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Ayrton_apresentacaoYesterday morning, right-backer Ayrton was formally introduced as a Palmeiras player, pulling on the #2 jersey while confidently smiling to the press. Ayrton was signed shortly after the Brazil Cup title, well before Palmeiras were relegated. If Ayrton is having any second thoughts, he didn’t give anything away during the press conference, on the contrary praising Palmeiras history and greatness, while expressing his desire to succeed in the club and help bring trophies home.

— ooo —

Now without Marcos Assunção, it’s Ayrton and Souza – the latter the redheaded defensive midfielder returning after a loan to Náutico – who will be responsible for free kicks and corners. In last year’s Brasileirão, Souza scored seven goals, four of these on free kicks. Ayrton scored three out of four on free kicks.

— ooo —

Also yesterday, but rather late at night, striker Barcos finally signed the much talked-about extension of his contract with the Verdão. The new contract is valid until the end of December 2016 and includes both a salary raise and an exit clause with a higher transfer fee: from € 20 million to € 30 million (roughly US$ 40 million). The new agreement also settles that Palmeiras have the right to explore Barcos image in Brazil, while the Argentine contains the rights to his image in his home country. Everyone seems happy. And so should be.

— ooo —

Palmeiras are looking for other reinforcements as well, most notably two centre-backs, a playmaker and possibly a striker. A new proposal has been submitted for the defender Torres, but Millonarios seem more than reluctant to let him go. Late-stage negotiations are also running their course with 34-year-old ex-Boca Juniors playmaker Riquelme and left-back Márcio Azevedo of Botafogo. All of these could close or none of them – the second option seemingly more realistic, perhaps with the exception of Azevedo where a Palmeiras sponsor is already detaining 50 per cent of the player’s economic rights and might facilitate the transfer.

— ooo —

Palmeiras’ football “manager” Cesar Sampaio is not only deeply involved in all of the negotiations mentioned above, but also working for free. With an expired contract, he continues doing his job and patiently awaiting some sort of definition about his future – most likely, a non-renovation of his contract. That however doesn’t seem to bother Sampaio much, who claims not being working for free but only fulfilling his obligations. “The way I see it, I’m contributing, and that satisfies me. Working at Palmeiras is about more than money. Later, we’ll see what happens.”, he recently told journalists.

— ooo —

While some work for free, others can’t even be bothered to show up for training after the end of the year festivities. Who? The usual suspect, Valdivia. The vagabundo claims to have entered into a specialized, exclusive, amazing, high-tech recovery programme for his knee back home in Chile and that the programme needed completion. The number of days in said programme was known at the start. So why didn’t Valdivia call in? “No one would believe me anyway” was his lame excuse when returning to Brazil several days behind schedule and after having been unreachable by phone for days. For once, Palmeiras did the right thing and slapped him with a heavy fine.

Valdivia seems in good shape though and should be available in ten days when Palmeiras make their debut in the São Paulo Cup 2013. Clearly bitten, he stated the other day that in 2013, “he will play for himself and for the (Chilean) national team.” Is that so, vagabundo? Good luck. I hope you shine on the pitch and that your misdirected anger and frustration at least serves us some good until you reach your goals. Then, you can go to hell.

— ooo — 

In the Copinha, Palmeiras kicked off beating Confiança 6-0. Two days later, a goalless draw against Sertãozinho. With four points, Palmeiras lead the group. Tomorrow, against Barueri, possibly a draw but most likely a win propels Palmeiras to the knockout phase.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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11 December 2012. Young and old, men, women and children: some 39.000 of them, all with their eyes fixed upon one man as he walks up onto the grass of the Pacaembu stadium. Applauses and cheers for one of the most respected players in the history of Brazilian football – Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis – the one and only “São Marcos”, or Marcos for short.

This is a farewell. This is a tribute. This is in commemoration of a tremendous athlete and a singular man. Tonight, the stellar Palmeiras squad of 1999 plays the Brazilian National squad of the 2002 World Cup: two squads where Marcos was the uncontested keeper. They have all gatherer to play in his honour. And palmeirenses from all over Brazil have made a pilgrimage to be here, at this moment.

