MLS Moves: How a Larger Deal Could Bring Luis Fabiano to D.C. United

Paul MillerContributor IIIDecember 7, 2012

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 28:  Luis Fabiano of Brazil celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Brazil and Chile at Ellis Park Stadium on June 28, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The rumors of D.C. United interest in Luis Fabiano sound fantastic, with transfer fees far above what the MLS team can afford, yet there are ways in which the Brazilian striker could find himself wearing United's Black and Red next year.

Fabiano currently plays for Sao Paulo. That club reportedly would want seven million euros for his transfer, which at current exchange rates would be just over $9 million.

D.C. United is sending representatives to South America, but little has been made public about the aims of the trip.

Here’s what we know: Fabiano has been an explosive scoring threat everywhere he's played. Also, Sao Paulo has him on contract through 2015.

Beyond that, and the knowledge of D.C. United personnel headed to the South American continent, it is all rumor and speculation. Neither club has announced formal talks, nor even acknowledged that the United trip will include a stop in Sao Paulo.

Let’s assume D.C. is interested in Fabiano, and the 32-year-old Brazilian international is at least one of the targets of this trip. Why would the MLS club even knock on that door, knowing in advance they can’t afford the transfer?

Sao Paulo isn’t likely to cut anyone a break on the price. Fabiano has scored 23 goals in 32 games for the Brazilian club since his transfer from Sevilla.

Here’s where creative negotiating comes into play. Negotiating is the art of two or more sides figuring out each party's needs and concerns and finding a way to meet everyone’s terms.

If this is a simple conversation about cash between just two clubs, more than likely nothing will come of it. D.C. United probably would need to find a way to expand the conversation.

For the deal to work, D.C. would probably have to offer something other than cash to Sao Paulo and/or find additional parties to subsidize the transfer fee.

The MLS club does have the one thing seemingly craved by football clubs everywhere: American fans.

The mostly untapped potential of the American fanbase is what draws European clubs to risk preseason injuries during the MLS All-Star break. It is what inspires Manchester United to organize fan parties in New York.

There currently is a global war raging, but the objective isn't putting flags on some hill. The objective is putting jerseys on the backs of Americans.

Club kits are a huge business. Club kits with the right name can be even bigger.

When Chelsea paid an exorbitant transfer fee for Fernando Torres, it may not, on balance, have been such a huge expense, considering the way Torres jerseys fly off Chelsea shelves.

In late November of this year, BBC business news ran a story on one Brazilian sports official who wants to make jersey exports a two-way flight path. This official has observed his country import jerseys from European clubs and wants to find new avenues for exporting Brazilian club jerseys to Europe and the States.

What D.C. may be able to offer is a foothold from which Sao Paulo or even a larger collection of Brazilian clubs could market their merchandise in the U.S.

Imagine how many jerseys Sao Paulo could sell, not to mention how many television dollars it could secure, if Fabiano were to play for D.C. United against the Brazilian club during the next All-Star break.

Think about how many of Fabiano’s Sao Paulo jerseys D.C. United fans may want. Or how many of Fabiano's replica national jerseys, with their globally recognized gold and green colors.

With 28 goals in 44 caps, Fabiano would be the most successful Brazilian international playing for an American club since Pele.

Fabiano isn’t Pele, of course, and most likely wouldn’t create David Beckham levels of "hypesteria" by signing with an MLS team. But he would offer American fans an opportunity to have their own piece of Brazilian football.

For another possible angle, imagine if RFK Stadium offered AmBev beer brands next season and beyond. Advertising talent would have a field day coming up with slogans for enjoying Brazilian talent and taste all in the same outing.

AmBev, the Brazilian arm of Anheuser-Busch and a global company in its own right, already is a major football sponsor in Brazil, with some current Sao Paulo involvement. AmBev seemingly understands the business return for that kind of sponsorship and potentially could be a partner in subsidizing this transfer.

Semp Toshiba is another possible partner, as any deal to market Sao Paulo jerseys is a deal to market their name as well. That company, which focuses on Brazilian domestic markets, may not see any advantage. However, the Toshiba parent company in Japan might be willing to take a larger view.

The above examples are speculative. There may well exist legal or business reasons that would prevent each from occurring. This article is not suggesting that AmBev or Toshiba have agreed to discuss the matter or even that they have been approached.

But with the World Cup coming to Brazil in a year and a half, this article is suggesting that creative possibilities do exist.

Brazil and Brazilian clubs do have an interest in Fabiano playing stateside. The question would be whether D.C. United could make a compelling pitch to the right collection of people.

MLS teams, as well as the league itself, can be creative in putting these deals together. The original deal that brought Beckham to MLS, for instance, included an ownership rights option to a future expansion franchise.

Fabiano playing for D.C. next year may not be likely. But we shouldn't assume it is impossible.


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