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Tonight against Ituano, in the last round of the group phase of the Paulistão, Valdivia is expected in the starting eleven.

Valdivia is a cracking midfielder, well above the rest in activity in Brazil. Problem is, as we all know, Valdivia’s activity frequency is well below the rest. This is the first time in four months he starts a game. He hasn’t bagged a brace in more than a year.

Beyond being a great player, Valdivia is charismatic, irreverent, cocky. The kind of player you love in your jersey and loath when in an opponent’s.
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In all fairness, Valdivia has made the occasional sacrifice. Last year, he played the last three games injured. “Fundamentally important in saving Palmeiras from relegation” some argue, forgetting the many opportunities he blew to make a difference during the season, including a never explained mid-season trip to Disney after a failed transfer to an Arab team.

The way Valdivia sees it, he is a victim. A victim of unfortunate injuries. A victim of circumstances. Misunderstood and misread, Valdivia makes his point time after time – in interviews, on social media – letting us know through half-baked sentences and hints that we should be grateful for everything he has done for Palmeiras. When in fact, Valdivia has been doing nothing but his duty all these years. Correction: he has been doing less than his duty. Nevertheless, always receiving his hefty salary on time.

Valdivia undoubtedly brings very different qualities to the game when available. If he just stayed quiet, focusing on recovery, training and playing, the issue of renewing his contract would be nothing but a cost/benefit analysis. An additional factor would be his inclination or not to accept a contract with a heavy productivity component: much lower fixed salary but additional pay for performance.  

Thing is Valdivia doesn’t stay quiet. On the contrary. He constantly creates shockwaves, throwing his little grenades around, just as last weekend. In my opinion, his attitude tips the scale and is a deal breaker.

That being said, there is one strong argument for signing a new contract with the Chilean: reel him in so he can be sold as soon as a sucker shows up with the cash.

To be continued.

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Cut and paste from Thursday’s game post. “No reason for panic. Training, adjustments, time. We’re only at the very beginning of a long journey with these men.”

One thing is accepting this after suffering a loss to Ponte Preta, another completely after conceding the three points, at home, to arch rivals Corinthians. The stigma continues: in the last 14 clashes against any of the other three major São Paulo clubs, Palmeiras have won but one game: against SPFC in February last year. Painful.

Still, words that were valid after last Thursday’s defeat to Ponte are as valid today: Palmeiras have a squad, not yet a team. Yesterday, we saw a level game, with a fatality determining the outcome, as you can see from the match recap below.
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We will have a few more weeks of up and downs before the squad meshes into a team. Mind you, two key players – Cleiton Xavier and Arouca – have not even debuted yet, and playmaker Valdivia is, as always, recovering from injury. Coach Oswaldo is getting to know his players and their characteristics. Newcomers will need space to prove their worth and get used to the patterns of their teammates. Others, like Maikon Leite, are short stacked: as a player returning to Palmeiras after some time abroad, he will either have to show considerable progress or expect infernal heat from (rightly so) impatient supporters. For Leite, time is running out, if it has not already.

— ooo —

The days anticipating the game, as well as the days now to follow, will be dominated by the once again obvious failure of Brazilian authorities to handle public security.

Three days before the derby, the public prosecutor’s office “recommended” the ban of Corinthians supporters at the Allianz Parque “due to security concerns”, threatening both Palmeiras and Corinthians with legal action if they disobeyed the recommendation. Corinthians threatened to withdraw from the match were their supporters not allowed to enter. The day before the game, the São Paulo Football Federation took a decision: the game would be played and with supporters from both teams.

Come match day, and the apparatus to separate the two organised supporter groups is considerable. Some minor incidents are reported. It could have stopped there, hadn’t it been for the trigger-happy, aggressive and malicious police force, randomly dispersing crowds of supporters – including families with children and retired persons, just hanging around or on their way to the stadium – using tear gas, shock grenades and rubber bullets. The policy clearly does not think derbies should be played at the Allianz Parque; the “right” amount of havoc reinforces this position.

