|Atletico Mineiro not to sign Anelka
Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro said Tuesday they have scrapped plans to sign controversial French forward Nicolas Anelka.
Director of football Eduardo Maluf indicated Mineiro had been unable to contact the former Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea veteran and would not pursue their interest in the 35-year-old, AFP reports.
"At no time did we manage to speak to the player,'' Brazilian media quoted Maluf as saying.
Mineiro, current club of veteran Brazil star Ronaldinho, confirmed to AFP the deal was off while Anelka himself told journalists from Kuwait that he was still a free agent.
"I haven't signed for anyone, I'm on holiday,'' said Anelka, who had previously refused to comment on reports he had signed for Mineiro.
"I'm on a religious visit in Kuwait and I'm not going to talk about football,'' he had said Monday.
Anelka, a convert to Islam, was invited by the Kuwaiti ministry of religious affairs to participate in a meeting for young Muslims.
The breakdown of his proposed move to Mineiro, announced as a done deal by the Brazilians 10 days ago, has irked the club.
Maluf said they would be making a complaint to FIFA, claiming they had earlier agreed a deal with former France international's representatives.
Maluf said "we had everything agreed'' but had received information from Anelka's agent Cristian Cazini that he could not arrive before Saturday.
"We decided the contract was cancelled -- we are not going to wait until the 19th,'' said Maluf.
Mineiro chairman Alexandre Kalil said on April 5 via Twitter that Anelka would be signing and Brazilian media showed pictures of fans bearing "welcome Anelka'' banners.
The club had expected to unveil the Frenchman last week but went quiet on the deal after he failed to show, instead traveling to Kuwait.
Maluf indicated that a pre-contract had been inked for Anelka to play for the club until December next year.
West Bromwich Albion sacked Anelka last month "for gross misconduct'' after he made an alleged anti-semitic "quenelle'' gesture on scoring a goal.
Anelka denied the allegation, insisting the sign was to show solidarity with his friend, controversial French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala.
Anelka burst onto the scene with Arsenal as a teenager. He won 69 French caps, scoring 14 goals before being thrown out of the 2010 World Cup following a row with coach Raymond Domenech.
He was handed an 18-match ban, that effectively ended his international career.