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Fábio connected to Atlético Mineiro…or possible Red Bulls return?

Brazilian forward’s future still up in the air after New York loan lapsed last month

New York Red Bulls v DC United
According to reports out of Brazil, Fabio’s New York career might not be done just yet.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

As the transfer market dominoes continue to fall ever since Fábio Gomes Netto’s release last month, it turns out the New York Red Bulls may be working on returning their other Brazilian loanee from 2021.

Ever since being released by New York as part of their end-of-season roster announcements last month, Fábio has been linked to a few different possibilities for the next stage of his career. The target forward had been loaned to the Red Bulls by his contracted club Oeste, who have since dropped down to the third division of Brazilian football and are highly unlikely to be able to afford his services any further.

While last week Fábio was connected to Fenerbahçe, this week the rumor mill presented a turn of events that will be sure to raise interest in New York. Radio Itatiaia first reported that the Brazilian striker is said to be a target of Clube Atlético Mineiro in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. According to Fala Galo, signing him would require “around one million dollars for 50% of his rights,” a fee the Red Bulls appeared unwilling to pay (although international fees are often even lower than those offered to domestic foes).

This would be quite the stepping stone from his lively-but-inconsistent MLS stint, as Atlético recently wrapped a successful treble-winning season. The Galo (Rooster) claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, Campeonato Mineiro state league, and Copa do Brasil. The only blemish was a semi-final finish in the Copa Libertadores, which is still pretty darn good. UOL claims that Fábio “has characteristics that [the coach] likes” such as “being a tall center forward” that is “more in the area.” The 24-year-old fits that description on his best days and would benefit from the improved service Atlético provides.

Curiously enough however, the initial report by Radio Itatiaia says that while “other parties on the market” in the frenzy around Fábio, the end result of the emerging transfer saga might just be where it started. The report states the New York Red Bulls are “still trying to extend the striker” for next season.

It is unclear whether this would mean a permanent signing or that “extend” refers to a renewal of the loan terms that brought the 6’4” striker to Harrison in 2021. It’s even less clear that such a return is high on the agenda for Fábio and his representation. Though he became a fan favorite for his adventurous playing style and equally eye-catching tattoos and hairstyles, the striker ended 2021 with just 7 goals in 30 league appearances and often struggled to provide the clean link-up play sought by Gerhard Struber.

But a relative lack of transfer rumors linking New York to forwards with profiles similar to Fábio (after the team spent the latter half of the MLS season being linked to such figures like Sandro Kulenović and Sebastián Sosa) could spell that such a move is in the works. Though rumors out of Austria earlier this week tied the Red Bulls to Greek international poacher Taxiarchis Fountas, currently the team’s only senior strikers are designated player Patryk Klimala, reserve Tom Barlow, and hometown rookie Omar Sowe, and additions (or retreads) will certainly have to be made even if Struber plans on using a single-striker formation in 2022.

As noted by OaM last week, the team’s transfer to-do list is beginning to run off the page during another offseason of turnover. The chance to bring back a known entity — even one proven to be imperfect over his first stint such as Fábio — could be enticing for Gerhard Struber and Kevin Thelwell as they roll the dice on other areas of the lineup. Fábio’s compatriot Carlos Coronel has been the only 2021 loanee locked down permanently by the Red Bulls this offseason, and would provide obvious social continuity for a potential quick comeback.

Indeed this rumor is a reminder that the ritualized MLS end-of-season contract announcements and farewell social media posts are not necessarily set in stone, as Marc Rzatkowski can attest. Even beyond Fábio, the possibility of returns for other 2021 Red Bulls loanees such as Tom Edwards, Caden Clark, and Youba Diarra may still exist. For a New York team that has emphasized the future in its recent roster building, prolonging the recent past could start becoming a more necessary strategy soon.