In the space of 48 hours, Vitolo went for extending to his contract with Sevilla, to moving to Atletico and then Las Palmas in an extraordinary saga
“Ungrateful”, “traitor”, “cheater” and, above all, “disgusting rat”.
Reading the Twitter-feed of Sevilla FC fans these last few days has been quite the ride, in terms of the inventiveness and originality that can be applied to giving stick to a single player. Vitolo Machín’s move to Atlético de Madrid, with a six-month stop in the sunny Canary Islands, is hands-down the most controversial transfer of the summer in La Liga.
In order to understand how undeniably huge this shocking move is, we must provide some sort of context. But it’s complex. In a nutshell: Atlético de Madrid still has a FIFA transfer ban to abide by, Vitolo was possibly Sevilla’s most charismatic player and it seemed as his contract was about to be renewed. Enter Las Palmas and, after a magic trick which took advantage of loopholes in the transfer law, Vitolo is a new Atleti player till 2022 and Sevilla was left hapless and hopeless, without its footballer and with tremendous turmoil within the club.
Castro (on Vitolo): "There is a written agreement, the club will do whatever is necessary"
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) July 13, 2017
It needs to be stated: Atleti’s interest in Vitolo goes back a long way. Talks have been ongoing for many months, but the FIFA ban on transfers until January 2018 seemed too big a hurdle to jump over. Rumors soon placed Las Palmas, the side where Vitolo exploded as a top-class player in Segunda División many years ago, as a necessary middleman. Ultimately, the deal was made following the blueprint sketched over the last season. But the drama has gone overboard due to a couple of particularly delicate issues.
The first one is obviously Sevilla FC’s press conference last Monday with Jose Castro, the club’s president, stating that Vitolo was about to sign a contract extension after a summer full of rumblings and speculation. “Vitolo is one of our own. This summer we preferred taking action instead of talking, and that’s why the player will continue wearing Sevilla shirt for the next five seasons”, he announced. His new buyout clause, reportedly, was to be 50 million euros.
Immediately, Atlético fans started fuming and complaining over their club’s lack of initiative in a transfer move that had made them hopeful of adding an international class player to their roster with plenty of experience in the national team. Soon criticism was directed towards Atlético’s disappointing board, always two steps behind Cholo Simeone’s greatness and ambition.
But the drama was about to experience an unexpected turn. The scoop surprised everyone early on Tuesday: Vitolo *hadn’t* signed his new contract and, in fact, he was traveling to Madrid with his agency (Bahía Internacional, more on them later) to finish the paperwork and become… an Atlético player!
Sevilla’s Board and fans were outraged. Atlético’s supporters, on the other hand, were cheering with excitement. Castro once again took to the media and slammed the winger: “Vitolo failed us as a person. He used Sevilla to increase Atlético’s offer and earn a bigger salary. We’re outraged; there was an agreement with his father and his agency”, he claimed.
Bickering and pouting was not going to be enough to stop the move. Vitolo’s representatives, Bahia Internacional, have strong ties to Atlético de Madrid: one of their top bosses, Jose Antonio Martín ‘Petón’, has a track record of moves and interests with the Colchonero side, with Fernando Torres (one of his top players) as the best example.
Negotiations between both parties were always fluid, even when the transfer seemed dead in the water. With the security that all parties weren’t breaking international regulations, they brought Las Palmas into the talks. An agreement was reached quickly: Vitolo would play for six months on loan for the Canary Islands team, and then (once the transfer ban was over) he would play for Atlético in January.
On Wednesday, Vitolo and an Atlético lawyer walked to the La Liga offices in Madrid and deposited two cheques for a cool 36 million euros, his buyout clause. Hours later, Sevilla’s Vicepresident, Jose Maria del Nido Carrasco, resigned possibly due to the incredible harm that the Nervión institution had suffered publicly.
Jose Castro, meanwhile, announced that his club would take legal action and launch an investigation regarding the paperwork related to the transfer, as Sevilla is sure that Las Palmas’ involvement is illegal due to FIFA warning clubs with transfer bans that any third-party involvement would be forbidden.
And finally, Vitolo himself. After catching an airplane and landing in Gran Canaria on Wednesday evening, the ‘prodigal son’ spoke briefly: “These days have been very tough for me”. Las Palmas will enjoy his happy albeit brief return for half a year, and Atlético awaits his arrival in January… although many believe this bizarre soap opera has still many episodes to air in the meantime.