VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi says seeing his prized striker sporting a Mexican team's jersey -- even though he's still under contract with the Major League Soccer club -- was "like a kick in the midsection."
Queretaro F.C. tweeted pictures of a smiling Camilo Sanvezzo in their kit and giving a thumbs up on Monday, fuelling speculation that the flashy Brazilian's time with Vancouver will soon come to an end.
Lenarduzzi chose his words carefully at a hastily arranged press conference at the Whitecaps' downtown office, reiterating the club's belief that Sanvezzo remains its property.
"Unacceptable and inappropriate," Lenarduzzi told reporters when asked his opinion of the pictures.
Lenarduzzi said the MLS and the team have repeatedly informed both Queretaro and Sanvezzo that the Brazilian, who led the league with 22 goals last season, is still under contact after Vancouver picked up its option for 2014.
Lenarduzzi added that he was blown away when the pictures in question were posted on Monday.
"Taking that step, to actually be in another club's jersey ... I can tell you that when I saw it, it was like a kick in the midsection," he said. "I'm in a position where I need to not let emotion result in saying something I probably shouldn't say."
Lenarduzzi suggested that Camilo's agent was to blame for the mess that started last week with rumours that the 25-year-old was set to sign with Queretaro.
"From where I stand right now, I really believe the situation has been misrepresented to Camilo," said Lenarduzzi. "I think he's put a lot of faith in an agent and has gone with the agent's advice and has got himself in a situation where it doesn't look good on him."
A former player himself, Lenarduzzi wouldn't bite when asked if he envisioned a scenario that would see Sanvezzo return to the Whitecaps.
"What we'll do now is let the dust settle and then over the next few days we'll be in touch with Camilo," said Lenarduzzi. "How it got to this is something that we'll probably need to ask Camilo's agent and Camilo because they were well aware of the fact that he is contracted to the Whitecaps."
Twitter exploded Monday with angry reaction from fans who feel betrayed by a player they have adored since his arrival in Vancouver in 2011.
"We can't have done much more as club and an as a league to advise the player, the agent and the club that are looking to sign him that he is under contract," said Lenarduzzi. "It's a situation that is a very frustrating one because none of it really was necessary."
According to the MLS Players Union, Sanvezzo made US$247,500 last season for a Whitecaps team that missed the playoffs.
Lenarduzzi said that the club and Sanvezzo's representatives hadn't been in talks about a new contract, but that didn't mean it wasn't going to happen.
"I would suggest that the world that I live in, a contract is a contract," said Lenarduzzi. "There's no suggestion that we would not have sat down with him and actually looked at a new contract."
The loss of Sanvezzo would be a huge blow to rookie head coach Carl Robinson, who replaced the fired Martin Rennie last month.
The off-season has been anything but quiet for the Whitecaps. The club struck out in its attempt to hire former United States national team coach Bob Bradley before settling on Robinson and had to deal with criticism from striker Darren Mattocks on a Jamaican television program.
Lenarduzzi said that there have not been any transfer negotiations between the Whitecaps and Queretaro concerning Sanvezzo, who was Vancouver's player of the year in 2013.
"We're frustrated with the fact that it's actually got to this stage," said Lenarduzzi. "Having said all that, I think you need take a step back from your frustration and in the end make the best decision available to our club and also hear Camilo out."