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What an awful game that was, Atlético Paranaense vs Palmeiras in the 38th and final round of the Brazilian championship. With the best of intentions, you could put a few percent of blame on the artificial grass, but the rest really came down to uninspiredness, paired with our player’s continuous difficulties in adapting to Valentin’s idea of an advanced defensive line. 3-0 in halftime and Palmeiras were never ever close to react. Pathetic ending to a disappointing season.

That being said, Palmeiras did finish second overall, in a year where three coaches came and went, each with very different styles of play – proof alone the squad is qualified, enduring such stress and still coming out comparatively well. Many a supporter is pissed off, as expectations were sky high. However, one must also remember that in 2014, Palmeiras escaped relegation in the last round; in 2015, bagged the Brazil Cup; in 2016, the Brasileirão. Considering the 2017 campaign a complete failure only serves to illustrate how much Palmeiras have evolved in these last few years. And should continue to evolve.

Final standings: Corinthians (72), Palmeiras (63), Santos (63), Grêmio (62), Cruzeiro (57), Flamengo (56), Vasco (56), Chapecoense (54), Atlético Mineiro (54), Botafogo (53), Atlético Parananese (51), Bahia (50), São Paulo (50), Fluminense (47), Sport (45) and Vitória (43). Relegated: Coritiba (43), Avaí (43), Ponte Preta (39) and Atlético Goianense (36). Next year, the Série A will see the inclusion of América Mineiro, Internacional, Ceará and Paraná.

A more than honourable mention to Chapecoense, who finished 8th and grabbed the last 2018 Libertadores Cup spot. This was Chape’s best result to date in the Brazilian championship and extraordinary when considering that the team, end of last year, overnight ceased to exist. Now, without diminishing Chape’s feat… Chape finishing 8th also says a lot about Brazilian football club’s overall (lack of) planning and managing skills.

If 2017 was rather disappointing for Palmeiras’ A team, the youth divisions had a splendid one. In the São Paulo state championship, for the first time in history, Palmeiras made it to the finals in ALL age groups, with the following results:

U11 – Champions
U13 – Runners-up
U15 – Champions
U17 – Runners-up
U20 – Champions

2017_SUB11On the 25 of November, Palmeiras opened up the lower section of the Allianz Parque for the public, where the U11 and U15 played their finals. The free admission drew a 21.000 strong crowd, every available ticket was handed out. Many a palmeirense, struggling to make ends meet, that day had an opportunity to visit the stadium for the first time. This was reflected in the atmosphere, there was something different in the air, something dignifying. And imagine the emotion of 10-year-olds on the pitch, playing a championship final, with 21.000 people cheering them on from start to finish… Beautiful.

In addition to the aforementioned results in the State championship, Palmeiras’ U17 bagged the Brazil Cup. Indeed, the future is promising, although Palmeiras need to improve player transition from youth to A category. New head coach Roger Machado pays close attention to these details, they say.

Including the timely arrival of Roger Machado, signings are well underway. There will be no revolution, the spine of the squad is solid. Mattos and Machado will rather look at filling specific positions, where there were obvious fragilities this season, starting with the flanks and midfield creativity. On the left, Diogo Barbosa has been signed from Cruzeiro. On the right, Rafinha is speculated but Palmeiras are awaiting conclusion of the player’s negotiations with Bayern Munchen. Lucas Lima is arriving to be the playmaker of choice, with competition coming from Allione, the Argentine returning from his one-year loan to Bahia. In addition, former Botafogo centre-defender Emerson Santos has been signed, and Atlético Paranaense keeper Weverton should be announced within days. Palmeiras are also closely monitoring the situation of left-back Zeca, trying to break free from his contract with Santos due to unresolved issues regarding employer’s fees.

Anything Palmeiras will keep you posted on further developments. 

