Manchester City have been accused of creating a “fake” role at the club for the father of former academy prospect Gabriel Fernando Almeida as a way to circumvent Premier League rules and funnel thousands of pounds to the player’s family.
Having joined City as a 14-year-old in 2011, Almeida was too young to be given a professional contract by the club and – as a highly-rated playmaker at the time – would have been free to negotiate with other sides after his 16th birthday.
Premier League rules for that season stated: “No club shall induce or attempt to induce a player to become registered as a student by that club by offering him, or any person connected with him, either directly or indirectly, a benefit or payment of any description whether in cash or in kind.”
In essence, any money paid to an underage player’s family in order to influence a decision on the individual’s career is a contravention of the law, though clubs have in the past hired family members of youngsters in order to circumvent those rules.
Almeida Snr’s case differs, however, as the Brazilian claims that he never actually did any work for the club despite receiving monthly expense payments of around £1,000 between September 2011 and June 2012.
He did admit to sitting through two separate scouting training sessions at City, but added that those sessions were exclusively in English – a language he does not understand.
Speaking to The Athletic, in Portuguese, Almeida said: “The truth is that they paid me but I did not work. In truth, they tricked us because I do not speak English. They did arrange for me to take a course in scouting. I went to the classroom on two occasions, to appear there at the course. It was inside Manchester City.”
City deny the allegations levelled against them, with a club spokesperson stating: “The limited records that exist given the nature of the work involved and the significant passage of time of almost a decade, suggest that Mr Almeida (Snr) was a casual scout for a period within Gabriel’s time with the club, for which he was reimbursed expenses.”
Almeida insists there was no ‘casual scouting’, however.
“I didn’t do anything. It was a lie. I didn’t go and do anything,” he said, adding: “They know. They know everything. They put me down as a worker. There’s no way that the club would not know.”
The report further states that it is unclear whether the Premier League will investigate the matter, or what the punishment would be if wrongdoing is found to have taken place.
However, similar offences involving illegal approaches for young players have in the past resulted in fines and transfer bans.