With sports bloggers and fans demanding his freedom Brazilian soccer star Breno Borges was released from high security Stadelheim prison by German authorities Wednesday 13 days after being detained on suspicion of burning down his rented villa in an affluent Munich suburb.
The 21-year-old Bayern Munich defender has been struggling with injuries and depression. Claiming his mental health posed a flight risk, Munich prosecutors held and interrogated Breno without bail and without his passport.
According to Kicker, Germany's top soccer zine, Breno was released on bail that was not disclosed. However he remains the prime suspect in the arson case being developed by the Munich prosecutor's office.
Breno's imprisonment was important enough to Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff that she featured articles about the situation on her blog on more than one occasion including tweets by Breno's wife Renata claiming Breno was the victim of an injustice. The blog is financed by Brazil's Workers Party.
Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was quoted by ESPN as asking the public prosecutors to take on the Breno case with fairness and sensitivity.
"One talks of a celebrity advantage," the former all world star told other German sports media. "But I want to make sure there is no celebrity disadvantage."
Breno's big disadvantage is that after nearly three years with Bayern Munich he still doesn't speak German. And like other Brazilians who play with high-profile teams in Europe he has had difficulty adapting to the urbane Munich culture.
Taking Rummenigge's concern into account raises the question of whether other celebrity Brazilian players like Milan striker Alexandre Pato, who is in a relationship with Barbara Berlusconi (daughter of the Italian prime minister), or Ricardo "Kaka" Isacson of Real Madrid would have received the same treatment from Munich authorities that Breno got.
Running in the background of the Breno affair is the issue of third-party ownership of players among FIFA member nations. The concept enables organizations and individuals holding financial interest in football talent and representing those interests to teams. Breno is third-party owned in part because his agent Delcyr Sonda of the Sonda Group not only represents him in contract negotiations,the group controls a minority interest in the troubled underachiever. The Sonda group also represents and holds minority third-party interest in two of Brazil's other young stars, Neymar, and Ganso.
The British Premiere Division banned third-party ownership in 2008. But FIFA'a position remains ambiguous thanks to old boy networks and backroom deals known to the likes of Brazil Football Confederation czar Ricardo Teixeira and FIFA president Sepp Blatter himself.
In the weeks prior to the fire that gutted Breno's home, Delcyr Sonda had told sports media that he was looking at transferring Breno back to Brazil, possibly to Internacional of Porto Alegre, and to be part of Brazil's national team.
Foreshadowing Sonda's revelations Brazilian national coach Manu Manezes gave Breno a morale booster by inviting him home to train with the selection for a friendly match against France. But on returning to Germany he started struggling again.
A teen standout, Breno was signed by first division side São Paulo FC in 2007. His defensive prowess opened the eyes of big money European teams. An offer from Real Madrid was turned down because the elite Spanish side wanted to conduct bone scans on the young athlete. He was subsequently transferred to Bayern Munich in 2008 for 13 million euros ($17.5 million). Breno was also capped to play on Brazil's under-23 team.
The Breno affair is a reminder of what can happen when a young millionaire athlete leaves his home culture too early. It's also a reminder of how the global sports marketing machine turns human beings into human capital and erodes the sense of self in fragile personalities. What he's up against will require more than tweets and social media to make fear strike out.