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras’ penultimate game this season was also Zé Roberto’s last, the 43-year-old midfielder a few days earlier having announced his retirement from professional football. Naturally, the chosen stage was the Allianz Parque, with Botafogo co-starring and correctly suffering a 2-0 defeat, goals by Dudu and Keno (really worth checking out, highlights below). The result propelled Palmeiras into second place.
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Zé Roberto’s career has been extraordinary. 961 club football games for Bayern Munchen, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg, Grêmio, Flamengo, Santos, Portuguesa, Al-Gharafa and, of course, Palmeiras. In addition, 84 caps for Brazil.

At Palmeiras, he played 133 games as midfielder, sometimes as left defender, and scored 10 goals. He was instrumental in the 2015 Brazil Cup title and the 2016 Brazilian Championship title, exercising supreme leadership on and, in particular, off the pitch. His personal determination to contribute to the elevation of Palmeiras’ grandeur and self-esteem to that of previous glorious decades was surprising, touching and very necessary: like few others, Zé Roberto in a short time fully understood and incorporated Palmeiras into his very self, and in the most professional of ways. Mind you, Zé Roberto is oldest player to pull on our jersey and the oldest to score for Palmeiras. The oldest to score in a Libertadores game and the second oldest to ever have participated in the tournament.

His farewell at the stadium was emotional and worthy. Today, he summed up his life until now with the words “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have remained faithful. And I have left a legacy.” Indeed you have, Zé Roberto. Indeed you have. Thank you!
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Upcoming Sunday, against Atlético Paranaense, Alberto Valentin commands the men one last time. Closely observed by Roger Machado, who no doubt is contemplating the squad’s strengths and weaknesses and how he in 2018 will make the best out of Lucas Lima’s arrival.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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— ooo —
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UPDATE: Zé Roberto will be Technical Advisor at Palmeiras as of January 2018. In his new role he will work alongside director of football Alexandre Mattos and his aid Cícero Souza on a number of administrative functions. More importantly, Zé Roberto will also have direct contact with players and coaching staff, facilitating their interaction with the management and vice versa. Alexandre Mattos considers this an important function, much used in European clubs but practically unheard of in Brazil (at the announcement, he gave but one reference: Tinga at Cruzeiro).

This is excellent news. Much good could potentially generate from this arrangement. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Although not yet made official, Palmeiras have signed Roger Machado as new coach. The 42-year old from Porto Alegre was the club’s second choice after Abel Braga, who asked for a couple of weeks to consider the offer and immediately was left hanging. Palmeiras’ timing was perfect: the 2018 squad is already being assembled and there is no time to lose.

Machado played professional football for 14 years and was in the 90ies considered one of Brazil’s finest left-backs. His 404 games for Grêmio mark the highlight of his career, with three Brazil Cup titles, one Brasileirão title and one Libertadores Cup title. He won a fourth Brazil Cup title with Fluminense in 2006, making him the player with the most number of Brazil Cup titles in history. Curiously, Machado has but one appearance in the Brazilian national squad.
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Initiating as assisting coach in 2011 at Grêmio, Machado two years later went on to coach more modest teams Juventude and Nova Hamburgo before returning to Grêmio and doing good work throughout the 2015-2016 seasons. In 2017 he was one of Palmeiras top two options, but as the Verdão delayed negotiations, still hoping Cuca would remain, Machado was snatched by Atlético Mineiro (while Palmeiras, as you remember, ended up with Eduardo Baptista).

Roger Machado is not a seasoned coach, but he is no rookie either. And although he is yet to bag a national title (he only has the 2017 Minas Gerais state championship title with Atlético) he has shown capability to implement interesting and modern concepts on the pitch, aggressiveness and speed being primary trademarks of his when holding possession.

Machado has signed a one-year contract. Best of luck, Roger!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

With Grêmio’s draw last Sunday, a victory against relegation-prone Avaí would propel Palmeiras to second position in the tables, a position worth roughly US$ 1,2 million extra in prize money at the end of the championship. It would also increase Alberto Valentim’s chances of remaining as Palmeiras’ coach in 2018. At least slightly, at least in theory.

