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Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte and the club’s director of football Alexandre Mattos have spent days in Barcelona, working on an agreement with the Catalan club regarding centre-back Yerry Mina. Today, it was formally announced that Barcelona have agreed to extend their priority of buying Mina by a year, more precisely after the 2018 World Cup. The previous deadline was July 2017, smack in the middle of the Brazilian championship and the Libertadores Cup. Being able to keep the Colombian national throughout the season and more is excellent news for Palmeiras.

Yerry Mina arrived at the Verdão in May of 2016, after a dispute involving high-ranking teams in Europe. At the time, Mattos knew he could not compete with salary offers arriving from Germany, but he also knew Barcelona were monitoring Mina, likely to try a signing in one or two years’ time. Mattos contacted Barcelona, got the thumbs up, and then had Barcelona’s director of football call Mina up: “If you one day want to play for Barcelona, you must first head for our partner, head for a club we trust, and that is Palmeiras”.

In addition to the dealings involving the Colombian defender, Galiotte and Mattos advanced with negotiations aimed at a formal partnership between Palmeiras and Barcelona. Methodology of work, exchange programmes for coaches and youth division players were among the topics discussed. Stay tuned for further developments of this very promising alliance.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu flanked by Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte (right) and director of football Alexandre Mattos (left), with Barcelona vice-presidents Javier Bordas (far right) and Jordi Cardoner (far left).

 

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Although officially consistently denied by Palmeiras, a deal has been cooking since November. Atlético Nacional naturally want as much as possible for their star striker, but the insistence on too high a price resulted in the European transfer window closing without any serious option on the table. Big dollars are also available in China, but Borja is young and hungry and not at all keen on a move to Asia. Palmeiras’ director of football Alexandre Mattos seems to have played his hand well.

What additionally has tipped the scale in Palmeiras’ favour is Borja’s own wish: in a fresh-off-the-presses interview for a Brazilian newspaper, he admits having swapped messages with former teammate Alejandro Guerra and fellow compatriot Yerry Mina about Palmeiras and liked what he heard. He also mentioned the feverish Palmeiras supporters and that he had received many encouraging messages through social media, already feeling welcome at the club. And then, a rather bombastic statement from the recently turned 24-year-old: “My family has already packed the bags for Brazil. I expect a decision to be reached by tomorrow or the day after”.

Word is Palmeiras are paying US$ 12 million for 50%-70% of the player’s economic rights.

Tomorrow, Palmeiras and Crefisa are holding a press conference to announce a two-year renovation of the sponsorship partnership. Expect numbers rarely, if ever, seen in Brazilian football: approximately R$100 million per year (US$ 32 million) with bonuses for titles won. Considering recent developments, I would say there is a fair chance the sponsorship renovation be not the sole topic on the agenda.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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It has been confirmed Cuca will not renew his contract with the club in 2017. That means also Cuca’s brother and assisting coach Cuquinha and Euders Pedro are bidding farewell by the end of the month.

Cuca’s decision comes as no surprise, although both Palmeiras and especially the clubs’ supporters were hoping for a different outcome after the successful 2016 campaign, culminating in club’s ninth Brasileirão title. Cuca is keeping a promise to his family of dedicating more time to his loved ones, at least throughout the first semester of 2017.

“It’s a difficult choice, but I had to make it. In fact, and as I have always said, it was not for me even to come (to Palmeiras) this year. I was going to dedicate myself entirely to my family in 2016, but I was convinced by Alexandre Mattos, by the president, by the project that was presented to me and, of course, by my love for Palmeiras. I’ve been a supporter since I was a kid, I’ve never hidden that from anyone, and last Sunday I ended up being champion twice: as a coach and as a supporter. I exit very happy and with the mission accomplished. I’m sure I’ll be back one day to continue my history at the club”, Cuca told Palmeiras’ official website.