Palmeiras must conduct a thorough investigation and take a firm stance, condemning the violence committed against the club’s most vital asset: its supporters. You want the Avanti supporter programme to grow? It will not, unless supporters feel they have someone looking after them, at least on their way to and inside the stadium. In this chaos called Brazil, that someone has to be the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras.

President Paulo Nobre, speak up!

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2013 was the year of recovery, the year of financial austerity, the year of reforms (including the remodelling of the youth academy and extinction of Palmeiras B, financial separation of the football division/social club, improved internal management procedures, etcetera) and, of course,  the year Palmeiras had but one mission on the pitch: return to the first division. And so, it happened.

As 2014 finally kicked off, we all knew the legacy of financial havoc from previous administrations would still bear its mark on this one. We all knew that effects from abovementioned reforms would not all be visible quite yet. Nevertheless, palmeirenses dreamt of a return to glory, to a strong squad, to a place to call home with the reopening of  the Allianz Parque. The year of the Centenary would go down in history.

And it certainly did. But for all the wrong reasons.

President Paulo Nobre’s hands-on approach proved once and for all he knows nothing about football: no less than 50 players pulled on the Palmeiras jersey in 2014, while four different coaches had their go. How’s that for planning? Combined with a  disastrous handling of several player contracts – culminating in the exit of fixed star Alan Kardec to rival SPFC and the recent near loss of promising Gabriel Jesus – obviously there was a price to pay. In the year of the Centenary, Palmeiras escaped relegation – in what would have been a third  in 12 years – by a whim of destiny. Never before in the history of the Brazilian Championship have a team escaped the cut after finishing the 38 rounds with 40 points.

Paulo Nobre got three things right in 2014: a) He never backed down against WTorre, fighting for every inch in the contract. Correctly so: the “partner” in constructing and managing the Allianz Parque has shown over and over again it can’t be trusted. b) He refused to anticipate future revenues for spending in 2014, breaking the vicious circle tormenting most football clubs in Brazil: immediate results is all that counts, while the succeeding president is left to his own advice – and normally repeats the operation. c) Nobre was able to completely restructure Palmeiras’ debts, taking up loans at a third of market rates so the club could pay off debts with high interest rates and/or short maturity: this operation alone is expected to save Palmeiras some US$ 120 million over the years to come.

It’s important to make clear that while the first two points are what they are, the third was only possible due to Paulo Nobre being very, very rich: his personal assets, trust funds and connections allow for these kind of financial operations.

Personally, I would say that one of the most positive aspect of 2014 was the way Palmeiras supporters backed up the team, no matter what. 

What can we hope for in 2015? Three things: a) That Palmeiras, now with 90% of the year’s revenues available, make assembling the strongest possible squad a priority. b) That Paulo Nobre not only learns to listen more, but flatly keeps his hands off the football department, delegating as much as possible to the new CEO Alexandre Mattos. c) That palmeirenses turn the Allianz Parque into the cauldron it has the capacity to be, over and over again.

And me? In 2015, I hope to see you all frequently here at Anything Palmeiras: reading, commenting, sharing. It’s been a pleasure, it’s always a pleasure serving you with the latest news on Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras. Together, we enlarge our club. We enlarge Palmeiras.

HAPPY 2015! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

SCOPPIA CHE LA VITTORIA È NOSTRA!
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Early afternoon, and there’s the first indicator that Palmeiras would be swimming against the tide. Whiz kid Gabriel Fernando opened up the scorecard for Palmeiras in the U17 São Paulo championship final against Santos, but the “Peixe” equalised then reverted the score. As the referee chose to ignore a scandalous penalty committed by Santos’ keeper in the dying minutes of the game, the title slipped out of reach. Our boys played a fantastic championship through and through: 21 victories, 3 draws and 2 defeats, conceiving only 17 goals while scoring a whopping 97 in total, 37 bearing the mark of Gabriel Fernando.

