São Paulo’s winger will move to Ajax in the summer, presumably to replace David Neres.
Antony burst onto the scene at São Paulo last year: he helped the u20s win Brazil’s premier youth competition in January and was promoted to the first team shortly after that; he was voted as the best player on the field in several of his first senior matches for his club, quickly making a name for himself. Soon he became one of the first names on the teamsheet, turning heads, including mine (I picked him as the top young Brazilian talent) and Manchester City, who had an offer of around €20 million rejected in the summer window last year.
Antony’s formed wavered in the second half of last year, which may have cooled the interest of some European teams in the most recent window. But I think some blip in form was understandable, given his age and the amount of games that he played and the pressure put on his young shoulders. His confidence was low for a few months, but towards the end of the season, Fernando Diniz managed to get the best out of the player again, and Ajax maintained their interest.
The Dutch club had been chasing Antony for the whole of the recent transfer window and were hoping that financial difficulties would São Paulo into a sale. The two clubs couldn’t reach an agreement, but Ajax have acted swiftly to tie down a deal for the middle of the year and that has now been agreed.
One of the main sticking points in the negotiations between the two clubs during the recent window was the insistence that as part of the deal, São Paulo would receive an upfront payment in exchange for the 20% sell-on fee that they have agreed for any future sale of David Neres (David Neres moved from São Paulo to Ajax in the past). The total amount offered by Ajax during the window was: €15m base fee; €5m performance related bonuses; €5m cash in exchange for waiving the Neres sell-on fee.
The amount offered now, and agreed by both clubs is: €16m up front payment; €6m player and club performance bonuses; €7m in exchange for Neres sell on fee. In addition, São Paulo will be entitled to a 20% sell on fee for any future transfer of Antony for any amount that exceeds €16m.
The details of the move and the move itself suggest that Antony will be moving to Ajax as a replacement for David Neres. Both players have very similar profiles – quick, good control, strongly left footed – and their best position is undoubtedly the right wing. I wouldn’t expect to see them both lining up in the same team, particularly since Ajax agreed to pay €7m to waive the Neres sell on fee.
There are a few ways to see São Paulo’s insistence on exchanging Neres’ sell on fee for cash. First, São Paulo clearly need money ASAP, which is why they wanted to negotiate this now. Second, they remove the risk of receiving nothing from that clause if Neres was to stay at Ajax and see out his contract (which is more likely if they didn’t buy Antony). Third, the initial €5m value undervalued Neres significantly (for a 20% stake that would equate for a full value of €20m for the player) – the amount finally agreed (€7m) values Neres at €35m. Neres could have moved for more than that last summer and is probably still worth more, but since that fee removes the risk of São Paulo not knowing when they will get paid and also the risk they receive nothing seems fair. It is another reason that suggest to me though, that Ajax must be planning a sale.
As for Antony, the move suits him nicely, particularly as he follows in the footsteps of David Neres. A €23m fee is fair – the player is one of Brazil’s top talents, but he still has some work to do on his game, notably finding more consistency and being more clinical in attack (both with assists and goals). He’s got excellent ball control, rapid acceleration and he will be slotting into a position in a team that will suit his style of play. I’m sure the Ajax fans will enjoy seeing him play and I hope that Antony fulfills his undoubtedly very big potential.
The question now is what happens to David Neres?
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