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Today, FIFA on social media paid homage to the first intercontinental world club champions, Palmeiras. The announcement, featured on the federation’s Instagram, reads:
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Green is the colour of envy. ‘The Big Green’ were the envy of the wide world #OnThisDay 65 years ago. A Liminha-inspired @sepalmeiras edged a @juventus team including Giampiero Boniperti & a dazzling Danish triumvirate to become the sport’s first intercontinental world club champions. 100,000 watched that at the Maracanã. One million flooded the streets of São Paulo to welcome their heroes home.

Less informed rival supporters and some malicious journalists have continuously claimed Palmeiras have no world title. Guess this shuts them up for good.

On Sunday, against Atlético Mineiro, the Palmeiras squad will wear a jersey featuring the Brazilian flag hovering above the crest, just like in 1951.  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Every week, if not every day, a new team is announced as Gabriel Jesus’ next destination. Indeed, the 19-year-old forward is has become the centre of attention on the international transfer market. Initial fears were that he would be swept away already mid-season, crippling Palmeiras’ title aspirations. However, supporters today feel confident they can count on Gabriel for the rest of the year: Palmeiras have repeatedly expressed the intention to hold on to all key players and Gabriel himself has reinforced the position, firmly stating he aims for the Brazilian championship this year. Kid has a good head on his shoulders.
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Does not mean negotiations are not taking place, on the contrary: Palmeiras’ director of football Alexandre Mattos was recently on a European tour, laying out conditions in meetings with representatives from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Internazionale, Juventus and Manchester United. Not only financial conditions but, again, the permanence of Gabriel throughout the year.

The whole thing was slow cooking, but that changed when news today spread that a new contender, Manchester City, had made the best offer so far, €32 million, in addition to allowing Gabriel to remain for the rest of the Brasileirão. Manchester City are not on Gabriel’s top 5 list – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Bayern München – who only need to pay a €24 million fee to release him from his contract with Palmeiras. Any other club, including City, would theoretically have to come up with €40 million.

So why would Palmeiras, owner of 30% of Gabriel Jesus’ economic rights, settle for less than the full amount they could potentially cash in, €12 million? Well, seems like a less orthodox deal is being drafted up, where City would pay Palmeiras €20 million for the club’s 30% share, leaving the remaining €12 million with… Well, Gabriel himself holds 25% of his economic rights, and two agents/investors hold the remaining 45%. Would the three of them share the €12 million? Or would City sign a separate agreement only with Gabriel, purchasing his 25% for the €12 million, completely cutting the agents out of the deal? There are some question marks here, but it is safe to assume that someone will be on the short end of the rope.  

All this of course on the premises that Gabriel Jesus wants to play for Manchester City. Which, apparently, he wants, after having received a telephone call from the man himself, City coach Pep Guardiola.

Some claim the deal is sealed, but that is unlikely: Gabriel Jesus has said he will not sign anything until after the Olympic Games. No word from Palmeiras either, although that is the modus operandi of Paulo Nobre’s administration, where silence reigns until the ink has dried. Besides, with the world’s attention on the kid during the Games, why waste the opportunity to receive even more interesting offers? Manchester United have signalled they will make one within the coming week, and so have another of Europe’s major clubs, most likely also this one on Gabriel’s top 5 list. Stay tuned, the show has just begun!  

Yet another good article on Palmeiras, this one by Jack Lang for WhoScored.com, dissecting Cuca’s take on the squad and tactics, fundamentally important to shape the lean and lethal machine that has been in the lead of the Brazileirão for the last seven rounds. Enjoy!

In December, we might look back at this game as a turning point. Or, more correctly: the moment when everyone understood that Palmeiras were in this fight to win. The manner by which Palmeiras conducted the game, at times completely dominating Internacional, was impressive. The meagre scorecard does not reflect the afternoon: 0-3 or perhaps 1-3 would have been more like it.

Palmeiras came in the same formation used in the last away win, against Sport, but with Cleiton Xavier on Moisés (suspended) and Erik on Dudu. Xavier’s precise passes cut like a knife through butter, optimising the velocity of Palmeiras’ offensive trio Róger Guedes, Erik and Gabriel Jesus. But not only the offensive worked well: defence was equally fine-tuned, the midfield marking strong, facilitating the task of the centre-lock. Today, every single player in the staring eleven worked hard, executing with confidence and consciousness. Palmeiras look, more each day, like a champion. A few weeks ago, journalists were claiming Palmeiras had a “problem” playing as visitor. 1-3 against Sport was a first “hush” and today’s victory – Palmeiras’ first in 19 (!) years at the Beira-Rio stadium – carries tremendous weight. Tremendous weight.
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As Corinthians drew 1-1 with São Paulo while Grêmio lost 4-2 to Sport, Palmeiras now have a three-point lead after 15 rounds. With Brazil Cup games taking place in the middle of the week, Cuca and the men have a decent amount of time for training and rest before welcoming Atlético Mineiro to the Allianz Parque on Sunday morning. With Fernando Prass and Gabriel Jesus in the Olympic squad, there will be new faces in the staring eleven: most likely Vagner between the post and Barrios or Leandro Pereira up front (unless Cuca opts for Rafael Marques, which I find unlikely). Once more, expect a full house, hopefully propelling our warriors to victory.     