IMG_1420The atmosphere is that of serenity, pride, a fair bit of melancholy but also of celebration. As the spectators slowly fill up the Pacaembu hours before kickoff – briefly stopping outside to admire the green floodlights and tributes to “the Saint” and the immortal #12 displayed on the facade of the stadium – they joyfully make use of balloons and mosaics while singing practically nonstop.

Each player is greeted by the crowds upon entering the pitch: the canarinhos of 2002 with specially invited guest consist of  Dida, Velloso, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Júnior, Roque Júnior, Edmílson, Antônio Carlos, Belletti, IMG_1433Zé Roberto, Rivaldo, Djalminha, Juninho Paulista, Ricardinho, Denílson, Luizão, Ronaldo and Edílson, and are led by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari; then the Palmeiras squad of 1999 – also including a few guest stars, with São Marcos, Sérgio, Neném, Rubens Júnior, Tiago Silva, Cléber, Rivarola, Agnaldo Liz, Tonhão, César Sampaio, Dudu, Galeano, Pedrinho, Amaral, Alex, Ademir da Guia, Evair, Oséas, Paulo Nunes, Euller, Asprilla and Edmundo, under the command of César Maluco. Be present to watch these gentlemen play live is one heck of a rush!

Kickoff. The National Team have more possession and test Marcos with a few shots. 17 minutes into the game, Edmundo is fouled inside the penalty area. Marcos, who hasn’t scored a goal in his entire career, refuses to take it but the pressure from the stands are deafening and when the players cross the entire pitch to come and fetch him, he succumbs. As the ball hits the back of the net the roar knows no limit.

IMG_1428The game progresses in similar fashion, with Palmeiras mostly counterattacking – Alex showing great form on the midfield. And every time Marcos touches the ball, the crowd goes wild. Early in second half, Marcos give way to Sergio between the posts, as the former change gear and now turns into a forward, without much luck though: Marcos hardly touches the ball while the 2002 squad reduces after a header by Edílson and then equalises through Luizão.

When the clock strikes midnight – and the date changes to 12.12.12 – the centre headlights at the stadium go off. With Kleine’s guitar version of the Palmeiras hymn in the background, Marcos takes hold of the microphone and delivers his farewell speech, thanking everyone who have been there for him throughout his career. He finishes with the words
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Of you Palmeiras supporters I ask but one thing: never forget me. Because I will never forget you.

before jumping on a trolley that takes him on a lap of honour. This must be the best sending off of all times.
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Now, there’s no such thing as a perfect script… In Sweden we have this expression: “ränderna går aldrig ur“, a reference to the stripes of a zebra that are not only in the fur but actually mark the skin of the animal as well. No matter what you do, a zebra is a zebra. Or, if you prefer, a skunk is a skunk. And it apparently takes a gambá to try to humiliate Marcos at his own party by opting for a mid-pitch shot while our keeper – with his back to all other players – is returning to the goal after converting the penalty (Ronaldo). It takes a gambá to steal the ball from 71-year-old Palmeiras legend Ademir “the Divine” da Guia as everybody else is enjoying the sequence of passes designed with the intention of showing off the grand old master’s touch (Edílson).

Nothing of this matters in the end. The farewell was a splendid display of palestrinidade, of love and respect for a team and the man who made it his home for more than 20 years.

We salute you, São Marcos!
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However desperate Palmeiras might be to contract playmaker options for Scolari to work with, there’s no way around the fact that no players of rank are available. The international transfer window is closed. Big names in the first division have already played seven games for their respective clubs, disqualifying them from playing for another club in this year’s edition of the Brazilian Championship. If you want to contract players, you’ll have to look further down in the system. Safe to assume, the obvious rising stars in the second division were scooped up already at the beginning of the season. What’s left is a gamble at best.

