This morning, the Palmeiras squad returned to the Academia after the holiday break with a few new faces in the group: midfielder França – on loan from Hannover/GER until the end of the year; young striker Rodolfo – former Rio Claro; and striker Diogo – former Portuguesa. Back from loans were centre-backs Luiz Gustavo and Wellington, midfielder Patrick Vieira and strikers Mazinho, Tutinha and Miguel Bianconi. In addition, within days Palmeiras should formally announce the signings of centre-back Lúcio – starting eleven in Brazil’s last three World Cups but in the freezer at SPFC; left-back William Matheus – arriving from Goiás; and offensive midfielder Marquinhos Gabriel – arriving from Bahia. There are also on-going negotiations with right-back Moreira of Libertad/PAR and striker Anselmo Ramón, who’s currently at Cruzeiro but could be involved in a swap for Luan. And then there are talks with a player who could be considered the icing of the cake… Time will tell.
Keeper Bruno has reportedly extended his contract for another two seasons, while Wendel and Marcelo Oliveira have extended theirs for one more season. All three have agreed to significant salary reductions.
Nine players have left for good: centre-defenders André Luiz and Vilson; defensive midfielders Léo Gago, Márcio Araújo and Charles; offensive midfielders Ronny, Fernandinho and Rondinelly; and striker Ananias. Right-back Luis Felipe is on a contract until March, but has already signed with Benfica/POR and wants to break free, as a result now training separated from the rest of the squad.
Striker Leandro is still negotiating an extension of his contract with Palmeiras: unless the parties come to an agreement he will return to Grêmio or be involved in another loan, possibly to Santos.
Below, the Palmeiras squad as of today.
Let’s face it: none of the new arrivals should be considered star quality. But they could all aim for the starting eleven. And there seems to be something else, something bigger: the understanding of the importance of the moment. Several of them (Diogo, Rodolfo, Marquinhos) had offers from other major clubs in Brazil, and even from abroad, but chose Palmeiras. Wendel renewed his contract at half the previous salary. Lúcio is signing for a third of what he was making at SPFC. I sense an eagerness to be part of the history of Palmeiras, a belief in the project as such, in the assembling of a team that could go far. Certain players might have turned their back on Palmeiras’ offer, but those who didn’t, might be more committed than normal. The new blood comes red hot.
Now, there are of course alternative ways to look at this: Lúcio’s getting old and has lost not only his skill but also all self-respect. França had a bad year in Germany and is looking for a refuge back home in Brazil. Wendel and Bruno are weaker than weak technically and face strong rejection by supporters: extending their contracts is throwing money in the bin. Rodolfo, Marquinhos, Diogo… All interesting performances in smaller teams, but we all know what happens when players like these pull on the Palmeiras jersey, which weights a tonne. There are plenty to complain about, for those so inclined.
In the meantime, we wait for the official confirmation of that handful of players, for a star or possibly two, and for the announcement of a major sponsor.