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We hit the big 100 while enjoying an overseas vacation, with less time and opportunity to closely follow Palmeiras. That means less individual game reporting, but certainly a weekly compilation of news, your well-known “sonar pings”.

Since last time, Palmeiras played Grêmio away and Flamengo at home, both games ending in draws. Playing the gaúchos away is always hard and this time was no exception, even with the Porto Alegre team free falling. Considering what the two brought to the pitch, the draw should be considered a good result. In addition, no Palmeiras player saw the third yellow, meaning full strength at Cuca’s disposal against runners-up Flamengo previous Wednesday – by many (incorrectly) considered a decisive game, the game to define the championship. With 13 rounds to go, only a few points separating Palmeiras and Flamengo and several other major clubs fighting for title and/or a Libertadores spot, anything is possible, regardless of how last Wednesday did or did not play out.

The Allianz Parque was not packed against the cariocas, as the Supreme Tribunal of Sports have slapped a penalty on Palmeiras for the clash between Flamengo and Palmeiras ultras in Brasilia earlier this year: 5 home games with the North Sector empty (the most popular prized sector, and where Palmeiras’ organised supporters traditionally attend the games) and five away games without any ticket rights. Never mind Flamengo, as home team, were responsible for security at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia. Never mind there are uncertainties regarding how the fighting started. True, Flamengo were also punished, but not as severely.
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gj_ma.
The game itself was a tense affair. Apart from the initial 15 minutes, Palmeiras had the upper hand, creating more chances, especially after the sending off of Márcio Araújo. Even so, lack of attention permitted Flamengo to open up the scorecard, the Lex Ex again taking its toll after a well-placed shot by former Palmeiras player Alan Patrick. Coach Cuca acted rapidly, promoting Barrios and Marques on Gabriel and Guedes, and later Cleiton Xavier on Tchê. The all-or-nothing approach resulted in tremendous pressure and with ten minutes left, Gabriel Jesus scored the equaliser. Palmeiras looked set on turning things around, but the sand ended up running a bit too fast through the hourglass.

The result maintains Palmeiras in the lead, one point ahead of Flamengo. Yesterday, the 25th round was completed as third-placed Atlético Mineiro beat Sport to close in on the leader, now only three point ahead. Palmeiras’ much superior goal balance could prove decisive (knock on wood: we need no heart attack scenarios).

Palmeiras have withdrawn to the training grounds in Atibaia, all focus on Saturday’s derby against Corinthians. Cuca has already signalled Edu Dracena as Vítor Hugo’s replacement, the centre back suspended after receiving his third yellow against Flamengo. Also Gabriel Jesus saw his third yellow, but Cuca has not yet indicated his preference, likely keeping it a secret until the last minute. My guess is we will have Erik back in the starting eleven.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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tacasavoiaExactly 100 years ago, on 24 January 1915, Palmeiras – at that time of course known as Palestra Italia – played their first official game of football: Sport Club Savoia were the opponent at the Campo do Castelão and Palestra Italia won 2-0 after goals from Bianco and Alegretti. The date not only marks Palmeiras’ debut on the pitch and the club’s first victory, but also the first trophy: the winner of the clash was awarded the “Taça Savoia”.

futmelhor24 January 2015 will be remembered for a much lesser but still important event: Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme Avanti reaching 80.000 members and overtaking Grêmio’s position as the second largest after Internacional of Porto Alegre. With more than 16.000 new members only in January, the Avanti is continuously showing remarkable progress, no doubt fuelled by optimism due to the perceived strength of the squad and the attraction that is the Allianz Parque. As the programme grows, so does Palmeiras’ revenues: at current scenario, the Avanti should bring in some US$ 7.5 million to the club this year.

However, a word of caution: numbers can and most likely will fluctuate rather heavily as it only takes one missed monthly instalment for a member to drop out of the statistics. If Palmeiras fairs badly; if prices of the membership programme suffer adjustments (which they will, as they have been stale since 2013); if Brazil’s economy worsens… all these factors and many more can lead supporters to drop out – temporarily or permanently.  

That being said: a few months ago, the top duo from Porto Alegre looked sovereign. Today, only Inter and some 50.000 members stand between Palmeiras and the top position.  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Barcos_Gremio.
Upon returning to Porto Alegre, some of Grêmio’s players were verbally abused by supporters awaiting at the airport, ventilating their anger after Wednesday’s defeat to Corinthians. Barcos was one of the main targets: “Go back to Palmeiras, you Argentine piece of sh*t” echoed in the hall, among other things.