The media last week betted on Jaílton, bench-warming midfielder at Avaí, to be Palmeiras’ next signing. Seems the directors changed their mind (if they were ever considering Jaílton in the first place, that is) as president Arnaldo Tirone today announced a deal reached with 23-year-old midfielder Tiago Real, currently at Joinville but with federative rights belonging to Coritiba. Real has apparently been doing quite well and scored four times this season. Second division Joinville had no intention of giving him up but stands no choice as there’s a clause in Real’s contract allowing for an immediate release in case of an interesting offer. And what is an offer from Palmeiras if not interesting? The whole negotiation bears the mark of football manager César Sampaio.

Tiago Real is a gamble. A US$ 1.2 million bet for 50 per cent of his federative rights during the next four years. It’s likely the player will be presented at Palmeiras already on Wednesday. Welcome, Tiago. And good luck. You’re gonna need it. We’re all gonna need it.

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Moving in
After roughly a month at the club’s disposal, Palmeiras have finally started using the two already finished buildings of the New Arena complex – the multiuse building, containing various courts for different sports activities, and the administrative building where, as you’d suspect, all administrative sectors will be found, including the general directors. The reason for the delay in moving in is to be found in the sluggishness of the directors in defining and buying furniture and other equipment for the two buildings: just one more example of the lacking professionalism at Palmeiras.

As of now, and with Palmeiras clearing out of the old buildings, WTorre can refocus on the actual stadium, starting on a new foundation where the old indoor sports training facility used to lay and where an exhibition room – featuring Palmeiras’ trophies and other memorabilia – will be set up as an integrated part of the New Arena. On the whole, the outlook remains the same: construction completed by the second semester of 2013. WTorre informs that some 36% of the New Arena has been finished and judging by the pictures, things are indeed progressing fast now.
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Mazinho and Fernandinho in the bag

Palmeiras have confirmed the purchase of 50% of forward Mazinho and midfielder Fernandinho from Oeste. Both players arrived a few months ago as loans with contracts ending at the end of the year, but can now sign new contracts with longer durations. This is good news: Mazinho first and, as of late Fernandinho, have showed good potential and contributed positively to recent results.

Is there something rotten in the state of Denmark?
Well, at least Cesar Sampaio’s got something to think about. After last week’s defeat against Cruzeiro – where both the mineiro goals were actually invalid – Sampaio expressed concerns that there might be something factual behind all that talk about Scolari being specially roughly treated by the establishment: referees, Supreme Sports Tribunal, CBF… Sampaio seems to have realised that Palmeiras are losing an unnaturally high number of points due to polemic decisions, and not as of now: possibly also Sampaio has checked out the Placar Real (translates into “Real Score”) website. The guys behind Placar Real have taken it upon themselves to analyse all games in the Brazilian Championship since 2011, looking for tricky situations and determine whether the referee got it wrong or right. Based on these assumptions, they present “corrected” tables, suggesting what the championship could have looked like, in addition to graphs showing which teams benefits the most, the least, and which referees make the most or least mistakes. As you can see below, Palmeiras were the third most negatively influenced team in 2011. And so far in 2012, we’re heads and shoulders in front of all competition. Coincidence?
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Palmeiras vs. Internacional

Tomorrow Saturday, Palmeiras face Inter in yet another “home game” at the Barueri stadium. In the relegation zone, the three points are fundamentally important to give our men a bit of breathing space. Both Thiago Heleno and Valdivia have trained normally during the week and should be available. Henrique is out due to another suspension imposed by the STJD, this time for the red card received against São Paulo on 15 July.

Internacional are actually one of the few clubs that have a positive balance against Palmeiras, having won 31 times (Palmeiras have 24 victories) in 75 games played. Tomorrow night, Palmeiras will slightly bridge that gap.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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It’s been a reverse textbook example, done incorrectly from start to finish. I won’t dwell on past absurdities of president Tirone’s reign, because there are new ones to deal with every single day.

