World Cup '94 hero close to signing with Miami club
Posted: Tuesday March 21, 2006 1:06PM; Updated: Tuesday March 21, 2006 6:04PM
Romario is international soccer's second all-time leading scorer. He had five goals in Brazil's victory at the 1994 World Cup.
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Romario has already conquered Holland, where they wanted to build a statue of him. In Barcelona he will be remembered for his goals and his open hostilities with Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. He earned more than $1 million in Qatar for playing barely 130 minutes over three months.
Now Romario might be returning to the country of his star turn at the 1994 World Cup, where he scored five goals to lead Brazil to its fourth title.
According to an executive with Miami F.C. of the second-division USL (one tier below Major League Soccer), "O Baixinho," or Shorty, is in negotiations to join the Brazilian-run expansion club to continue his march toward 1,000 career goals. (He's 34 shy.)
Now 40, Romario is currently going through another one of his endless crises with Brazilian clubs -- this time in his third stint with Rio de Janeiro's Vasco da Gama. After days of Romario's failing to show up for practice, Vasco head coach and ex-national team player Renato Gaúcho stated that if Romario does not follow the rules, he is off the team.
There has been little communication between Romario and Vasco da Gama due to ongoing negotiations that are taking place between the player and the Miami club, say sources close to Romario. According to Aaron Davidson of Traffic Sports USA, Miami F.C.'s parent company, club president Julio Mariz will travel to Rio next week to continue the negotiations with the Brazilian superstar.
If such a move occurs, Romario won't be a new celebrity in South Beach. He has made no secret of his love for Miami -- often spending vacations there -- and he has played there before, during the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup and in periodic footvolley tournaments. He is also a regular on the Miami nightclub circuit.
Romario may have sown the seeds to play in the U.S. soon after Brazil's dramatic victory over Italy at the '94 World Cup at the Rose Bowl. Four months after that triumph, he again played for Brazil in a national-team "farewell match" at the Los Angeles Coliseum against Mexico and a subsequent game against Haiti in Miami. He stated after that contest that he'd love to play someday in the U.S., "where Pelé, [Franz] Beckenbauer and [Carlos] Valderrama displayed their magic."
Other MLS clubs have tried -- and failed -- to bring Romario to the U.S. But even though Miami F.C. is a second-division club, it seems to have the upper hand because of its Brazilian ownership. The club is also coached by a Brazilian, Chiquinho de Assis, and last week it signed Romario's '94 World Cup teammate and close friend Zinho.
Romario is chasing down the distinction of 1,000 goals for his career, a mark achieved only by Pelé (1,281). Romario is more likely to reach that goal against USL competition, even though he led the Brazilian league in scoring last season with 22 goals.
While Romario entertains any offers, Vasco coach Renato has said, "He cannot be like bin Laden and disappear. We here at Vasco need him and want to talk to him before he makes any decision."
São Paulo's Corinthians tried to sign him a few months ago, but beyond lucrative offers from Arab clubs, nothing has seemed to interest Romario. Zinho's transfer to Miami may have sealed the deal, according to a top Brazilian agent, who has been trying for months to interest Romario in a transfer to the U.S.
The mystery and secrecy around the possible transfer of one the best soccer players ever have been growing in the past few days. Such a stunning turn of events would be nothing but normal for Romario, a world-class idol and one of the game's biggest enigmas.