Club president Paulo Nobre added: “Considering his technical capacity, identification with the club and the person he is, we would have loved to have him in 2017. But we understand his choice. Palmeiras will always be open to him.”

Director of football Alexandre Mattos certainly has been anticipating work on plans B, C, and D. Abel Braga and Roger Machado were early speculations, but in the last couple of days, both reached agreements with Fluminense and Atlético Mineiro respectively. Another, less likely, option would be giving assisting coach Alberto Valentim the opportunity, either permanently or on the premises that Cuca could come back to Palmeiras in the second semester. Some supporters are already getting nervous, claiming Palmeiras moved in too late and will now have to settle for leftovers. Personally, I think Mattos has everything under control.

Cuca’s last game for Palmeiras happens Sunday 11th against Vitória, at the Barradão stadium, Salvador. In 52 games for the club, he totals 28 wins, 11 draws and 11 losses. Cuca was also suspended in two games: a victory with Cuquinha and a defeat with Alberto Valentim.

Here at Anything Palmeiras, we wish Cuca all the best. It has been a tremendous pleasure following the work of this very competent, dedicated and charming professional. Cuca, enjoy your family to the maximum, then come back to Palmeiras for many more days of glory!

ABRAÇO AND THANK YOU!
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Apologies for the delay. I needed some time to process recent events. Cool down a bit, stay objective and constructive.

The good news are that Palmeiras keep on winning, undergoing a speedy transformation in the hands of coach Cuca. The collective is clicking and individually, a number of players have in a matter of weeks metamorphosed into their heyday versions. Egídio is perhaps the best example: one of the most criticised players in the squad has turned into one of the best as of late, excelling in passes, crosses, turnovers and possession. In similar fashion, both Alecsandro and Gabriel Jesus are enjoying their new positioning and taking full advantage. Jean is growing on his right flank, with merit displacing Lucas onto the bench. No one imagined Cuca so quickly grasping the situation, implementing solutions and reaping results.

This is all good and sufficient in the Paulistão, where Palmeiras only depended, and depend, on their own strength. Last Sunday’s 2-1 away win against Mogi Mirim – goals by Alecsandro and Lucas Barrios – kept Palmeiras at the top of the group with the prize being a spot in the quarter-finals, first leg this upcoming Monday against São Bernardo. In the other quarter-finals,  Corinthians beat Red Bull Brasil, Santos beat São Bento and São Paulo play Audax tomorrow Sunday.

In the Libertadores Cup, Palmeiras defeated  River Plate 4-0 in an excellent display of offensive aggressiveness and focus, with Egídio, Allione twice and Alecsandro getting on the scorecard. Home supporters recognized the effort and Cuca’s importance, giving the squad a standing ovation at the final whistle, even though Palmeiras at that very moment also said goodbye to the competition due to Rosario Central beating Nacional 0-2, finishing first in the group with Nacional second. This was Palmeiras’ 16th Libertadores Cup and the fourth time the team is eliminated before reaching the knockout phase (previously in 1973, 1974 and 1979).
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Palmeiras eliminated, and this early, is of course a failure. We have discussed the sequence of events leading up to this, all the way from mid-2015: the swap as Oswaldo de Oliveira started to collect a few bad results and Marcelo Oliveira became available; Oliveira’s failure to convince but in the end bagging the Brazil Cup title and securing his stay at Palmeiras; the wobbly first months of 2016, keeping Palmeiras’ directors in a constant  keep-or-dismiss dilemma but with no strong replacement coach at hand; and finally, Oliveira’s dismissal and Cuca making himself available a tad too late to salvage the Libertadores campaign.