Now, the question is simple:
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The rollercoaster has, at least temporary, decided to operate like an elevator. Margins are small in football, as in life, and it’s absolutely too early to claim there’s enough stability and quality in the Palmeiras squad to see us through 2013 in a satisfactory manner. Still, recent results point in the right direction: the fundamental victory against Tigre last week and yesterday’s (surprising, yes, but convincing) away win against until now undefeated Ponte Preta elevated Palmeiras’ winning streak to three – a handsom cash-in had you placed your bets accordingly, for example at www.casinoonline.pt.

In both recent games, players showed remarkable determination, especially when compared to the disastrous night against Mirassol. The game that went to the history books as Palmeiras’ worst first half ever happened only a few weeks ago, but the change of posture is clear. There are a number of plausible reasons for this: the large number of younger players in the squad might have needed the extra time to grow comfortable as a collective; the many new arrivals might feel they need to mark position; coach Kleina’s pragmatic approach of experimenting and using whatever he deems best for the day without paying much attention to neither player’s nor supporter’s opinions could also be playing a part in creating healthy competition within the squad. And then, of course, there’s the natural effect of positive results, and the recognition that comes with it. Take Leandro, the young striker recently arrived from Grêmio. He was called up by Scolari for the national team friendly against Bolivia last week, scored in his debut, then flew back to score the winning goal against Ponte Preta. That’s how you make an impression. Leandro is on loan until the end of the year, but with a fixed price tag of allegedly 5 million euros if Palmeiras wish to buy. Should turn into one hell of an investment. Make it happen, Nobre.

Speaking of Nobre: the articulate, balanced, focused and dedicated president is such a relief. Many palmeirense seem already have forgotten the feeling of shame we felt every time Tirone, Frizzo or Piraci de Oliveira opened their mouths. I haven’t. Might never.

There’s more: very little to no news from the backstage of Palmeiras reach us through mainstream media. Internal meetings, internal documents, locker room talk: all remain closed to outsiders. Wherever the leakages – constant in previous administrations – Nobre’s plugged them.

One of few worries is the elevated number of players in the medical department. Bad luck or bad professionals preparing our players physically? A thorough investigation must be carried out and Palmeiras go after the best available on the market: Palmeiras pay players way to much to afford having them not playing all they could.

Thursday, against Libertad, a few men should be back, most notably captain Henrique but possibly also Valdivia, Kleber and Mr Milk. For once, Kleina has more than he needs. Henrique should be in the starting eleven, but doubtfully any of the other three. Depending on how the game progresses, I’d say we might see Valdivia and Leite in the second half.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Barcosgremio.
The announced meeting between members of the Fanfulla political group and directors of Palmeiras took place last Friday as expected. Conrado Cacace of the always excellent Verdazzo participated in the meeting and has reported on a few new and important details regarding the Barcos negotiation. In short, the following is what you need to know in order to evaluate if the transfer makes sense or not:

Barcos was not happy at Palmeiras. His (legitimate) concerns about second division play and how that would influence his chances of being called up for the Argentine national squad were well known. However, Barcos is no Judas30 but a professional on and off the pitch, never having disrespected Palmeiras.

Barcos was without receiving salaries, including a retroactive raise, since October.

Already in 2012, Grêmio had shown interest in the striker. A second approach caught his interest as Palmeiras’ lawyers issued a warning to the club’s directors: Barcos, due to having several months of outstanding salaries, could probably revoke his contract and sign with any other club, leaving Palmeiras empty handed.

Faced with this scenario, Nobre and Brunoro chose to initiate negotiations with Grêmio. But they had to do it fast: the gauchos only wanted Barcos if they could use him in the Libertadores Cup, enlistment deadline only a few days away.

Palmeiras, holder of 70% of Barcos’ economic rights, told Grêmio they were willing to sell 55% for R$ 10,6 million (roughly US$ 5,3 million). Grêmio couldn’t or wouldn’t cough up that kind of cash, but did agree on the overall amount, instead offering players on loan as part of the deal. Palmeiras, in need of a stronger squad, accepted the proposal. Thus, the following agreement was reached:

Grêmio would lend five players to Palmeiras in a transfer estimated at US$ 2,5 million: Vilson, Rondinelly, Leandro, Leo Gago and Marcelo Moreno would all come for one year. If any or several of these refused to transfer, Palmeiras could try another corresponding player from the Grêmio squad or, in case of another failure (player refusal or veto by Grêmio’s technical committee), receive a predetermined percentage of the economic rights of the player originally offered to the club as payment.

The remaining R$ 8,1 million of the transfer fee would be paid in the following way: R$ 4 million in cash to Palmeiras; R$ 1,3 million to LDU (Palmeiras’ debt); R$ 1 million to Barcos (Palmeiras’ debt); and 15% of the economic rights of Marcelo Moreno (these 15% estimated at R$ 1,8 million).

