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A well-conducted transfer if you ever saw one. Yesterday, centre-back Vitor Hugo held his last press conference (for now) at Palmeiras, before moving to Europe and Fiorentina. The Italians had been eying the 26-year-old for some time, but Palmeiras managed to hang on to the player, a central piece of the 2016 champion squad. In total, Vitor Hugo played 131 games for Palmeiras, finding the net 13 times – one short to make the club’s top 10 list for scoring centre-backs.

With the aid of sponsor/partner Crefisa, Vitor Hugo was brought to Palmeiras from second division side América Mineiro in 2015 for €1.5 million for 50% of his economic rights. Now sold to Fiorentina for €8 million, Crefisa recovers the initial €1.5 million, with the remaining being split between Palmeiras and other stakeholders – a neat little revenue indeed.

Crefisa actually chose not to cash in, but to redeploy the €1.5 million into the acquisition of promising 22-year-old centre-back Juninho, from Coritiba. Prior to Juninho, Crefisa also helped in the acquisition of Luan, the 24-year-old Olympic gold medallist, previously at Vasco da Gama. Palmeiras’ medium to long-term planning is clear: Vitor Hugo just left, Edu Dracena might retire in a year or two and Yerry Mina will move to Europe after the 2018 World Cup. In their place, we have Antônio Carlos (24), Thiago Martins (22), Luan (24) and Juninho (22).

Anything Palmeiras wishes Vitor Hugo the best of luck overseas: this talented, hard-working and charismatic lad deserves it like few others!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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vitor-hugo-palmeirasPalmeiras supporters are likely to have seen the last of Vitor Hugo. Coach Cuca today confirmed the centre-defender is heading for Fiorentina, in return for € 8 million. Out of these, € 4.5 million go to Palmeiras, who in turn will pass on € 1.75 million to Crefisa – the amount corresponds to what the sponsor paid for the athlete in 2015. Thus, Palmeiras’ net revenue are € 2.75 million. The remaining € 3.5 million belong to Tombense, the other holder of the player’s economic rights.

The European transfer windows only opens in June, but Vitor Hugo is likely to be released from his obligations as of now. For Palmeiras, he played a total of 131 games, scoring 13 goals. Anything Palmeiras wishes the humble, charismatic, talented and hard-working 25-year-old the best of luck on his new endeavour. Avanti, Vitor Hugo!

As an immediate response to Vitor Hugo’s exit, Palmeiras are set to sign Juninho, a left-footed 22-year-old currently at Coritiba. The youngster is expected in São Paulo tomorrow Saturday to undergo medical and sign the contract, price tag locked at € 3 million. I have a good feeling about this one.

Speaking of Coritiba: the club from Paraná yesterday confirmed the signing of Alecsandro, beating Bahia for the contract. Palmeiras will continue to pay the forward’s salaries throughout the year in an arrangement reached to settle an unresolved balance linked to Raphael Veiga’s transfer to Palmeiras earlier this year. The experience 36-year-old leaves through the front door after 62 games for the Verdão.

Another forward expected to leave any day is Rafael Marques: seasoned, still hungry, but with oh so little space in Palmeiras’ numerous squad. Cruzeiro is a possible destination, with a player from “the Fox” likely to be involved in a swap.

Finally, a piece of news we nourished hopes not having to declare, but was confirmed tonight: the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) sentenced Felipe Melo to six games of suspension for throwing a punch while chased by numerous Peñarol players after the final whistle in Montevideo late April (recap here and here). The original three Uruguayan aggressors received five games each. The Peñarol player caught on tape knocking Willian down seconds before the final whistle goes unpunished. It is a disgrace, it is a scandal, it is CONMEBOL in a nutshell. Palmeiras have already challenged the sentence, seeking it reduced to the minimum three games of suspension. Good luck with that.

In weeks, CONMEBOL will also rule on the responsibility of each team for what happened in Uruguay. Nothing good can come out of this. At Anything Palmeiras, we stand our ground: should CONMEBOL slap a significant punishment on Palmeiras for being ambushed at the Campeón del Siglo, Palmeiras should walk out on the tournament altogether.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Finally, the Libertadores Cup debut. Atlético Tucumán, away. Palmeiras with a solid line-up: Prass; Jean, Dracena, Vitor Hugo and Zé Roberto; Felipe Melo and Thiago Santos; Michel Bastos, Dudu and Keno; Borja. Stage set.

It should and most like would have been a rather easy victory had not Vitor Hugo, clumsily, gotten himself sent off within twenty minutes after two yellow cards less than minutes apart. Without yet that good a read on the opponent, Eduardo Baptista wisely opted for the safest route: instead of retreating Thiago Santos to the vacant centre-back position, weakening the midfield defensively but keeping Palmeiras’ offensive power intact, he took Michel Bastos out, promoting centre-back Antônio Carlos from the bench.