Meanwhile, for the first time in the Club’s history, members were casting their votes in the presidential elections. Ballots were still open when Palmeiras entered the pitch at the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, determined to wrestle at least a point from Internacional. The Verdão, with Allione substituting Valdivia in a playmaker/attacker role in an otherwise defensive line-up, supported well Inter’s initial blitz, compacting the midfield and patiently awaiting the right opportunity to launch counter-attacks. Nevertheless it was Internacional who took the lead after 20 minutes, a harmless shot being deflected by Marcelo Oliveira, leaving Prass completely hapless as the packed stadium exploded in celebration: Inter were securing a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup.

At that very same moment, it was announced that sitting president Paulo Nobre had been re-elected by a 60-40 per cent margin: 2.421 votes against 1.611 for opposition candidate Wlademir Pescarmona. Out of the 10.500 members, a little over 4.000 turned up to vote.

Back at the Beira-Rio, Palmeiras equalised after a splendid cross by Victor Luís, met by defensive midfielder Renato’s forehead: his first brace for Palmeiras (not counting goals as a junior player in lower divisions). Minutes later, the half-time break. The second half looked much like the first, until Inter’s coach Abel Braga decided to make a few adjustments, bringing more speed and mobility to his attack. The payoff came immediately and Inter, in a natural way, took the scorecard to 3-1 before the final whistle.
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With our players leaving the pitch, attention shifted to Vitória’s away game against Flamengo. Sighs of (relative) relief as Flamengo with authority constructed a solid 4-0 victory, keeping Vitória parked in the relegation zone at 38 points, one point behind Palmeiras.

With one round to go, Palmeiras secure a spot in the first division if beating Atlético Paranaense at home. In case of a draw, fingers crossed Santos manages at least a draw, away, against Vitória. In case Palmeiras suffer a defeat, neither Vitória nor Bahia (playing away against Coritiba) can be allowed a victory. Nerve wrecking.

With the current state of affairs, on the surface of things, it is rather surprising Paulo Nobre was re-elected. The opposition calls him “the worst president in Palmeiras’ history”, and yet they were unable to put forward a candidate strong enough to take him down. Palmeiras, on the pitch, have deteriorated, with Nobre personally responsible (as highlighted repeatedly here at Anything Palmeiras). Still, there seems to be an understanding among a majority of the Club’s members that Nobre’s administration has brought institutional solidity to Palmeiras for the first time in decades. The coming two years is the time to cash in on the sacrifice made. “Nobre has paved the way. Now we’ll see what he’s truly made of”.

Nobre himself knows that if he has been given any slack at all, it’s because Palmeiras were in dire straits when he grabbed the steering wheel. Now that the financial course has been corrected, there are no excuses for not employing top executives, managers, football directors, and assembling a strong team. Nobre says structural changes will be implemented only after the end of the Brasileirão, but he has indicated the way: either a vice-president or a contracted Director of Football will be in charge of the team. Let’s desperately hope so: mind you, Nobre made the same promise two years ago, to no effect.

What shouldn’t take long is the extension of Gabriel Fernando’s contract: the kid has expressed his wish to stay and his manager this week said that all details had been agreed upon and that, for the sake of ethics, they were only await the results of the presidential election before signing. I admit I didn’t quite get the “for the sake of ethics” part, but as long as pen is put to paper, I’m cool.

“Cool” is not what you would call the reaction from some of Nobre’s most virulent critics after the election result had been made official. The traditionally complicated political climate at Palmeiras has been further fuelled by the meagre results on the pitch during the club´s centenary, stirring what can only be described as hatred. Hatred and rage, transformed into verbal and physical abuse. Yesterday, I received my share of the former, with promises of the latter, due to my [sic] “two years of unrestricted support to the Nobre administration”.

If these people actually read Anything Palmeiras, I conclude they never hit the refresh button. Or they couldn’t care either way: anyone not equally revolted as they become “the enemy”, and is attacked as such.