With the deal sealed between the clubs, Barcos quickly signed and left for Porto Alegre, while Palmeiras opened negotiations with the batch of Grêmio players. These negotiations happened under a fierce storm of protest, as the loss of Barcos in return for God-Knows-Who hit the news-stands. By many a supporter, Nobre and Brunoro were deemed incompetent beyond even former president Tirone’s magnitude. The duo responded by focusing on work (i.e. the negotiation of players) and was nowhere to be found, further stirring the frustration of supporters.
As of today, four players have arrived, while Moreno is still uncertain. In case he doesn’t transfer, Palmeiras will receive an additional 20% of the player’s economic rights on top of the already 15% included in the deal, totalling 35%.

One more important detail: in the case of any of the players on loan being sold during or immediately after their passage at Palmeiras, the club have the right to 15% of that player’s economic rights.

Good deal?

Perhaps Barcos wouldn’t have gone down the judicial road in any case.

Perhaps Palmeiras could have asked for and gotten more money for him.

Perhaps Palmeiras could have raised cash and paid all the debts, forcing Barcos to stay and play for the club.

Perhaps Nobre’s and Brunoro’s fast action saved Palmeiras from the ultimate humiliation: Barcos leaving for free.

With the cards on the table, I’m personally convinced that Nobre and Brunoro acted with Palmeiras best in mind and made the right choices. A team cannot depend on a single player, however motivated he may be. And when not that motivated…

The only thing to lament was the lack of information to press and supporters, unnecessarily creating tension – even hostility – toward a new management that need all the support it can get.

We see this again and again, especially at Palmeiras: information and transparency – or rather the lack of – is root to many of the problems. Will we ever learn?

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Directors come and go, while other things prevail, one of the most enduring features at Palmeiras being the lack of transparency and information. And where there is none, people will guess. Or make things up. Not good.

Last Friday’s announcement of Barcos’ transfer to Grêmio is obviously on everybody’s lips, and how could it not be, considering that fundamental questions remain unanswered:

Was Palmeiras really that pressed to sell? Is it true that Barcos considered doing just like Fernando Prass did at Vasco – be liberated from his contract due to the club owing him three months worth of salaries – and simply transfer for free? Was his dissatisfaction with the outlook of playing in the second division starting to contaminate the rest of the squad? The answer to all of the above is, quite likely, yes.

Even if disregarding the above, there are valid arguments for selling Barcos. Palmeiras are short on cash, short on players and cannot depend on one man alone. Barcos had a brilliant year in 2012 but that wasn’t nearly enough to save Palmeiras from relegation. And what if he got injured? The risk (yes, the risk) of keeping him on the expense of generally strengthening the squad must not be overlooked.

That being said, did Palmeiras get a fair price? No, we didn’t, as normally happens when you’re negotiating with the rope around your neck. Our top scorer and kiddie idol – a serious, hard working, peaking professional – apparently went for US$ 5 million. Take 30 per cent off and you get what Palmeiras paid for Luan back in 2011. Just food for thought.
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Brunoro - the honeymoon didn't last long.

Brunoro – the honeymoon didn’t last long.

Why “apparently” US$ 5 million? Because the info has not been confirmed by Palmeiras’ directors, who instead chose to sell in the deal with us supporters as a five-for-one swap: Palmeiras were letting Barcos go in exchange for no less than five players from Grêmio: centre-back Vilson, defensive midfielder Léo Gago, offensive midfielder Rondinelly, strikers Marcelo Moreno and Leandro, in addition to some US$ 3.5 million cash. Grêmio and Palmeiras thought this was a great deal. Too bad no-one had asked the actual players involved. Imagine the resentment from 25-year-old quality player Marcelo Moreno – and that of his father/agent – when learning he would be part of a package of five. The reaction – and especially the disrespectful tirade from the father – is by many a palmeirense considered a deal breaker in itself.

From Grêmio, Vilson, Léo Gago and Leandro have arrived (and signed contracts until December). Rondinelly might be on his way also. In regard to Moreno, Brunoro might have settled for a compensational cash sum, although rumours of a triangulation with Cruzeiro surged earlier this week, where Moreno would join the club from Belo Horizonte and Cruzeiro, in turn, pass on two player to Palmeiras (allegedly Borges and Victorino). Hey, Brunoro might even surprise us all and in the end bring Moreno over. It’s wait and see. It’s also wait and see in regard to what Palmeiras de facto can do with these players when their contracts expire. Barcos has left for good, while some of the Grêmio players involved in the swap seem only be coming on loan. Explanations, please!

The picture might clear up tomorrow as the political group Fanfulla – on a fact-seeking mission – has managed to schedule a meeting with the directors.