“Palmeiras hung on too long to Marcelo Oliveira”. Yes, perhaps. But Palmeiras tried to break a Brazilian paradigm, and a heavily criticised one, of firing the coach as soon as a handful of bad results occur. Marcelo Oliveira is Brazil’s most successful coach in the last 3-4 years. At Palmeiras he was given time, a more than decent amount of time, but he failed to improve. Perhaps Nobre and Mattos could have put more pressure on him, and earlier, but in the end, these are mere details: I sustain that Palmeiras, on the whole, did the right thing and acted coherently. Unfortunately, doing the right thing is no guarantee for success.
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Palmeiras are two games from deciding the São Paulo Cup title. Then the Brazilian championship kicks off, and the Brazil Cup. Cuca needs to get plenty of things right if Palmeiras are to win any of these titles. But the squad is qualified enough, and Cuca is qualified enough. Judging by the last couple of weeks, Palmeiras have every possibility to be a main contender in 2016.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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*picture credits: Cesar Greco

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Cuca followed up his initial two defeats with another two: 1-2 at home against Red Bull last Thursday and yesterday’s disastrous 4-1 away against Água Santa. Just like Palmeiras, Água Santa recently swapped coach and had not tasted victory for quite a number of rounds. Similarities end there: the team from the municipality of Diadema made its professional football debut in 2012 and accumulated R$ 2 million in revenues in 2014 (centenarian Palmeiras accumulated R$ 244 million in that same year). A David vs. Goliath comparison isn’t quite enough.
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A few months back and Palmeiras were considered one of this season’s main contenders, having kept the bulk of the victorious 2015 squad and signed what was seen as strategic players for specific shortcomings – many of these players sought after by rivalling clubs. In addition, coach Marcelo Oliveira was given more time.

On top, you add state-of-the-art facilities, salaries paid on time, and a very strong supporter base. Palmeiras is a club who, in general terms, has made an effort to follow the recommended script, and in return is reaping the worst season start in 30 years.

Cuca has had little to no time to train, with games twice a week. In addition, he is a notorious slow starter: at Atlético Mineiro, he lost the first six games before turning the team around. Similar stories at Botafogo, Goiás and Fluminense. There is talk of divisions within the squad (isn’t there always?), that Cuca has identified the rotten apples and asked for their removal. There is talk of a list of reinforcements, signed Cuca. There is a lot of talk.

Complaints and accusations have increased exponentially, the squad, Alexandre Mattos and Paulo Nobre being primary targets. Most of it is both passionate and irrational, with little to no effort to separate intentions, activities carried out and outcome. I understand and share most of the rage, without for a second believing that any solution lies with the “it’s not going well, so off with their heads” loudmouths.

Never mind the loudmouths: the politically motivated are the dangerous ones. Those who take each bad performance on the pitch to criticise everything done in the last three years, in particular the fundamentally important fiscal adjustments. “Go on counting your money, you elitist financial brats with zero knowledge of football”. Palmeiras have suffered from instability on the pitch for decades. Firing away at one of the primary off-pitch achievements of recent times – financial stability and responsibility – seems insane. Insane, until you realise that certain individuals are ready to gamble with the survival of the very institution they claim to serve in order to fulfil personal aspirations.

Amidst this full-blown crisis, Cuca needs to focus on Rio Claro on Thursday then the derby against Corinthians on Sunday. After that, it’s off to the absolute do-or-die clash with Rosario Central, the Argentine time currently sustaining a streak of 22 home games undefeated. Nothing short of victory keeps Palmeiras alive for a spot in the Libertadores knockout phase.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Yesterday afternoon, Palmeiras successfully concluded negotiations with Chinese club Henan Jianye, purchasing forward Rafael Marques’ federative rights for US$ 800K, signing a two-year contract. The player was very relieved, having loudly and clearly expressed his desire to remain at Palmeiras, even giving up bonuses he was entitled to in order to facilitate the closing of the deal. He immediately packed his trunk and left for Itu – where the rest of the squad is training – making a surprise entry, provoking laughter and applause from his comrades.
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Rafael had a very good first semester in 2015, then gradually lost space – and seemingly a bit of motivation – in the second semester. Charismatic and clearly identified with the club, I am pleased with the renewed contract, even though I do not see Rafael as fundamentally important on the pitch. He however tends to grow in decisive moments and is part of the family: the fact that Palmeiras went to lengths to keep him emits good vibrations.

jeanYesterday, early evening, Palmeiras also signed defensive midfielder Jean from Fluminense. The 29-year-old was speculated at different clubs throughout December and January, Fluminense trying to play hardball although holding only 10% of the player’s economic rights. Truth is Jean wanted Palmeiras. And got it.

