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Although not yet made official, Palmeiras have signed Roger Machado as new coach. The 42-year old from Porto Alegre was the club’s second choice after Abel Braga, who asked for a couple of weeks to consider the offer and immediately was left hanging. Palmeiras’ timing was perfect: the 2018 squad is already being assembled and there is no time to lose.

Machado played professional football for 14 years and was in the 90ies considered one of Brazil’s finest left-backs. His 404 games for Grêmio mark the highlight of his career, with three Brazil Cup titles, one Brasileirão title and one Libertadores Cup title. He won a fourth Brazil Cup title with Fluminense in 2006, making him the player with the most number of Brazil Cup titles in history. Curiously, Machado has but one appearance in the Brazilian national squad.
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Roger-Machado.
Initiating as assisting coach in 2011 at Grêmio, Machado two years later went on to coach more modest teams Juventude and Nova Hamburgo before returning to Grêmio and doing good work throughout the 2015-2016 seasons. In 2017 he was one of Palmeiras top two options, but as the Verdão delayed negotiations, still hoping Cuca would remain, Machado was snatched by Atlético Mineiro (while Palmeiras, as you remember, ended up with Eduardo Baptista).

Roger Machado is not a seasoned coach, but he is no rookie either. And although he is yet to bag a national title (he only has the 2017 Minas Gerais state championship title with Atlético) he has shown capability to implement interesting and modern concepts on the pitch, aggressiveness and speed being primary trademarks of his when holding possession.

Machado has signed a one-year contract. Best of luck, Roger!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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With Grêmio’s draw last Sunday, a victory against relegation-prone Avaí would propel Palmeiras to second position in the tables, a position worth roughly US$ 1,2 million extra in prize money at the end of the championship. It would also increase Alberto Valentim’s chances of remaining as Palmeiras’ coach in 2018. At least slightly, at least in theory.

Once more, Palmeiras became the victim of Valentim’s attempts to implement an advanced line of defence. The idea is not at all revolutionary, but a satisfactory level of implementation is only possible to achieve with time. Clearly, Palmeiras are not there yet: as against Vitória, Palmeiras’ defence at times looked like on a suicide mission, allowing Avaí to score twice, minutes apart, at the beginning of the second half. Palmeiras’ much superior ball posse resulted in many attempts at goal but desperately few on target. Valentim also looked desperate, promoting Guerra with only a few minutes remaining on the clock. 

At the press conference after the game, Valentim voiced the opinion that Palmeiras had played a good game and lost due to two unfortunate moments. He also asserted he will act as coach, at Palmeiras or elsewhere, in 2018.
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Today, Palmeiras announced they will offer Valentim the assisting coach position he held before Cuca’s dismissal. In other words: Palmeiras have no intention of keeping Valentim in command next season. Valentim says he will respond to the offer after the championship has ended.

Palmeiras are clearly seeking to sign a new coach a.s.a.p. With Mano Menezes out of the picture, nine out of ten believe current Fluminense coach Abel Braga is the chosen one. The 65-year-old carioca is experienced, emotional, old school. With Internacional he won the Libertadores Cup and the World Club Championship in 2006 and in 2012 he won the Brasileirão with Fluminense.

A second option is 42-year-old Roger Machado, most recently at Atlético Mineiro, from where he was fired last July, after only six months at the club. As coach, Machado has no national titles on his CV.

What are the odds Abel would be successful at Palmeiras? Machado? Conrado Cacace of the Verdazzo argues it does not really matter, for as long as Palmeiras do not come up with a footballing identity.  

Palmeiras might have achieved excellence in many areas off pitch, including superior economic firepower and top notch training facilities, but the club has not yet established itself as a School of Football. The professional team is mutant: the style of play is a truthful mirror of the coach, a coach who on average lasts five months.

