Cuca – a man with a plan

48 hours after having exited the Paulistão, and Palmeiras were already announcing modifications to the squad. And not minor modifications: regular starting eleven players Robinho and Lucas are off to Cruzeiro in a swap for Fabrício – comfortable as left-back or midfielder – and Fabiano, a right-back who doubles as a fullback. Both newcomers are younger and considerably taller than Robinho and Lucas.
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Fabricio&Fabiano
Fabrício and Fabiano for Robinho and Lucas

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Today, more exits were announced: Nathan is joining Taylor at Criciúma and Victor Luis is heading for Botafogo. None of these transfers are permanent, they are all loan agreements, same as the Cruzeiro swap. Different from Fellype Gabriel, who has been released from his contract. It’s speculated upcoming exits might involve Zé Roberto and Edu Dracena in addition to Leandro Almeida and Régis.

Cuca will keep on trimming, in line with his preference for a leaner squad with multi-purpose players, allowing for high rotation, a multitude of tactical option and an overall more vertical game-plan. The speed by which the aforementioned player transactions happened is the clearest indicator they have been discretely planned for some time, with Cuca in the driver’s seat. The message is clear: no one is untouchable as Cuca embarks on the mission to reformulate the squad according to his preference. And he’s not modest about it. “I know what I’m doing” and “We’re going to win the Brazilian championship this year” are two recent statements.

Good thing Cuca is confident, because the player swap with Cruzeiro is receiving quite some flak from supporters. Less so related to Lucas, who is a shadow of his 2015 self, but Robinho is a different story. Although the midfielder always suffered ups and downs at Palmeiras, he was heading the assists rank and had reached quite some status due to his spectacular braces against SPFC. Robinho was not uncontested, but in any case considered a key players in the squad. Cuca clearly thought differently, probably finding Robinho rather one-dimensional and without the necessary stamina and pace. “But Robinho was the closest to a playmaker we had and now we have none’, supporters protest. And they are right. Cleiton Xavier could be that playmaker (although he´s not a classical #10) but with his recent record of injuries, nothing can be taken for granted. Which has me thinking Palmeiras are preparing a high-profile signing.

In addition to that wishful-thinking-playmaker, is there space for newcomers in the squad? Cuca says he will promote fullback Augusto and midfielder Vitinho from the youth divisions. Argentinians Tobio and Mouche – currently on loan – will soon be available but Cuca´s intentions are unclear. Chances are better for midfielder Juninho, currently on loan to Paulistão finalists Audax. Stay tuned.

Signing off with a piece of bad news: Allione hurt his knee in the last Libertadores bout and today underwent minor surgery. Initial estimates are for some 4-8 weeks of recovery time.

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