— ooo —

In the midst of all turmoil, Palmeiras tonight debut in the Libertadores Cup. We are likely to see some new faces against visiting Sporting Cristal from Peru, but not the newly arrived Grêmio players: all of them, except for Vilson, have previously been entered in the competition for Grêmio and thus cannot play for Palmeiras in the group stage. Still, expect Vilson, Marcelo Oliveira and from Corinthians recently signed right-backer Welder pulling on the green jersey for the first time.

Expect a difficult game. We need the result. If Palmeiras lose (or only draws) and then loses Sunday’s derby to Corinthians, Kleina better start looking for another position to fill.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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barcos se despede.
Blink and you’ve missed it. That’s how fast things happen at Palmeiras as of late.

In the morning, the unpleasant news that excellent press officer Fábio Finelli had been sacked.

The order didn’t come from newly hired head of Communications Fernando Mello, but rather higher up in the hierarchy. The reason for his firing is 100% political, although precisely how is unclear. One would however rather safely assume that president Nobre felt pressured to make his pawn sacrifice: it’s not pretty, but one can only hope that we in a not so distant future can look in that rear view mirror and see it was worth it. In the meantime, Finelli is taking up a position at Mello’s agency “Press F.C.”, recently awarded the contract to handle Palmeiras’ communication.  

Our most sincere Thank You to Finelli and the quality work at Palmeiras during the last seven years.

The day, however, had only started.

Before lunch, the second surprise – and if the first one was a grenade, this was a small, nuclear charge: Barcos leaving Palmeiras for Grêmio.

First, we need to look at the bigger picture. President Tirone led Palmeiras into such a financial mess that the club’s Financial Committee, with only months remaining of his presidency – took the unprecedented decision to strip him of his mandate to sign contracts and players. Newly elected president Nobre inherited this situation, which includes some unpaid player wages (for example, Palmeiras owe Barcos roughly US$ 750.000 linked to merchandise rights) and the last instalment to LDU (coincidently, also US$ 750.000) for the transfer of Barcos to Palmeiras.

Palmeiras have a limited squad: an additional 10-12 players are needed to fill positions, according to coach Kleina’s wish list. The season is long and the competitions many: São Paulo Championship, Brazilian Championship (second division, with the absolute obligation to ascend), Brazil Cup, Libertadores Cup, South America Cup.

What to say about Barcos? The charismatic top scorer showed serious commitment from day one and quickly conquered the palmeirenses, especially the kids who couldn’t get enough of “The Pirate”. His success in our jersey also caught the attention of Argentine national coach Sabella, who called him up for duty in last September’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay  and Peru.

Is it possible to hold on to a player like this when relegated to the second division? A player practically told by the national coach that he won’t stand much of a chance to be called up again unless he transfers?

Barcos is no São Marcos. He might like Palmeiras a lot, he might have bonded with the supporters. But his heart is not Palmeiras. It couldn’t be.

The logical would have been for him to leave right after relegation. But he didn’t, in part due to his feelings for the club, in part due to a hefty pay raise. Still, Barcos never made his concerns a secret and also stated that if an irresistible offer materialized, he could be leaving.

This is the scenario when Grêmio make their move. The first-division club are also in the Libertadores Cup. Based in Porto Alegre, Buenos Aires is only an hour and a bit away by commercial flight. Grêmio offer Barcos a slight raise: from US$ 250.000 to perhaps US$ 300.000 monthly.

What’s in it for Palmeiras? Well, Grêmio offer US$ 2 million in cash in addition to assuming Palmeiras’ debts with Barcos and LDU (US$ 1.5 million), bringing the total up to US$ 3.5 million. Grêmio also offer five players to be include in the deal: centre-back Vilson, defensive midfielder Léo Gago, offensive midfielder Rondinelly, strikers Marcelo Moreno and Leandro. These players would all transfer permanently to Palmeiras except for young Leandro, considered a future star and only coming on loan until the end of the year.

In my point of view, accepting the offer makes sense. Without cash and with a seriously limited squad, swapping five for one is a good deal, especially as Barcos was open for the opportunity. But the news divided palmeirenses, with criticism coming down hard not only on Barcos, but also regarding the quality of the five involved in the swap, the fact that Palmeiras were getting rid of their only idol, that Barcos was going too cheap, etcetera.

If the situation was tense already, imagine the outcry when Brunoro holds a press conference, flanked by Barcos himself, announcing the closure of the deal but not confirming exactly which players from Grêmio would de facto be involved. “Grêmio have agreed, but we need to negotiate with the players also, who are free to decline”, was Brunoro’s words. One of the players – and none other than the most important of the five: Moreno – has apparently already announced his intention to stay at Grêmio.

President Nobre, I dearly hope you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, your impeachment might come faster than you can say “cock-up”.

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