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It was in the cards. Last Thursday’s home draw to relegation-threatened Bahia, after leading two nil, saw coach Cuca’s dismissal. “By mutual agreement”, as the Palmeiras statement read on Friday afternoon.

cuca_211In 2016, Cuca guided Palmeiras to their first top-flight title in 22 years before stepping down for personal reasons. After a few months with Eduardo Baptista in command, Cuca was reappointed in May. The premature exit in the Libertadores Cup was followed by an equally disappointing Brazil Cup performance. Now, with plenty of time for training and rest, improvements were expected but Cuca and the squad failed to deliver. The lack of evolution gradually corroded confidence and both players and coach started to display certain listlessness. The ending is always the same: coach sacked. In this second spell at the club, Cuca led Palmeiras in 34 games, with 16 victories, 7 draws and 11 defeats: only 54% of the points available.  

Always a fierce critic of the constant coach swapping in Brazilian football, I have come to understand just how deeply entrenched in the system it is. Consider the latest turns at Palmeiras: Ricardo Gareca, 4 months; Dorival Júnior, 3 months; Oswaldo de Oliveira, 5 months; Marcelo Oliveira, 10 month; Cuca, 8 months (first spell); Eduardo Baptista, 5 months; Cuca, 5 months (second spell). A club might have the best of intentions, wanting to stick with a coach no matter what: the pressure, from everyone and everywhere, is overwhelming. Considering this, Cuca’s dismissal was well timed. Assisting coach Alberto Valentim immediately assumed, last Sunday leading Palmeiras to a 3-1 away victory against Atlético Goianense. With ten rounds to go, he should be able to keep Palmeiras in the top four, securing a spot in next year’s Libertadores.

That said, Valentim has virtually zero chance of receiving a permanent appointment. My sources say Palmeiras have locked sights on current Cruzeiro coach Mano Menezes, with previous spells at Grêmio, Corinthians, Flamengo and, in 2010-2012, Brazil’s national squad. The 55-year-old has been the name of choice of football director Alexandro Mattos for years. Seems discussions are already involving names of players Mano would like to see added to the Palmeiras squad in 2018. With that, planning for next season is well underway, which is fundamentally important.

To Cuca, eternal gratitude for the 2016 Brazilian championship title. Too bad things did not work out in the sequel. Best of luck in future endeavours!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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After yesterday having his picture snapped wearing a Palmeiras jersey underneath the Brazilian National Team polo, Neymar frankly admitted he one day would like to play for the Verdão.

“Already as a small kid, I was Palmeiras. My idols were Evair, Marcos, Rivaldo, Alex… These are the guys I looked up to. I became a palmeirense because of them.”
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Neymar and the rest of the National squad today trained at Palmeiras’ Football Academy ahead of Tuesdays World Cup qualifier against Chile at the Allianz Parque.

“Nobody knows about tomorrow, but it would be a great pleasure (to play for Palmeiras)”, the Paris Saint-Germain forward concluded.

Lucas LimaDirector of Football Alexandre Mattos today met with Neymar’s father, but Neymar is not transferring to Palmeiras (quite yet). Now, there is a decent chance playmaker Lucas Lima, currently at Santos, pulls on the green kit next season. So happens, Neymar Senior is Lima’s agent… Stay tuned.  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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With 13 days to train and rest after the classico, a sense of normality has enveloped Palmeiras. The newsworthy events are few. Not necessarily is a bad thing.

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Gabriel Jesus’ former manager Fábio Caran and Palmeiras have reached an agreement whereby the club receives a further R$ 20 million (US$ 6.4 million) originating from the player’s sale to Manchester City.

Initially entitled to receive only 30% of the R$ 121 million, Palmeiras increased the club’s percentage to 50% due to the manager and his wife having breached the contract by forming a partnership with two other entrepreneurs without the club’s consent. The agreement ends a yearlong imbroglio in the courts. Caran, originally to receive R$ 28 million, thus ends up with R$ 8 million.

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Felipe Melo seems likely to return to the Palmeiras squad. No offers from abroad has surfaced and there are some legal aspects to consider if Melo would continuously be kept separate from the rest of the men. Players seem fine with a reintegration; the main concern is rather as to what point coach Cuca and Melo will be able to reconcile.

The defensive midfielder is on a contract with Palmeiras until end of 2019.

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Following Vitinhos’ loan deal to Barcelona B, a number of young Palmeiras players have followed suit, negotiated with European clubs.  