As you recently learnt, Palmeiras were unable to postpone their game against Ponte Preta, a game sandwiched between the finals of the Brazil Cup. The “Green Giant” doesn’t provoke the respect it used to, not at all. Remember that Santos and Corinthians were both in similar situations and managed to have their games postponed? End result: against Ponte Preta Palmeiras lost Román and Maikon Leite due to injury, both strong candidates for being in Palmeiras’ starting line-up tonight. Román is definitely out while Maikon Leite travelled with the group and might be the rabbit out of the hat. In fact, I believe he will score the goal of the title.

Having political influence is important, especially in Brazilian football. Under normal circumstances Palmeiras would NEVER have accept the appointment of referee Sandro Meira Ricci – with a history of polemic performances – in the finals. This bunch of directors does nothing. They also do nothing when Coritiba players and the Coritiba coach after Thursday’s game insinuated that Palmeiras were benefited by the fact that KIA Motors is the main sponsor both of Palmeiras and the Brazil Cup. Cesar Sampaio had to go out and defend the club in front of microphones and cameras while directors where busy elsewhere.

Busy elsewhere… They were probably distributing tickets for tonight’s final and arranging their own amusement. The ticketing issue has been a complete mess. It was announced that 4.000 tickets would be made available for Palmeiras supporters to buy online. One minute after the “release”, the site responsible for the commercialisation informed that no tickets remained. The curious thing was that practically nobody seemed to have getting hold of tickets. In Curitiba, palmeirenses stood in line as early as five o’clock in the morning only to learn by ten o’clock that there were no tickets to be bought, that they had all been shipped to São Paulo. Conclusion: most of the tickets were never available, but had already been distributed to directors, counsellors, sponsors, the organized supporters, travel agents, dealers… How many and to whom nobody knows. The same thing happened in the first leg of the final at the Barueri stadium: 26.000 tickets designated for palmeirenses were supposedly available, but only some 12.000 sold online. The rest were sold by other means or distributed, with zero transparency.

The outrage from palmeirenses, especially on various social media, was immediately felt and soon enough Palmeiras’ legal director Mr Piraci de Oliveira (yes, him again) announced on twitter that he had managed to squeeze out an additional 1.500 tickets from Coritiba. Do you find that likely? Really?

Fellow palmeirense Vicente Criscio remembered the other day: in football, if you do everything right, you’re not guaranteed success. And if you do everything wrong, you’re not guaranteed failure either.

For today, everything must be put aside. Not that we’ve forgotten or will forget. Not that the title will do any difference in terms of demands for better management, transparency, new statute, professionalism. It has ALL been done incorrectly and if Palmeiras win this title, it belongs to the squad, to Scolari and the men under his command, to Cesar Sampaio, and first and foremost to the supporters.

Tonight will be a battle, on and off the pitch, physically and mentally. We must all do our part. And out there, our frontline is composed by keepers Bruno and Deola; wingers Cicinho, Artur, Juninho and Fernandinho; defenders Maurício Ramos, Thiago Heleno, Leandro Amaro and Wellington; defensive midfielders Henrique, Marcos Assunção, João Vitor and Márcio Araújo; playmakers Daniel Carvalho, Felipe and Patrik; strikers Maikon Leite, Betinho and Mazinho. These are our men. These are our warriors. Bring the heat!
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Palmeiras midfielder Valdivia returned to São Paulo yesterday, having left for Santiago do Chile early Friday morning with his wife Daniela Aránguiz and their two daughters. While the missus and children remain in Chile – Daniela recovering from the trauma of the express hijacking the couple suffered last Thursday night in São Paulo – Valdivia today met with César Sampaio, manager of Palmeiras’ football department. Although nothing was decided in relation to Valdivia’s future at Palmeiras, things do not look too bright. Visibly shook up and, according to Sampaio, crying a lot, Valdivia is far from mentally recovered. The Chilean explained that his wife has no intension to return to Brazil and that he will give priority to the well-being of his family.