So be it. As far as ”Anything Palmeiras” goes, I have but one commitment: write as truthfully I can about the way I see and experience Palmeiras and palmeirenses. I get but one thing in return: feedback. And feedback is my fuel.

It has been two difficult years. I believe the two coming years will be better, much better. But only if Palmeiras beat Atlético Paranaense to remain in Série A. Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, every hour up until kick-off on Sunday, the only thing on my and everybody else’s mind must be VICTORY, and ON THE PITCH.

SCOPPIA CHE LA VITTORIA È NOSTRA!!!

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When there is little to win but much to lose, think twice. Think thrice. Then discard the line of action you were contemplating.

With the team fighting against relegation – and only two home games remaining this season – going through with the inauguration of the Allianz Parque was a highly questionable decision. Sure, the opening was a celebration supporters had been looking forward to for the last four years and a bit. The over the top ticket prices, combined with a sold-out venue, brought in close to US$ 2.5 million to the club. And a victory against Sport would have effectively lifted Palmeiras out of harm’s way with three remaining rounds of the Brasileirão.

Well yes, Palmeiras could have won. Could have. Felipe Menezes’ header in the middle of the first half was a turning point, a lost opportunity that, in my opinion, ended up sealing Palmeiras’ fate. Sport played tight, retracted, knowing that Palmeiras would create few opportunities – as always when Valdivia is absent – and become more and more anxious as time progressed. Menezes blew his opportunity. Former Palmeiras striker Ananias did not. In the end, 0-2 was a fair result.

Palmeiras are a weak team. Weaker still under pressure. The task of a mandatory victory – in order to escape relegation and not ruin the celebration of a 39.000 strong crowd – proved overwhelming. Unsurprisingly.

On one side of the balance, revenues and initial euphoria. On the other, despair, tears and rage. The night was unforgettable. But not in the way it should have been.

It’s not about foreseeing the future, but about weighting cost vs. benefit, risk vs. payout. The prospect of opening the Arena under current circumstances was surrounded by uncertainties and split decisions anyway you look at it. I defended postponing the whole thing to 2015. Too late now.

With elections at Palmeiras only nine days away, certainly the decision to go through with the inauguration was influenced by the current administration’s desire to be associated with a grand celebration. The totality of damage done by the backfired plan goes well beyond lost pride, goes beyond the risk of relegation. It threatens the core of some important structural change that Palmeiras are undergoing and that, in my opinion, are crucial in order to elevate Palmeiras from the modus operandi seen at Corinthians, Flamengo, Botafogo and a majority of Brazilian clubs. Mr. Hyde’s disastrous management of football has come to overshadow Dr. Jekyll’s good work in terms of implementing sound financial management at Palmeiras: a positive balance sheet by the end of the month has become a subject of mockery and a symbol of “those who care nothing about football”.

Today, we are all hanging our heads in shame. Nevertheless, I believe Palmeiras will find strength somehow and remain in the first division, if not by merit, by incapability of other teams to capitalize on our fragility.

Also, within 2-3 years, I truly believe we’ll be experiencing change. Palmeiras have the most important ingredients: a solid history, a strong identity, a passionate and large supporter base, a stadium to call our own, and a growing range of national and, in particular, international partners. Maintaining and improving sound administrational and financial practices, combined with increasing revenues, should allow for the hiring of great professionals and the steady forming of a new squad, a new team. Palmeiras’ president for the coming two years – whoever that might be – will have all the tools available and no excuses.

Turning our attention back to the immediate needs: on Sunday Palmeiras face direct contender for relegation Coritiba, at the Couto Pereira stadium – needless to say, a crucial game. I will be at the stadium. The Mané Garrincha, in Brasilia, trying to enjoy Paul McCartney. Talk about timing.

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Enzo na Allianz.
– Palmeiras are finished.

– No-one respects us.

– Thinking small, acting small, our DNA is raped.

– The damage done is irreversible.

The last two years the few lines above at large reflect the sentiment of a considerable part of Palmeiras supporters. Especially, but not exclusively, those who claim not giving a rat’s ass about administration and finances, only wanting a strong team on the pitch and trophies in the cabinet.  