In yesterday’s last day of the European transfer window, Emerson Muller of the U20 squad was negotiated, for an undisclosed amount, on a four-year contract with Suisse club FC Lugano. In any future transfer of the midfielder, Palmeiras are entitled to 20%.

The previous day, 18-year-old forward Gabriel Barbosa was negotiated on a one-year loan deal with Italian top-division club Spal.

Centre-back Gabriel Estigarribia and forward Matheus Iacovelli have also left, both for good: the defender is with Alavés of Spain, and the forward with Estoril, Portugal.

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There are rumours Miguel Borja could be open for a transfer, concerned about limited play time at Palmeiras and the risk of losing his spot in Colombia’s national squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Both Cuca and Galiotte have however reiterated that Borja is very focused and determined to make it work at Palmeiras. The player himself acknowledge difficulties in adapting to the Brazilian style of play and Cuca’s philosophy, but guarantees he is staying. Borja has four more years to his contract.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras’ premature exit from the Brazil Cup and Libertadores Cup will not have an immediate impact on the squad, which is good. With the exception of Felipe Melo, no one is leaving. Palmeiras and Melo are seeking a amicable settlement; the quicker things are resolved the better. 

mina_castNow, the medical department is having busy days. Against Barcelona, Mina, Dudu and Jaílson were injured. The latter two should be out for another three weeks, while Mina is looking at three months due to a broken toe. “I’ll come back, stronger than ever” he stated yesterday, posing with his cast.

Mayke, Willian, Thiago Martins and Juninho are all in the final phases of transition and are likely available on Sunday, at home, against Chapecoense. Also Guerra and Moisés should be fit for fight.

Then there is Arouca. After two surgical procedures early in the year, removing cartilage from his right ankle, the defensive midfielder is reaching the end of a long recovery period. Still, he has a few more weeks to go and there are doubts if he will make a strong enough impression to secure a spot in next year’s squad, which Mattos and Cuca certainly are already moulding in their heads.

Goalkeeper Fernando Prass is negotiating his extension, and so is left-back Egídio. There are a bit of mixed feelings related to both these negotiations.

Rounding off with a piece of unconfirmed news that Palmeiras have signed Botafogo centre-back Emerson Santos. Corinthians had a deal almost sealed but were apparently beaten on the finishing line. Emerson is to arrive in January of next year. More info to follow.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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On Friday, ahead of Saturday’s game against Avaí, coach Cuca told the squad Felipe Melo would not be in the starting eleven nor on the bench. On Saturday night, after a convincing 2-0 against the team from Florianópolis, Cuca laid it out to the press: Felipe Melo will not proceed at Palmeiras.

Melo is an ambitious and strong-headed individual, never comfortable with the bench. Cuca does not see Melo’s playing style as ideal while seeking to emulate the characteristics of the 2016 team: speed, quick transitions, advanced positions paired with aggressive marking of the opponent. This was discussed with the player and mutual consent was reached: better part ways. Simple as that.
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With his extremely outspoken and self-promoting personality, Felipe Melo has divided opinions among palmeirenses. Personally, I have no problem with him leaving. I see better options in Bruno Henrique and Thiago Santos, paired with Moisés’ emminent return. Palmeiras are paying the price for a rather turbulent first six months, Cuca’s absence and subsequent return the pivoting factor. At this point, Cuca needs full backing to catch up for time lost, within limits reshape the squad and find that playing style he so much envisions. Anything not part of the solution is part of the problem. 

Melo has played only five games so far in the Brasileirão, he has not reached the limit that would prevent him from defending another first division team this season. There are however no indications at this point regarding his future: possibly, he will remain at Palmeiras for a few weeks, training in separate, while things are being solved. His contract with Palmeiras formally ends in December of 2019.

During his seven months at Palmeiras, Melo played 27 games and scored twice. Although his passage was brief, he certainly left his mark, always defending the club with blood and sweat.

Anything Palmeiras wishes Melo good luck in his future endeavours.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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UPDATE, 1/8/2017 – 12:55

We learnt today from Palmeiras’ director of football Alexandre Mattos that removing Felipe Melo from the squad was far from solely based on technical/tactical concerns. A number of incidents involving Melo had occurred previously, but had been dealt with internally. After Wednesday’s elimination from the Brazil Cup, Melo’s disrespectful attitude in the locker room reached new heights. As the news of the occurrence reached Palmeiras’ directors, they decided to remove Melo, having previously consulted Cuca regarding the possible impacts on the field.

Melo was formally communicated on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, the player apologised to Cuca, club president Galiotte and the squad.