This situation is in stark contrast with, for example, Corinthians, who, even while enduring financial problems, maintain a well-defined playing style, as implemented by coach Tite in 2010 and adapted by his successors Mano Menezes, Tite (during his comeback) and most recently Fábio Carille. Cristóvão Borges tried to change that identity and was very short-lived. Cacace argues that one may question the beauty of the formula but not its efficiency: Corinthians have reaped excellent results even as coaches have changed and the squad has featured players of only satisfactory technical level. With doubt, this is due to the footballing identity created and implemented over time.

Creating a footballing identity takes time, and balls, because the coach needs to be maintained until that identity consolidates, even in the face of poor performance. Eduardo Baptista is a recent example of the opposite: at Palmeiras, he was securing some 60% of points at play and slowly deploying a system that could have been quite solid today. However, after the São Paulo Cup elimination, Baptista was fired and the ongoing identity development went down the drain.

There are no certainties in football. Keeping Baptista could have resulted in a team peaking in the last months of the championship, securing our tenth Brazileirão title. Or he could have remain stuck in the search for the balance between attack and defence, unable to secure even a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup. We will never know.

Regardless, Palmeiras need to create an identity, an identity that should serve as a mark also for the youth divisions. So, who to pick to implement this identity?

The name of the coach is not that important, Cacace argues. Palmeiras can assign a technical director, a position to be occupied in the long term by a deep connoisseur of football, who will be the reference, shaping the identity and securing that players that fit the model of play are signed. Something similar to what Paulo Autuori does at Atlético Paranaense and what Tite, although today not formally, continues to do at Corinthians. With a technical director in place, the importance of and the pressure on the coach will diminish.

No coach currently speculated at Palmeiras obtains more than a 30% approval rate among supporters, meaning any of them would face resistance of more than two thirds. Just like Alberto Valentim. Our current interim coach had a head start in relation to any newcomer, but is now out of the picture. Whichever successor is chosen will need the unrestricted backing of the club’s directors, resisting as hell breaks loose, over and over again, until that identity has been forged.

Without a footballing identity – or the will to create one – it matters little who takes over as coach: he will feel the moving sand at the first sequence of defeats, and be gone at the beginning of the second.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Marcelo Oliveira did not resist yet another disappointing result and received the boot less than an hour after the 2-1 defeat to Nacional at Allianz Parque. Alexandre Mattos announced the club’s decision and that Alberto Valentim takes over as interim coach while Palmeiras look for Oliveira’s replacement. Cuca, who led Atlético Mineiro to the 2013 Libertadores Cup title, is heading the bets.

The staff brought in by Oliveira – assistants Tico dos Santos and Ageu, in addition to physical trainer Juvenilson Souza – are also out.

It is of course wrong to sack the coach smack in the middle of an ongoing Libertadores campaign. In hindsight, the moment would have been December last year, right after the Brazil Cup title. But how do you sack a coach who has been with you for less than six months, just brought you a national title, and who was Brazilian champion the two previous years? The answer is simple: you don’t.

Last year’s cup title came despite Palmeiras’ wobbly performance: determination and dedication were the decisive factors, just as in the 2012 campaign. Marcelo Oliveira was clearly struggling, but with few months heading the squad, the more than fair assessment was that he needed more time, and he got it. Three more months, and Palmeiras did not evolve. End of the line.

Marcelo led Palmeiras in 53 games, with 24 victories 11 draws and 18 defeats: 52% of points won.

It will be interesting to see how the squad responds. Derby on Sunday, Palmeiras visiting São Paulo FC.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Horrendous away against Joinville, odd-goal defeat at home to Goiás, then a goalless home draw against third-division ASA.

To quite a few, the above is spelled Disaster, just like that, with a capital D. Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira is utterly incompetent and the squad dubious, at least. Another year down the drain, fighting relegation, unless the directors take immediate action. Some tilt into extreme positions: “would be good if Palmeiras lost the derby to speed up the sacking of Oswaldo”.

