Brazilian football club Atletico Mineiro said they have ended their pursuit of former France international Nicolas Anelka.
Atletico last week announced the 35-year-old had agreed to join the club after his sacking in March by West Bromwich Albion for an alleged anti-Semitic gesture. But in a dramatic about-turn, Atletico ruled out the move after learning Anelka was on a religious visit to Kuwait, reports Xinhua.
"We haven't been able to speak with him at any time. We have only been able to speak with a middle man and an agent," Atletico's football director Eduardo Maluf said on Tuesday.
Anelka was due to arrive in Brazil April 8 after the Belo Horizonte club's president Alexandre Kalil announced an in-principle agreement for the striker had been reached. The deal followed a visit by Anelka's agent Cristian Cazini and brother Claude Anelka to the south eastern Brazilian city earlier this month.
Anelka's former Paris Saint-Germain teammate and two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, now an Atletico player, is said to have been key to negotiations. An angry Maluf criticised Anelka's attitude and insisted the club would not change its mind.
"Today we received an email from Cazini saying that Nicolas is participating in a meeting in Kuwait. We are bigger than that. It's cancelled. Atletico Mineiro is bigger than Nicolas Anelka. For that reason he is out of reckoning. His conduct showed that he is not professional," Maluf added.
Anelka's 19-year professional career has included spells at Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.