Any possibility of reconciliation was effectively torpedoed yesterday night: in a leaked audio, recorded Sunday night, Melo launches a personal attack on Cuca, in addition to voicing his wish to play somewhere else.

Melo will train separated from the rest of the squad, awaiting interesting offers. Mattos stated there are none on the table at the moment.

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Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte spent his Monday at F.C. Barcelona, further straitening cooperation between the clubs. Topics on the table included the exchange of junior players and the swapping of know-how on logistics and marketing.

The good relations leading to the arrangements involving first Yerry Mina and, more recently, Vitinho, are well known. However, last Friday, Palmeiras’ director of football Alexandre Mattos let us in on yet another aspect of the partnership: Barcelona vouching for Palmeiras’ seriousness vis-à-vis third parties.

Levante, the holder of forward Deyverson’s federative rights, were hesitant when approached by Palmeiras, having heard numerous discouraging stories regarding Brazilian clubs. Levante sought Barcelona’s advice and were told not to worry. Negotiations proceeded and were successfully concluded the other day, with Deyverson signing a five-year contract with Palmeiras.

“Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are”. Palmeiras lining up with the best.

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After defeating Grêmio 1-0 last Saturday, Sunday was all about resting. Today Monday, only a light training session in the morning before heading off to Ecuador, where Barcelona de Guayaquil await on Wednesday. The Libertadores matchup for the group of 16 is illustrated below, with the second leg taking place in a month’s time.
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Ten days ago, CONMEBOL announced they were changing the rules regarding how many players a team could swap in their Libertadores squad – funny enough only hours after River Plate saw seven of their players fail a doping test. At the wave of a wand, the limit went from two to six players. Palmeiras today swapped four: Bruno Henrique, Juninho, Luan and Mayke replaced Rafael Marques, Vitor Hugo, Vitão (only still at Palmeiras) and Alecsandro.

The additional two swaps Palmeiras can (and certainly will) do up to 48 hours ahead of the second leg. One spot is dedicated to Moisés, who is in the final stages of recovery from his knee surgery. The last spot will probably go to a forward in Mattos’ crosshairs. Could be Diego Souza, currently at Sport. Before the weekend, we will know.

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Palmeiras appealed and CONMEBAL revised the absurd rulings following the debacle in Montevideo: Felipe Melo’s ban has dropped from six to three games, and the three-game ban on Palmeiras supporters during away games has been reduced to one game (which will be the one against Barcelona on Wednesday).

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Alberto Valentim is back at Palmeiras as assisting coach, after a brief spell at Red Bull. He left Palmeiras in December of last year, after it became clear he was not taking over after Cuca’s exit. Everyone celebrated his return, although Valentim himself recognises he is taking a step back in order to advance two steps in the future.

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Someone on the verge of taking a major step is 19-year-old attacking midfielder Vitinho. Seems Barcelona are close to finalising a loan move with an option to buy. Cuca has publicly given his approval: “Good for the player and the club if he goes to Barcelona B. He’s training well but, unfortunately, he can’t get the necessary minutes with us. At the moment, he needs to play”, Palmeiras’ coach recently stated.

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English football magazine “World Soccer” annually lists their Top 500 in the World, and the 2017 edition sports six Palmeiras players, more than any other Brazilian club: Felipe Melo, Dudu, Borja, Guerra, Mina and Tchê Tchê.

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Saturday, the Allianz Parque hosted Ariana Grande. Already on Sunday, pictures showed the stadium in shape to receive a game, with the pitch apparently intact. For the first time, stadium management had used a technique to anchor the stage not on the ground but using the ceiling, resulting in considerably less strain on the pitch and much shorter disassembling time. Not a day too early.

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The Allianz Parque, as first stadium in Brazil, has received the “Guiaderodas” seal of approval. The seal is given to venues that has proven fully accessible to wheelchair users and people with other physical disabilities. Unlike the old Palestra, the Allianz Parque was designed with full accessibility in mind from the start: parking lots, stands, restrooms, snack bars… There are 15 elevators and 26 escalators, and staff have been given specific training to meet the needs of disabled visitors.

As palmeirense wheelchair user Renan Barreiros commented: excellent news; will be even better once Palmeiras implement mechanisms that assure only disabled persons are able to reserve the specially designated seats at the stadium, as well as secure the same discounts that non-disabled, enrolled in Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme, enjoy for certain sectors. Seems Palmeiras are working on solutions; this is something worth keeping an eye on.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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