To others, our coach is on to something that hasn’t yet materialised. “Give him time”, they say. “Let’s not commit the mistake of decades before us, firing the coach after only a few disappointing results line up”. To this bunch, Palmeiras are creating working hard and creating chances, but that last bit of quality/fluke/magic is yet to happen. But when it does…

It’s extreme, one way or the other, as always with Palmeiras. Sensible people watch the same scenario unfolding, but arrive at completely different conclusions. “Palmeiras have no pattern/Oswaldo never changes the pattern”.  “The 4-2-3-1 is rubbish/the 4-2-3-1 is irrelevant”. “Our squad lacks quality/our squad is going through a phase”.

Considering the scenario and recent results, a devastating defeat against “the team that would go far in the Champions League” led by “the best coach in Brazil” would not only be natural, but also decree the beginning of the end for coach Oswaldo.

Not quite yet. For some, a stroke of luck. For others, proof that the mesh is finally happening. Either way, Palmeiras yesterday dominated Corinthians completely, from start to finish, perfectly executing a clear gameplan: aggressively advanced defending positions, mobility, alternation of tasks both offensively and defensively, mental strength and discipline. 0-2 and Corinthians were let off the hook.
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Oswaldo has an attacking DNA. He has been pushing the squad hard during training: those following Palmeiras’ practice sessions report Dudu full throttle always and Leandro (the one from Grêmio, just back after foot surgery) doing extra time. Motivation doesn’t seem to be a problem. And some of the lost confidence was certainly recovered yesterday.

Thursday night, Internacional visit the Allianz Parque for the first time. 18.000 tickets sold already.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Gareca2Healthy puffs of green smoke emerged from the Chimneys of the Palestra as the official announcement was made available yesterday night: Ricardo Gareca is the new coach of Palmeiras.

It took two weeks to find a replacement for Gilson Kleina, fired on 8 May. Gareca has been unemployed since December last year, when he left Vélez Sarsfield after five seasons and three Championship titles. The 56-year-old has signed with Palmeiras until June 30, 2015 at a salary reportedly similar to that of Kleina: some US$ 90.000 a month + variables/bonuses for achieved goals.

The official presentation of the new commander is scheduled for this coming Friday. Gareca will attend today’s game against Figueirense next to Paulo Nobre in the cabin, and is expected to lead the squad on Wednesday next week against Botafogo.

Gareca is the 20th foreigner to coach Palmeiras in the club’s 100 years, and the sixth Argentine. There’s an unusually strong consensus in regard to his signing: both supporters and press consider it a strong, bold and well-timed move by Palmeiras’ directors. I can nothing but wholeheartedly agree. Expect new attitude, new motivation, new outlook on possibilities deriving from the club’s youth academy and the South American player market.

To our supporters: Patience! Give the man room and time to work!

To Gareca: Buena suerte! Tráenos glorias!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Interim coach Alberto Valentim on Sunday celebrated his third straight victory as Palmeiras beat Vitoria 0-1, Marquinhos Gabriel scoring the important goal to silence the Pituaçu stadium, Salvador, state of Bahia. Again, the game was of dubious quality, but that matters less: the victory propelled Palmeiras into 6th position in the league tables after five rounds, with 9 points, two behind leader Internacional.

Are there voices calling for Valentim as a permanent solution? Not really: most supporters seem aware of the fact that Valentim is still too fresh and inexperienced. His initial run has indeed been tremendously effectiv in terms of results, but that can at large be attributed to his healthy keep-it-simple approach, in combination with weak opponents and some luck.

Initially, Vanderley Luxemburgo seemed to be holding the strongest hand as Kleina’s replacement. Palmeiras initiated talks, but things cooled down rather rapidly. Same thing with Arce: the Paraguayan former right-defender turned coach, currently at Cerro Porteño, early on announced he would be loyal to his employer. Respect.

Leaves Palmeiras with three names on the shortlist: Jorginho, Dorival Junior and Ricardo Gareca. Jorginho could be considered nothing but a last resort backup, a Kleina 2. Dorival has some support from within Palmeiras, is a seasoned coach and apparently corresponded well to initial talks with Palmeiras last week. But it’s no doubt Gareca who’s heading the list. “The Tiger”, as the 56-year-old Argentine football manager is nicknamed, has already received an offer from Palmeiras and is expected in São Paulo tomorrow (Wednesday) morning for a second round of talks and – who knows – putting pen to paper. Palmeiras is offering Gareca something similar to Kleina’s salary: 90.000 fixed and at least up to double that amount linked to productivity/bonuses.