Valdivia’s father and brother are arriving in Brazil later today to give their support, and Palmeiras have made a bodyguard available for Valdivia in addition to seeking a psychologist to assist in the recovery of the athlete. This coming Friday has been set as a deadline for Valdivia deciding if he wishes to remain at Palmeiras or not; speculations include lending him out to a Chilean club or even negotiating his transfer back to the Arab world.

“What we can’t have is a ‘Yes’ from Valdivia, but a ‘No’ on the pitch. That won’t help the group, but install insecurity and fear”, Sampaio clarifies. “Any situation comes with a cost, there’s an equation to be solved. There’s our investment, the partnerships. The Club have the power to force him to stay, to say no, make him honour his contract, but I don’t see that kind of discussion leading anywhere. If he decides he wants out, our judicial and financial departments will have to work on a solution. But I will do my outmost to make him stay”, Sampaio concludes.

Yesterday night, Valdivia spent a few hours with the police, giving more details on the hijacking and identifying the criminal caught on tape by a surveillance camera: the police are soon to release the image in order to speed up the investigation.

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End of the year is all about the transfer market and competition is fierce. Again, Palmeiras seem rather out of the loop, with players leaving but no one entering the squad.

Left-winger Gabriel Silva is soon to join former Palmeiras players Danilo and Pablo Armero at Udinese, current top dogs in the Italian championship. The 20-year-old played a total of 58 games for Palmeiras in 2010/2011 and is of course looking forward to his transfer to Europe. “I wouldn’t have gone this far hadn’t it been for Palmeiras”, he says. “Ever since my junior years, I’ve always been treated with respect and care. The same happened in the A team. I owe my professional and personal growth to the club and I leave the door open in order to, who knows, one day again wear this jersey”.

Pierre has been on loan to Atlético Mineiro most of the second half of 2011. The midfielder has been enjoying his time in Belo Horizonte and Atlético have been enjoying Pierre, considering him a fundamental piece in the club’s late recovery and subsequent escape from relegation. Pierre has made it clear: he’d like to stay at Atlético. His firm position is a little surprising considering that the Palmeiras jersey was considered Pierre’s “second skin”. My guess is that the “warrior”, as is his nickname, doesn’t go to well with Scolari. It makes me sad, but we can’t afford to have unmotivated players at Palmeiras. Hopefully a solutions is reached, and soon.

Remember Ewerthon? The striker played 36 games for Palmeiras in 2010 before transferring to Russian club Terek Grozny. Palmeiras owe him money and had agreed on a payment plan with instalments starting in January of this year. The first instalment was paid but the three consecutive ones were neglected, propelling the U$ 300.000 debt into a U$ 600.000 monster. At Palmeiras, no one steps forward taking responsibility for the embarrassing episode that unfolded in a period when the management was busy cutting costs by getting rid of the club’s colour printers. Amateurs.

More turbulence was generated earlier this month as football manager Cesar Sampaio felt the need to personally call up counsellor Gilto Avallone and explain to him that his salary was nowhere close to the U$ 37.000 Mr Avallone had been publicly complaining about. When Sampaio informed that his salary was roughly U$ 14.000, Mr Avallone replied “send me a copy of your pay check and I’ll take back what I said”.

In a singular effort to hit the jackpot in the “game of shame”, on Wednesday a note appeared on Palmeiras’ official website in response to recent debate and manifestation for the Direct Vote (for president) and other substantially important statutory changes. The note, signed by no particular person but “the directors”, basically states that the management has never been opposed to discussing the Direct Vote, but that profound debate is needed before one changes a 97-year-old procedure. In addition, the note states that the manifestations only serve to bring confusion and havoc to a procedure that is internally being conducted in a transparent and democratic manner.

It’s bad that the note contains misleading information and outright lies but even worse that directors are using Palmeiras’ official website as a weapon in the internal political battle for power. If they think they are scoring points this way – turning the clock back to the dark ages – wait and see the force of coming manifestations. Congratulations, vermin: the war just escalated to a new level.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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