Once more, Palmeiras became the victim of Valentim’s attempts to implement an advanced line of defence. The idea is not at all revolutionary, but a satisfactory level of implementation is only possible to achieve with time. Clearly, Palmeiras are not there yet: as against Vitória, Palmeiras’ defence at times looked like on a suicide mission, allowing Avaí to score twice, minutes apart, at the beginning of the second half. Palmeiras’ much superior ball posse resulted in many attempts at goal but desperately few on target. Valentim also looked desperate, promoting Guerra with only a few minutes remaining on the clock. 

At the press conference after the game, Valentim voiced the opinion that Palmeiras had played a good game and lost due to two unfortunate moments. He also asserted he will act as coach, at Palmeiras or elsewhere, in 2018.
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Today, Palmeiras announced they will offer Valentim the assisting coach position he held before Cuca’s dismissal. In other words: Palmeiras have no intention of keeping Valentim in command next season. Valentim says he will respond to the offer after the championship has ended.

Palmeiras are clearly seeking to sign a new coach a.s.a.p. With Mano Menezes out of the picture, nine out of ten believe current Fluminense coach Abel Braga is the chosen one. The 65-year-old carioca is experienced, emotional, old school. With Internacional he won the Libertadores Cup and the World Club Championship in 2006 and in 2012 he won the Brasileirão with Fluminense.

A second option is 42-year-old Roger Machado, most recently at Atlético Mineiro, from where he was fired last July, after only six months at the club. As coach, Machado has no national titles on his CV.

What are the odds Abel would be successful at Palmeiras? Machado? Conrado Cacace of the Verdazzo argues it does not really matter, for as long as Palmeiras do not come up with a footballing identity.  

Palmeiras might have achieved excellence in many areas off pitch, including superior economic firepower and top notch training facilities, but the club has not yet established itself as a School of Football. The professional team is mutant: the style of play is a truthful mirror of the coach, a coach who on average lasts five months.

This situation is in stark contrast with, for example, Corinthians, who, even while enduring financial problems, maintain a well-defined playing style, as implemented by coach Tite in 2010 and adapted by his successors Mano Menezes, Tite (during his comeback) and most recently Fábio Carille. Cristóvão Borges tried to change that identity and was very short-lived. Cacace argues that one may question the beauty of the formula but not its efficiency: Corinthians have reaped excellent results even as coaches have changed and the squad has featured players of only satisfactory technical level. With doubt, this is due to the footballing identity created and implemented over time.

Creating a footballing identity takes time, and balls, because the coach needs to be maintained until that identity consolidates, even in the face of poor performance. Eduardo Baptista is a recent example of the opposite: at Palmeiras, he was securing some 60% of points at play and slowly deploying a system that could have been quite solid today. However, after the São Paulo Cup elimination, Baptista was fired and the ongoing identity development went down the drain.

There are no certainties in football. Keeping Baptista could have resulted in a team peaking in the last months of the championship, securing our tenth Brazileirão title. Or he could have remain stuck in the search for the balance between attack and defence, unable to secure even a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup. We will never know.

Regardless, Palmeiras need to create an identity, an identity that should serve as a mark also for the youth divisions. So, who to pick to implement this identity?

The name of the coach is not that important, Cacace argues. Palmeiras can assign a technical director, a position to be occupied in the long term by a deep connoisseur of football, who will be the reference, shaping the identity and securing that players that fit the model of play are signed. Something similar to what Paulo Autuori does at Atlético Paranaense and what Tite, although today not formally, continues to do at Corinthians. With a technical director in place, the importance of and the pressure on the coach will diminish.

No coach currently speculated at Palmeiras obtains more than a 30% approval rate among supporters, meaning any of them would face resistance of more than two thirds. Just like Alberto Valentim. Our current interim coach had a head start in relation to any newcomer, but is now out of the picture. Whichever successor is chosen will need the unrestricted backing of the club’s directors, resisting as hell breaks loose, over and over again, until that identity has been forged.

Without a footballing identity – or the will to create one – it matters little who takes over as coach: he will feel the moving sand at the first sequence of defeats, and be gone at the beginning of the second.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Palmeiras have announced the signing of Cruzeiro’s left-back Diogo Barbosa. The 25-year-old is Palmeiras’ second confirmed reinforcement for the 2018 season, Botafogo centre-back Emerson Santos being the first, signed already in August.