Shortly after, the Argentine team netted, a combination of skill, opportunism and fluke if I ever saw one. Palmeiras one man down, things could have gotten ugly, but our men quickly recomposed and levelled the action, Keno driving it home five minutes before halftime.

The second half looked mostly like the first, Palmeiras actively looking to turn the game around, creating several clear chances to score, Borja and Dudu in particular.

With the final whistle, divided opinions among palmeirenses. While most recognized the virtue of securing an away draw playing one man short for 70 minutes, others lamented the early sending off of Vítor Hugo and/or Baptista’s choice to recompose the defensive line. Sure, the game was ours to win – even with ten men – but I am much more inclined to celebrate a draw considering the circumstances. Hopefully not only Vítor Hugo but also the whole Palmeiras squad learnt something from the episode: Libertadores is full throttle, but not anarchy. Will and determination, not violence and recklessness.

Saturday, Palmeiras receive São Paulo at the Allianz Parque. Not ideal, as next week another Libertadores game, this time at home and against Jorge Wilstermann, demands full attention. On the other hand, every opportunity to beat The Enemy should be considered ideal.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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warthog_by_markkarvon_cropped.
A classico is always a classico and results are unpredictable, no matter what shape the teams are found in at the moment of the clash. Some were hoping for a slaughter yesterday, but the most important thing were the three points, securely tucked away after an awesome display of airborne offensive firepower from our centre-backs Yerry Mina and Vítor Hugo – in their homage, the A10 “Warthog” illustration above, signed Mark Karvon.

Allianz Parque yesterday sported the second best attendance record of all times, just shy of the 40K mark. In an effort to spare Gabriel Jesus, the kid having played the lion’s share of Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia less than 24 hours previous to the Palmeiras game, coach Cuca opted for Allione on the right and Rafael Marques on the left, Dudu more centralised. Moisés was back in the starting eleven, which is impressive: during the week he did not train with the squad, only doing recovery exercises for the ankle strain he suffered against Botafogo/PB.

São Paulo were, as expected, cornered from kick-off to final whistle. Still, although Palmeiras were in control, the first half did not offer up many opportunities, partially due to São Paulo shrinking the spaces, partially due to uninspiring performances from Rafael Marques and, especially Allione. The Argentine forward has been given plenty of opportunities, but he just never ever… I believe yesterday was “it”, that we will not see more of him in a while, if ever.

Instead of Palmeiras, it was São Paulo getting that lucky break they were hoping for, opening up the scorecard early in the second half. Cuca, frustrated, swapped Allione for Gabriel Jesus, and things started to flow, Palmeiras inching closer to the goal by every attack. And although Dudu, Moisés and Tchê Tchê all had their opportunities, it was the set pieces that made all the difference. Enjoy the highlights below.
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Jean and Mina saw their third yellow and are not travelling to Porto Alegre to face Grêmio. The gaúchos a few weeks back seemed very much in the title race, but have not impressed anyone in the last rounds and are now 10 points behind Palmeiras. Yesterday, Grêmio visited Coritiba and were losing 4-0 already in halftime. Palmeiras will certainly try to take advantage of the situation, returning from the south with three points in the bag.

Apart from finding suitable replacements for Jean and Mina, Cuca needs to imprint players with the importance of staying cool and making the outmost effort to avoid bookings against Grêmio. Palmeiras cannot risk facing runners-up Flamengo without key players, and that certainly includes Gabriel Jesus. Will he escape the trap on Sunday? The championship could depend on it.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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oswaldo.
When you start off with the right foot, things tend to work better. Palmeiras’ restructuring began with CEO Alexandre Mattos, officially still working at Cruzeiro but already pulling the strings also at Palmeiras. Mattos indicated Cicero Souza as his right hand, the man who will make the link between the CEO and the squad on a day-to-day basis. Souza was announced last week. And tomorrow, Oswaldo Oliveira will be announced coach.

64-year old Oswaldo has experience at Santos, SPFC, Corinthians, Flamengo, Vasco and Botafogo, in addition to four years of coaching in Japan. He will sign a one-year contract and is, I believe, the best option available. Mano Menezes is expensive and not to my liking; Tite idem, and is already putting pen to paper at Corinthians; Cuca is making heaps of money abroad; Abel Braga is leaving Internacional and could have been an option, but will probably seek his fortune outside of Brazil. Thus, Oswaldo it is. And the decision came quickly: an indicator as good as any that Paulo Nobre isn’t the one calling the shots anymore.

Now, players. Strong defensive midfielder Amaral has arrived from Goiás. 23-year-old centre-back Vitor Hugo, one of the best during América Mineiro’s campaign in the second division, comes on a one-year loan with a buying option. 26-year-old right-defender Lukas, Botafogo, is expected to sign any day. Expectations are also high regarding the arrival of 22-year-old defensive midfielder Thiago Mendes, also from Goiás, although both SPFC and a Ukrainian club are competing for the player.

A few bigger names are also entertained, including a first-rank keeper to maintain Prass on his toes, a striker and a playmaker. We’ll call them as they are confirmed.

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