I’m thrilled with the possibility. Gareca is seasoned and I expect him to be motivated with the challenge to coach a top Brazilian team. He is three times Argentine champion with Vélez Sársfield, and these titles are recent. I believe Gareca would bring new blood, new ideas and a different fighting spirit into Palmeiras and Brazilian football. And with Valentim remaining as assisting coach… This could get very interesting.

Although always cautious, Brunoro is signaling a deal could be announced already tomorrow. And for once, I don’t believe in a dragged out negotiation process. Not with the Alan Kardec drama in fresh memory.

— ooo —

Midfielder Serginho is no longer at Palmeiras, having returned to Oeste. Palmeiras wanted to extend the loan period, but Oeste were looking for a buyer. Brought in by Gilson Kleina in April of 2013, the player came on the pitch on 29 occasions and scored 5 goals.

Another player who has left the squad is França. The defensive midfielder, rather popular with supporters and feared by adversaries, have been experiencing some very serious personal problems as of late and needs to get out of São Paulo. Franca is heading for first division club Figueirense, from Florianópolis, state of Santa Catarina. Coincidentally, Palmeiras’ Thursday night adversary in the Brazililian Championship.

Apologies for the rather short text and lack of formating: I’m on the road, on a tablet.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Yesterday, the never-resting Eduardo Luiz of Palmeiras Todo Dia gave us an update on the so far frustrated attempts to find a new coach for the Verdão. Jorginho was our directors’ first option (and I’d say also that of a majority of the supporters) but he claimed he couldn’t leave Bahia, a team he took over only about a month ago. Dorival Júnior, recently contracted by Flamengo, gave the same reply. Then there was Paulo César Carpegiani, the man responsible for placing Vitória at the top of the second division. Carpegiani preferred not even enter into negotiations as he considered a transfer inappropriate at this time. Gilson Kleina would consider leaving Ponte Preta but only to sign a longer contract with Palmeiras (at least until the end of 2013); our directors were tempted but got cold feet when internal criticism began to surge. Finally, Falcão also wanting an extended contract in addition to a rather hefty pay check.  

In addition to the fabulous (sic) five officially contacted by Palmeiras in the last few days, other names were contemplate: Cristóvão Borges (too inexperienced), Renato Gaúcho (a joke), Joel Santana (even more of a joke), Emerson Leão (persona non grata).

Would the coming few weeks prove to be the most important weeks in interim coach Narciso’s career?

No.

Today Gilson Kleina signed for Palmeiras until the end of 2013. By paying a fine of roughly US$ 150.000, Palmeiras released Kleina from his contract with Ponte Preta, where he had been since early 2011. The new Palmeiras coach will receive approximately US$ 125.000 monthly for the ungrateful task of saving the team from relegation and reforming the squad for next year’s competitions, including the Libertadores Cup.

With the arrival of Kleina, the last members of the former technical staff leave Palmeiras, i.e. Anselmo Sbragia (physical preparation) and Carlos Pracidelli (legendary goalkeeper trainer). Kleina is bringing his guys to the table: two assisting coaches (Jair Leite and Juninho), Fabinho Xha (physical preparation) and keeper trainer Palha.

Kleina is 44 years old and started his coaching career at the youth academy at Coritiba. He was the assisting coach for Abel Braga, following him to Atlético Mineiro and then Olympique de Marseille before going solo. Kleina passed through a number of smaller clubs before developing decent work at Ponte Preta, for which he has been receiving a certain amount of recognition.

Kleina will have to do more than decent in order to survive the threat of relegation, Palmeiras’ presidential election and the fierce political climate at his new club. From the bottom of my heart: the best of luck to you, Gilson.

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