An early talent, Barbosa played for Vasco da Gama at the tender age of 18, but buckled under pressure. For a number of years he proceeded his career in smaller first and second division teams before returning to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 to play for Botafogo. Much more seasoned, he had a great year and caught the eye of the mineiros, who signed him at the end of the season. At Cruzeiro he continued his upward trajectory, crowned by decisive performances that culminated in the 2017 Brazil Cup title.
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Barbosa is strong in both offense and defence and currently considered one of the most regular wingers in Brazilian football. He will certainly go straight into Palmeiras’ starting eleven, especially as Egídio is on his way out (back to Cruzeiro, apparently) and Zé Roberto retiring. Other competitors for the position include returning Victor Luis (on loan at Botafogo until the end of the season), midfielder Michel Bastos and centre-back Juninho.

Palmeiras are paying Cruzeiro €1.5 million for 25% of the economic rights of the athlete. The remaining 75% are with an investment bank and can be purchased by Palmeiras at a later stage. A few days ago, a financially more advantegous offer for the player was made by Dutch club Ajax, but Barbosa had already made up his mind. Good choice.

Not that Cruzeiro wanted Barbosa gone… Truth is, the club’s finances are in a bad shape and they simply had to release him. Raposa supporters could be happier.  

Welcome and best of luck, Diogo!

Palmeiras 2020

For the first time in history, this year, all of Palmeiras’ youth divisions made it to the semi-finals of the São Paulo state championships. But they did not stop there.

# U11 on Sunday play Santos in the first leg of the finals.
# U13 on Sunday play Corinthians in the first leg of the finals.
# U15 on Saturday play São Paulo in the first leg of the finals.
# U17 on Sunday play Ponte Preta in the first leg of the finals.
# U20 on Friday play Novorizontino in the second leg of the semi-finals, having won the first leg, away, 2-0.

In addition, the U17 are alive and well in the Brazil Cup: after eliminating Vasco da Gama on the quarterfinals, they beat Flamengo 4-1 in the first leg of the semi-finals and will, if they go through to the finals, face Chapecoense or Corinthians.
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Palmeiras athletes have been called up to integrate Brazil’s youth squads in increasing numbers. Evidently, the rapid and broad evolution of the club’s youth divisions – largely a legacy of former president Paulo Nobre who made it a priority to extinguish “Palmeiras B” and remodel the whole approach – carry potential great revenue for Palmeiras, be it through players to be integrated into the main squad or sold to top clubs in Europe or elsewhere. However, for that to happen, Palmeiras need to look very carefully at the final transition phase, from youth to main squad. There is something missing there, and has for some time, in terms of quality, quantity and mental strength. Palmeiras are not known as a hatcher of great talents, but could and should be, even more so considering the financial muscle now available. There is plenty of lessons learnt, good practices to copy, and successful professionals to sign (if needed).    

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Ahead of today’s game against Flamengo, the key question was whether the squad would have soaked up the disappointments of recent weeks and bounce back. The answer is yes. With an alternative line-up sporting Luan alongside Edu Dracena in defence, Felipe Melo protecting the duo, Michel Bastos on the left flank and Deyverson up front, Palmeiras controlled the action from start to finish, showing much consistency in defence while maintaining offensive power. The thirty thousand spectators at the Allianz Parque joined forces, understanding the moment and responding to the call made by coach Valentim and the wholes squad present at last Friday’s press conference: stand by us. Not the same can be said for parts of the organised supporters, who ahead of the game protested in front of the training facilities and threw food items against the bus carrying players and staff en route to the stadium, breaking a window and putting people’s safety at risk.
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Now, with some kind of normality restored, Palmeiras are in decent shape to end the season among the top four and, consequently, a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup. With four rounds to go, the gap to the closest contender is six points. Palmeiras’ sequence is composed of Sport on Thursday at the Allianz Parque, then Avaí away, then Botafogo at home before rounding things off against Atlético Paranaense away. Two victories out of four, and the target has been reached.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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