Palmeirenses go through hell more often than we care to count, the common denominator being one dreadful administration after the other. The last few years have seen Belluzzo’s reckless optimism, Tirone’s muppet show and Nobre’s pig-headed Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality.

Nothing lasts forever. Empires crumble, civilizations disappear, species are extinct. Institutions, idem. We can never treat Palmeiras as eternal if we truly want her to survive the test of time. Nothing comes for free or can be taken for granted. We need directors who understand the responsibility and are ready to respond, personally, for whatever happens to the institution.

While we must always remember ourselves that even a centenary club like Palmeiras can implode (vide recent developments at traditional club Portuguesa), we must never dismiss our greatness, our history and our continuous ability to enchant. Take another look at the picture opening this post. Take a good look at five-year-old Enzo de Martino. Now tell me that Palmeiras are finished and the damage is irreversible.

The other day, Palmeiras’ supporter programme Avanti reached 50.000 members. With the eminent opening of the Allianz Parque, a further surge is expected.

With last Sunday’s important 1-0 away victory against Bahia, the feeling of relief is evident, the threat of relegation almost vanished. Palmeiras should be able to give Atlético some heat this coming Saturday, not least due to the mineiros’ tough game tomorrow against Flamengo in the Brazil Cup (while Palmeiras spend the week resting and training).

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Dr-Jekyll-y-Mr-Hyde.
What Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre is thinking or not thinking, doing or not doing is hard to tell. We see flares of activity, but they seem disconnected. Midfielder Josimar has left for second division Ponte Preta. Weldinho, Eguren and a few other players were on Nobre’s list of disposables a couple of weeks back, but Dorival apparently halted the process, giving our coach’s morale with the squad a boost. Still, alterations to the inflated squad are necessary. Deadline for reinforcement was last Friday, the only option finding players in the second division, as any first division players of quality would have reached the limit of seven games played in this edition of the Brasileirão. As mentioned in the previous post, two players were signed before Friday’s deadline and both were presented today: 25-year-old defensive midfielder Washington and 33-year-old keeper Jaílson. Not that Palmeiras couldn’t put Washington to good use: after all, Eguren, Renato, Josimar… And between the posts, Fábio and Deola have taking turns infuriating palmeirenses; if Jaílson is able to do the basics, it’s already a huge improvement. Too bad Palmeiras already lost many a precious points due to not having catered for this urgent keeper need sooner. It’s ironic that Jaílson is presented on the same day that Dorival announces the return of Fernando Prass between the posts tomorrow against Botafogo. We can only pray his elbow is 100%.

Palmeiras currently have the biggest squad among the clubs in the first division: 42 players. Many names, few talents. That’s planning for you.

With almost a starting eleven in the medical department, Palmeiras recently contracted the services of Cuban doctor José Amador. Dr Amador was responsible for Valdivia’s special preparation pre World Cup and has been working with him for almost a year. Would you believe the Chilean is actually paying part of the expenses of bringing and maintain the doctor at Palmeiras? That’s professional for you.

In addition, Palmeiras are also contracting the services of a motivational speaker. Second division club Portuguesa, threatened by relegation to the third division, has gone after a man who conducts hypnosis sessions. If Palmeiras opt in, I’ll let you know.

Excuse my sarcastic tone. It’s just that…

Some say Paulo Nobre has saved Palmeiras from financial ruin. Others claim he’s the worst president in the club’s centenary history. Who is right?

Both.

