Arsenal Paulista deal: how can Gunners solve visa problem?
The Brazilian defender is expected to sign for Arsenal, but he might not get a work permit
Arsenal are reportedly close to signing Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista. But even if the Gunners are able to agree a deal with the player and his current club, Villarreal in Spain, Arsene Wenger's defensive woes may not be over.
Having been without various members of his backline because of injury, suspension and fatigue at various times this season Wenger might find himself unable to pick Paulista because of visa issues.
What is the problem?
Premier League rules state that players from outside the EU can only be granted a visa if they come from one of the world's top 70 teams and have played in 75 per cent of that team's competitive matches for which they have been available over the previous two years. Paulista comes from Brazil, so meets the first criteria, but has never been capped by his country so does not meet the second.
How come Paulista can play in Spain?
The rules are very different in Spain, where South Americans are automatically granted work visas because of their historical ties to the Iberian peninsular.
What can Arsenal do?
Arsenal found themselves in this situation before, and have got round it before.
Joel Campbell of Costa Rica and Mexican Carlos Vela did not qualify for work permits when they arrived in England as teenagers. However, the players were farmed out to clubs in EU countries with less stringent immigration laws. They became eligible to play in England after breaking into their national sides and meeting the requirement to be an international player.
Another young Brazilian, Wellington Silva, earned his visa by different means. He was sent on loan to several Spanish clubs and earned Spanish citizenship, which allowed him free movement within the EU. This is a route open to many South American players. Law firm Full Contact, which specialises in sport, says: "It is amazing how many Brazilians, for example, do not realise that due to family connections they can obtain Portuguese nationality. Once they have that, they have freedom within the EU."
Is there a quicker way?
The case of Willian, signed by Chelsea for £30m in 2013, could serve Arsenal well. When Willian arrived he only had two international caps and did not qualify for a visa. But, as the Daily Mail explains, "Chelsea appealed, arguing that because standards were so high in Brazil, he would easily meet the criteria if he played for another country". Their argument was accepted by the FA-appointed panel.
Of course a cynic might say that after last year's world cup that argument can no longer be applied to Brazilian defenders – after all, Paulista is in competition with the likes of David Luiz for a place in the national side.