Yesterday, Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte met the press, with Cuca on his left, announcing Eduardo Baptista’s replacement. From Palmeiras, certainly a discrete probing and an even more discrete “yes” from Cuca took place moments before letting Baptist go after last week’s defeat against Jorge Wilstermann. Cuca’s new contract follows the same framework as last year’s, with duration end of 2018.
Baptista was in a tight spot from day one, and he knew it. After the successful 2016 campaign, culminating in the first Brasileirão league title in 22 years, Palmeiras did everything to keep Cuca, but the coach had promised his family a six months sabbatical. Baptista was probably not Palmeiras idea of an ideal replacement, but options at the time were scarce. Had the young and upcoming coach presented steady progression regarding the squad’s playing style, attitude and overall performance, he could have outshined the towering shadow of Cuca’s return to coaching. Could have.
Cuca knows the squad well, knows Galiotte and Mattos, knows Palmeiras. He understands the overwhelming pressure – internal and external – that comes with the job. Hopefully he will need little time to tweak at least the basics into place, before starting working on the extras. “Changing the tire with the car in motion” as one says in Brazil. Yesterday afternoon he conducted his first training session with the squad. The 2017 Brasileirão debut, against Vasco da Gama, is on Sunday.
During yesterday’s press conference, Cuca was an island of serenity and focus. Never dodging responsibility, he stressed that Palmeiras’ considerable investments were no guarantee, that every other team were also doing their best to become champion. He explained that last year, he needed to say “Palmeiras will win this year’s Brazilian championship” in order to bring the squad together after an early exit from the Libertadores Cup. It worked. This year, he said, the situation is different: Palmeiras are the current champions, everyone expects great things and the pressure is on. “No one has the obligation to become champion, but we will do our outmost”, he concluded.
Should Cuca succeed in implementing something similar to what he had last year, the sheer quality and size of Palmeiras’ squad will transform this “outmost” into one or several championship titles – a probability further enhanced if one or both of the reinforcements suggested/requested by Cuca arrive.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!