The midfielder, who is comfortable also on the right flank, became Brazilian champion with São Paulo FC in 2008 and with Fluminense in 2012. He did six caps for Brazil in 2012 (under Mano Menezes) and 2013 (Luiz Felipe Scolari). He has signed a four-year contract with Palmeiras and is, rightfully so, considered quite a catch.

And with that, the Palmeiras squad is set for 2016. Eight new faces in total: Keeper Vagner, centre-backs Edu Dracena and Roger Carvalho, defensive midfielders Rodrigo and Jean, offensive midfielders Régis and Moisés, and striker Erik.

The squad currently holds 37 players, but only 30 can be registered for the Libertadores Cup and no more than 28 in the Paulistão. Expect the likes of Mouche, Cristaldo, Allione, Nathan and a few more to find new clubs – either on loan or permanently – within a month or two.

And before I forget it: good work, Alexandre Mattos and Cícero Souza!
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Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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In the world of sports, and exponentially so in football, the lack of guarantees is both exciting and horrifying. You can do most things wrong, and still be champion. Or do everything right, and reap absolutely nothing.

Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre had everything hanging by the thinnest of threads by the end of 2014, but relegation was avoided in the last round, allowing Palmeiras to regroup aggressively for the 2015 season – now with finances in order and sound management routines in place.

Nobre signed whiz-kid club football manager Alexandre Mattos from Cruzeiro, then midseason brought in same club’s 2013-2014 champion coach Marcelo Oliveira. A whopping 25 players arrived and 21 left ahead of and during the 2015 season: nothing short of a complete overhaul. It was necessary, but naturally brought difficulties – difficulties that, combined with a few, surgically unfortunate injuries, left Palmeiras oscillating violently throughout the season, finishing a modest 9th in the Brazilian championship.

While the extensive Brasileirão is unforgiving, the Brazil Cup is a different story: Palmeiras’ squad possessed sufficient quality and determination to overcome the obstacles, showing brilliance in short bursts against traditional teams – and particularly against local rivals – in addition to bagging the club’s third Brazil Cup title in a more than satisfying display against runner-up Santos.
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A splendid result, the cup title. Possible only because Palmeiras did most things right in 2015. And also because stars and planets lined up in order for unlikely Andrei Girotto score the winner against Internacional in the quarter-finals; for Fernando Prass to shine against Fluminense in the semi-finals; for Santos forward Nilson to miss an open goal in the dying moments of the first leg of the finals, allowing palmeirenses all over the globe to confidently declare that that was Santos’ shot at the title, wasted right there. Hanging by the thinnest of threads on several occasions, it held together all the way to the spectacular finish, crowning Palmeiras’ year with a title and a ticket to next year’s Libertadores Cup.

It’s the title, and the spot in the continental tournament, which allows Nobre and Mattos to again aggressively regroup. Aggressively, not as in large quantities of signing: Palmeiras already have a solid base. Aggressively, as in being the club of choice for many players and having the means to make financially interesting offers to match. Mattos wants the squad defined preferably by 6 January, having already made interesting signings:

Erik: forward, 21 years old, elected Brazilian Revelation of the Year in 2014. Coveted by many teams, Palmeiras drew the longest straw, signing a five-year contract paying approximately US$ 3.25 million for 60% of the player’s federative rights; an amount allegedly corresponding to São Paulo FC’s total acquisition budget in 2016.