Nobre’s two-year mandate ends in December. We all know he inherited the club in financially dire straits, with some 75% of revenues already committed, facing big loans at high interest rates (close to three per cent a month) and fast maturing. He made the restructuring of administration and finances his top priority – and justly so. It’s also here results are clear and positive: total debts may have increased slightly, but they have also been completely rearranged (in all honesty, at large due to loans Nobre himself has negotiated in his name and passed on to Palmeiras), with a generous payback time and, for Brazilian standards, very low interest rate. The restructuring of debts were instrumental in Palmeiras, finally, receiving the CND certificate – a grading that allows the club to receive money from the government be it through sponsorship, tax breaks or other incentives. It was a lack of this certificate that halted the conclusion of a master sponsorship deal between Palmeiras and the public bank “Caixa Econômica Federal” earlier this year). In addition, a modernization process has taken place within the administration, including substantial upgrades in terms of equipment and software, allowing for the progressive detection of unnecessary costs and the outsourcing of certain services: all these measures and others allowing for both greater efficiency, transparency and cost/benefit. We can include the extinction of the “Palmeiras B” squad in this context. Certainly, Palmeiras’ next president, whoever that might be, will have better working conditions than any of his predecessors from the last couple of decades – at least when we talk administration and financial health.

In relation to marketing, results have been way under expectations. True, several traditional clubs have been without a master sponsor for some time now, but S.E. Palmeiras, in its centenary, shouldn’t have been one of them. And talking about the centenary: the number of jerseys launched – and their price tags – has become a joke amongst palmeirenses. Overall, prices has been one of the most controversial topics in these last two years, spanning from tickets to jerseys to the centenary banquet. It is known that the average palmeirense is better off financially than the average Brazilian and that he/she spends more than others on Palmeiras products and activities. That being said, there are, obviously, limits to everything. Recent price levels has felt like a slap in the face. In spite of this, the supporter programme has gone from 7K to 40K members in the last year, although it now seem to have stagnated – the team’s poor performance likely to be the main villain. Expect a new boost in adherence when Allianz Parque is up and running.

What else in marketing? Well, TV Palmeiras is a great success, as we’ve written about earlier.

Now, all of the above is overshadowed by the fact that Paulo Nobre, as a football manager, has been nothing short of a disaster. He was supposed to hand the football management over to a professional, but got a taste for it and just kept going. By the end of 2013, the squad’s core was there, all that was needed were a few adjustments, a few new players. But Nobre managed to keep those he shouldn’t (coach Kleina, Valdivia, Wesley) while letting the likes of Henrique and Alan Kardec lose. The team was unrecognisable, without reference. Players like Bruno César, Wesley and Leandro clearly lost interest. In a short span of time, what was a squad turned into something else, and results on the pitch matched the internal havoc.

Nobre brought in Ricardo Gareca. A gutsy move. But a gamble. When you gamble, you need luck. Or enough time and money to keep going until you start winning again. Palmeiras had neither time nor money: after three months, Gareca was fired and Palmeiras left with the four Argentine players the Argentine coach had asked for.

When Prass broke his elbow, who believed Deola was cut for the job? Deola, dismissed from Vitória because he wasn’t considered good enough? Or Fábio? Who believed young Fábio was ready to take on such a burden? Well, at least Nobre, because solutions were sought only when Palmeiras topped the “most goals suffered” stats. Now we have Jaílson. Too little too late, I’m afraid.

Yes, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight. Doesn’t take away the fact that Nobre might be the worse football manager Palmeiras has ever seen, getting it wrong even when he’s initially right – bringing in Kardec from Benfica was a very successful move, but losing him to São Paulo was many times more disgraceful.

Paulo Nobre’s mandate is soon over. Election are coming up. Three candidates have announced their intentions: Wladimir Pescarmona, Luiz Carlos Granieri and Paulo Nobre. I have no idea who Granieri is and where his vice-presidents stand. What Nobre is capable (and incapable) of, I do know. And Pescarmona… with César Maluco and former president Belluzzo as vice presidents? The men who frequently are seen in the media publicly defending the interests of WTorre against Palmeiras? You tell me who deserves our vote…

On 13 October, Palmeiras’ Deliberate Council takes a vote: candidates need at least 15% of approval to qualify for the actual voting – cast by the current 10.000 members of S.E. Palmeiras – scheduled for 29 November. It’s not going to be pretty.

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