Per The Athletic, Brenner Sucks, No One Wants Him, and FC Got Fleeced

A few weeks ago, FC Cincinnati previewed the signing of Brazilian "starlet" (this is a soccer blog that knows all the soccer words) Brenner by alluding to reports linking him to a number of bigger clubs.  The tweet was corny to some, charming to others, but really interesting only to the extent you kind of can see in the background the Tinder profile of an individual who may or may be an FC employee.  (The Post has not been able to confirm the identity of the hopeful bachelor or bachelorette, and FC Cincinnati has not been asked for or provided comment.  Because it's a silly social media post and it doesn't matter.)

But, to certain intrepid reporters, such bold claims could not go unchallenged.  The Athletic, America's favorite venture capital-backed and pay-walled sports website, took a break from destroying local beat reporting to assign THREE reporters to investigate FC's tweet.  Their conclusion?  Brenner sucks, no one wanted him, and FC are dirty liars.  

The story consists mostly of linking to various reports from other media of potential Brenner transfers, characterizing those reports as likely agent-driven, and then concluding that the Brenner deal had a "mixed reaction" in Brazil.  To me, there wasn't evidence of a "mixed reaction" presented in the article – the reporters admit that Sao Paulo fans were unhappy to see Brenner go, and then explain that Sao Paulo likes to sell players young.  The article ends with unsourced speculation that Brenner's big season might "be a flash in the pan."

Now, there is admittedly a little bit of actual reporting.  The article (relying on public, secondary sources) identifies the following teams that were linked to Brenner: Arsenal, PSG, Real Madrid, Juventus, Ajax, and AC Milan.  There are anonymous, unidentified sources who indicate that Arsenal, Juventus, and PSG were monitoring Brenner but never made any real offers.  (None of these sources are identified as actually associated with any of the teams in question.  Two are "source[s]" and one is "a player agent," presumably of a player who is not Brenner.)  No sources are discussed regarding Real Madrid, Ajax, or AC Milan, but the writers similarly dismiss any real interest there as well, without even citing one of their anonymous sources.

Some real Woodward and Bernstein journalism here: "The Spanish press did publish reports linking Brenner to Real Madrid, but that could easily have been the result of his agent shopping him to the club, not the other way around."  And I can name a few hundred people up for indictment right now who believe that the last presidential election could easily have been won by Donald Trump.

But let's be fair to The Athletic here.  Maybe they apply this same scrutiny to all the big signings.  Like when MLS claimed that multiple big European clubs tried to sign Brian Rodriguez, or Atlanta said the same about Ezequiel Barco.  Or when Calcio Mercato linked Barco to Serie A, I'm sure they got the same skeptical treatment The Athletic gave to their Brenner reporting.  I'm not going to pull The Athletic articles related to those players myself, but they're probably there if you go look for them.
If they didn't investigate all of those other claims, then I would suggest that The Athletic should devote itself to more pressing issues than fact-checking a (I'll go ahead and say it) pretty lame post on Twitter.

Like whether FC's use of the lion – a symbol not used anywhere else in MLS or world soccer I guess – is a secret evangelical plot.*

Of course, whether Brenner is a good signing will largely depend on how he performs, and that will in turn rely on FC's ability to bring in a quality attacking midfielder to provide the necessary service.  But those results will be facts, that will not be in dispute, rather the innuendo, speculation, and commentary disguised as "reporting."  Let's give the guy a chance.

*On a related tin-foil-hat note, FC's "Ignite and Unite" MLS motto was probably appropriated from the Promise Keepers, a right-wing evangelical organization, but that's none of my business.