Régis: the 23-year-old offensive midfielder made quite a splash at Sport during 2015, attracting attention from a number of clubs – most notably Santos – but surprise-signed a one-year loan contract with Palmeiras, which includes an option to buy. Fulfilling a family dream by joining the Verdão, he claims, radiating like the sun.

Edu Dracena: experienced centre-back, 34 years old, having played for Guarani, Cruzeiro, Santos, Olympiacos, Fenerbahçe and, most lately, Corinthians. His CV includes six state championship titles, two Brazilian championship titles, two Brazil Cup titles, one Libertadores Cup title, one Recopa Sul-Americana title, one Turkish championship title and one Turkish Cup title. On a 2-year contract, he is expected to take a place in the starting eleven alongside Vítor Hugo

Moisés: multi-functional midfielder, 27-years-old, Croatian champion with Rijeka. Two-year contract, with an option to extend for an additional two years. Has previously played for América-MG, Sport, Boa Esporte and Portuguesa. Mattos knows this guy from his time at América Mineiro.

Vagner: 26-year-old keeper, defended Avaí in 2015. Has been on Palmeiras’ radar since 2014, when he became Paulista champion with Ituano, eliminating Palmeiras in the semi-finals and beating Santos in the finals. Vagner replaces Aranha as Prass’ shadow.

Roger Carvalho: the 29-year-old centre-back played for Botafogo in their 2015 second division spell. Experienced, Carvalho has previously defended Figueirense, São Paulo and Vitória, in addition to clubs in Italy and Portugal. One-year loan with buying option.

Rodrigo: defensive midfielder, 21, originated at Goiás. Two-year loan, with option to buy. Should be considered a value bet.

Most would agree: what is missing is a traditional #10, someone to conduct the midfield. The spot has been vacant ever since Valdivia left (frankly, it was mostly vacant even while he was part of the squad) and Palmeiras are all set with Jean of Fluminense, but things have cooled down a bit due to the carioca club’s inflexibility. I believe the transfer still has good chances to occur. If not, Palmeiras are working a plan B: Rithely, from Sport.

In addition, Palmeiras are negotiating the stay of centre-back Jackson and midfielder Rafael Marques, but price tags coming from Internacional and Chinese Henan Jianye are complicating factors. My feeling is we might see Rafa go but are able to hang on to Jackson.

Confirmed exits include midfielder Renato, centre-back Victor Ramos, keepers Aranha and Bruno, left-defender João Paulo, and defensive midfielder Andrei Girotto. Other lesser known player who see their contracts expire by midnight include Julen, Emerson, Edilson, Chico and Ramos. Mouche and Allione have requested transfers – the former likely heading for Mexico, the latter dreaming of a return to Argentina. Others unlikely to remain in the 2016 squad include Kelvin, João Pedro, Nathan, Amaral, Leandro Almeida, Fellype Gabriel and Alecsandro. Youngsters João Pedro and Nathan will most likely spend a year or two at other clubs, before a possible return to Palmeiras.
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2015 was turbulent. But splendid. The Avanti supporter membership programme and the brand new Allianz Parque brought revenues never before seen at Palmeiras. Combined with Nobre’s sound financial management, no club is better prepared for 2016. The squad needs adjustments, but as we can see, Mattos is taking care of this in his ordinary fashion: silently and efficiently.

In my 2014 retrospect, I wrote: “What can we hope for in 2015? Three things: a) That Palmeiras, now with 90% of the year’s revenues available, make assembling the strongest possible squad a priority. b) That Paulo Nobre not only learns to listen more, but flatly keeps his hands off the football department, delegating as much as possible to the new CEO Alexandre Mattos. c) That palmeirenses turn the Allianz Parque into the cauldron it has the capacity to be, over and over again.”

With all hopes for 2015 turned into reality, we see that Palmeiras, in every aspect, enter 2016 in a leading role.

To all readers of Anything Palmeiras: thank you for your support and company throughout 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! SCOPPIA CHE LA VITTORIA È NOSTRA!

/ Kristian Bengtson

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