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Palmeiras’ gameplay excels in rapid transitions from defence to offense, but without suspended Gabriel Jesus and Róger Guedes, it did not work very well against Santos, although Dudu and Erik worked hard. None of them had a good night yesterday, in Dudu’s case partially explained by a rough challenge early in the game, the player visibly uncomfortable throughout the night, frequently massaging his hip.

The setup saw Barrios fairly isolated up front: he did what he could, but without teammates approaching, he renders little.

Nevertheless, Palmeiras got off to an excellent start, pressuring a nervous Santos and opening the scorecard at six minutes after a header by Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina: his first brace in his second game for Palmeiras. Palmeiras controlled the action until suffering a first blow as midfielder Moisés felt a sting from last week’s thigh injury and was taken off. Moisés is strong in both offence and defence, and no option on the bench could do both parts: Cleiton Xavier would be the offensive bet, while Arouca the more defensive (Thiago Santos also suspended; Matheus Sales, Jean and Tchê Tchê already on the pitch, Gabriel not called up for the game). This early in the game, and Palmeiras in control and in the lead, Cuca understandably opted for Arouca, even with the seasoned player only just out of the medical department.

The game levelled quickly, with few chances created in the first half. Just before halftime, the second blow: Mina carried off, in tears, with a muscle injury to his left thigh. Such a shame: the youngster had every expectation to be called up next week to join the Colombian Olympic squad and later this week we will learn the severity of his injury.

UPDATE: a muscular injury has been confirmed, Mina’s recovery time estimated at 6-8 weeks. Olympic aspirations unfortunately up in smoke.

The second half had Edu Dracena replacing Mina, Cuca with just the one substitution left and a team gradually losing control to Santos, who reached the equaliser through a deflected shot with ten minutes on the clock. Again, Cleiton Xavier could have been an option to regain control and creativity on the midfield, but Barrios was tired and Cuca opted for maintaining a reference attacker, swapping the Paraguayan for Leandro Pereira, who made his debut in his second spell at the club. Equally isolated, the substitution rendered little, except for a hail of criticism from the stands. No, Cuca did not experience one of his best nights either.
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Considering the troublesome context, the draw ended up being a rather good result for Palmeiras, the Verdão now sustaining a one-point lead to Corinthians.

There are 40.035 other reasons to celebrate: a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque. The expressive number also saw Palmeiras overtake Corinthians in the top of the average attendance ranking, with 31.854 against 31.011 for the skunks.

Now, focus is redirected toward Sunday’s difficult task. Palmeiras have not beaten Internacional at the Beira-Rio since 1997, but odds look better due to last week’s exit of coach Argel, this afternoon replaced with Paulo Roberto Falcão. This is the former defensive midfielder’s third spell as Inter coach and Falcão was reportedly not the club’s first choice (he has been unemployed since leaving Sport in April) but was offered the position after Abel Braga and Mano Menezes declined Inter’s offer. With Jesus, Guedes and Thiago Santos back in the squad, I believe we break that taboo on Sunday.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Our captain keeper today turns 38: congratulations, Fernando!

I highly recommend this article at goal.com – on Prass, his career and recent call to defend Brazil in the upcoming Rio Olympics – by Raisa Simplicio and Ruper Fryer. Enjoy!
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Although Cuca and directors say the squad is closed, inevitably there will be some movement. While keeping intact the starting eleven contenders, minor adjustments have recently been made:

Jonathan Cristaldo last week left for Mexican Cruz Azul. At Palmeiras, the extremely charismatic forward turned into a talisman of sorts, sparsely used but often proven decisive when so, scoring important last-minute goals. Palmeiras paid R$ 8 million when signing the Argentine in August of 2014, accepting the offer of R$ 10 million to now let him go. The deal satisfies all parties: Cristaldo was not happy as benchwarmer and Palmeiras have enough players with similar characteristics in the squad. In total, the 27-year-old played 76 games for Palmeiras, scoring 20 goals. On social media, the club posted the gif below, thanking Cristaldo and wishing him the best of luck. So does Anything Palmeiras!
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Rafael Marques has only played six games so far in the Brasileirão and would be allowed to defend another first division team already this season (the limit is seven games). Albeit not particularly happy with all the bench time, the forward has announced his intention to remain at the club, even with several teams making informal enquiries regarding his situation. Palmeiras have been equally firm: Rafa Marques stays.

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Leandro Pereira is back at Palmeiras, the club having successfully concluded negoti-ations with Club Brugge for a one-year loan. In his first spell at Palmeiras, Leandro scored 10 goals in 30 games before leaving for Belgium, where he did not excel. The 25-year old’s wish to return coincided with Barrios’ streak of injuries and Alecsandro’s doping suspension. The 190 cm tall striker is already training with the squad, regaining stamina after 20 days of vacation. Welcome back and good luck, Leandro!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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