Santos in every WPS offseason since 2009. Despite new Washington Freedom owner Dan Barislow’s stated ambitions of signing Marta, Santos was interested in bringing the four-time FIFA Player of the Year to Chicago, possibly because of the link with Cristiane, who also has connections to Santos.
A source familiar with the situation concedes that Marta’s salary was always an issue but felt that the Red Stars “had a way through it”. Failure to agree to terms over Marta’s wages does not appear to be why the deal was unconsummated, however. Rather, the sudden folding of FC Gold Pride severely compromised the likelihood of getting a deal done ahead of the 2011 season. A source admits, “[It] didn’t paint a picture of a league a team could invest its brand in coming from the outside like that.”
In fact, the deal was nearly inked before the news regarding the imminent foldings of FC Gold Pride and the Washington Freedom surfaced on October 31.
“When things looked like they were getting closed, [Chicago] had to completely re-start and reshape the discussions at that point,” the source continues.
Despite Monday’s news of the Chicago Red Stars’ suspension of operations, sources indicate that the two teams are still involved in an ongoing relationship. A source confides that the Red Stars were also involved in discussions with another international club that could have been a “game-changer” for WPS.
If a partnership had been agreed upon by Chicago and Santos, it would have been a first for WPS. Major League Soccer features a “parent club” relationship with Los Angeles-based Chivas USA and the Mexican First Division side Chivas de la Guadalajara.
Santos is one of the most well-known Brazilian clubs in the world, having been the club Pelé spent most of his professional career with. The club’s women’s team has won nearly every competition it has entered since 2007. The team won its second consecutive Copa Libertadores Femenino this October. It features several members of Brazil’s Women’s National Team including the likes of Marta, Cristiane, Grazielle, Erika, Andréia, Aline, and Maurine.
Marta recently inked a three-month loan contract that will see her return to the Brazilian club. The deal was reportedly heavily subsidized by sponsors.