Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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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