It is a truly national argument, and before the “chosen one” is presented at the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) everyone from former players to club officials to the country’s biggest media outlets will have supported, if not outright campaigned for, a particular candidate.
Of course, the procedure is hardly a democratic one. If anything, the appointment of Brazil’s national team boss resembles the election of a pope. There is backroom manoeuvring, private handshakes, nods and winks and then POOF! A cloud of smoke goes up and the Selecão has a new manager.
So far, Pep Guardiola has attracted some of the loudest support. On Saturday—less than 24 hours after Mano Menezes was sacked by the CBF—iconic striker and 2002 World Cup winner Ronaldo revealed his admiration for the former Barcelona trainer, telling Globo the 41-year-old would be “a great choice for Brazil.”
But Guardiola’s biggest backer is Brazilian outlet Lance!, whose founder and editor Walter de Mattos Junior has been banging the drum for the two-time Champions League-winning coach since Friday afternoon.
It seems de Mattos telephoned a buddy in Catalonia with “ties” to Guardiola sometime Friday, and the source (who has not been named) returned the call with a message that “the only team in the world [Guardiola] would train tomorrow is the Brazilian national team.” And the source didn’t stop there. He also claimed Guardiola had told him he would “be a world champion with Brazil.”
As if his Friday post to the front page of the Lance! website, complete with dubious quotes, wasn’t enough, on Monday de Mattos came right out with it, formally endorsing Guardiola with a front-page open letter to CBF president Jose Maria Marin, who along with vice-president Marco Polo del Nero is suspected of favouring the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
“We have good professionals in Brazil,” Marin told the press on Monday, adding that the new manager would have to have a “winning profile” so as to “realise the dream of a home championship.”
In other words, the current administration will not be appointing Guardiola, or any other foreign coach, ahead of the World Cup Brazil will be hosting in 2014. And while Scolari would seem to be the favourite of the most important decision-makers, there are still cases being made for both Tite and Muricy Ramalho.
Tite, the current manager of Corinthians, is enjoying considerable goodwill following his side’s victory over Argentine giants Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores final. Next month he’ll be taking Corinthians to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan where, considering the instability at Chelsea these days, he stands a better chance of bringing home the trophy than he might have otherwise.
It’s also worth pointing out that Corinthians is one of the most politically important clubs in Brazil. It’s where Menezes came from in 2010 while Ricardo Teixeira was in charge of the CBF, and current national team director Andres Sanches is a former president of the club.
Sanches, not surprisingly, opposed the removal of Menezes and is thought to have fallen out with Marin and del Nero. On Monday he hinted he may soon leave his post, so in this instance the Corinthians connection could well work against Tite rather than for him.
Which leaves Ramalho. The manager of Santos, he has won back-to-back Paulista titles and in 2011 guided the Peixe to the Libertadores championship. That he has proved an extremely good handler of superstar forward Neymar will only work in his favour, and on Saturday Globo columnist Marvio dos Anjos revealed the 56-year-old, who also won the 2010 Brasileiro with Fluminense, was his preferred candidate.
“Muricy exudes the authority we need to maintain discipline among a group of player-millionaires,” he wrote. “His playing still is not and will never be pretty, but it is a winning style and the next World Cup will be here. If the squad needs a consul—the man to whom the Roman senate gave full powers when peace and order were threatened—Muricy is the closest to that profile.”
Officially, the CBF will not have its man until early January—just in time for the Confederations Cup draw the following month. The secret will have come out long before then, and the same folks who opposed the winning candidate will continue to oppose him throughout his tenure. That’s just the way it works in Brazil, where the national team manager is the country’s spiritual figurehead.
Other items from the world of football you may have missed…
South Sudan plays first competitive international: Ranked 200th in the world by FIFA, South Sudan contested their first ever competitive match on Saturday when they faced Ethiopia in the 2012 East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda. Ethiopia won the match 1-0 and are level with the host nation in Group A. South Sudan and Kenya round out the bracket, and they’ll go head-to-head on Tuesday. Defender Richard Justin is the captain of South Sudan and scored the first goal for world football’s newest international side during a 2-2 draw with Uganda in July.
AC Leopards win CAF Confederations Cup: This competition is similar to UEFA’s old Cup Winners’ Cup, and on Saturday Republic of Congo side AC Leopards defeated Mali’s Djoliba 2-1 in Dolisie to win the final 4-3 on aggregate. Rudy Guelord Bhebey-Ndey finished top-scorer in the competition with five goals and also tallied what proved to be the tournament-winner.
Karpin appoints self after Emery sacked: Former Valencia manager Unai Emery was sacked by Spartak Moscow on Sunday immediately following a 5-1 trouncing at the hands of local rivals Dinamo Moscow. The defeat left Spartak in seventh place in the Russian Premier League, and after a dismal showing in the Champions League group stage they’re also set to miss out on Europa League football in the New Year.
Replacing Emery, at least for now, is Valery Karpin—a former Russia midfielder who served as manager of Spartak from 2009 to earlier this year, when he took on an executive role with the club. He doesn’t intend to stay in the dugout for an extended spell this time around, however, and has promised to find a permanent replacement in January.
Bressan moves from BATE to Alania: Renan Bressan, who has so impressed for BATE Borisov in the Champions League this season, will be unveiled as an Alania Vladikavkaz player following a medial, the Russian Premier League club announced on Monday. Bressan, 24, famously scored the third goal of BATE’s 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in early October. Born in Brazil’s Santa Catarina state, he joins four other Brazilians at the club—defender Carlos Cardoso, midfielder Rudnei and forwards Diego Mauricio and Danilo Neco.
Coming this week…
J.League wraps up: Sanfrecce Hiroshima have already won the Japanese championship, but the league will reach its conclusion on Saturday with the 34th round of matches. Sanfrecce, by claiming the title, earn a berth in 2012 FIFA Club World Cup, where they’ll face Oceania champions Aukland City in the first round of the competition next month. The most hotly contested aspect of the final round of matches will involve the division’s third Champions League spot, which is currently held by Sagan Tosu but could be usurped by any one of Kashiwa Reysol, Urawa Red Diamonds, Nagoya Grampus and Yokohama F. Marinos depending on the weekend’s results.
Brasileiro concludes: The 2012 Brazilian championship will also come to an end this weekend with the 38th round of matches set to be played. Fluminense have already won the title and are seven points clear of Gremio, and the Copa Libertadores places (which also include Atletico Mineiro, Sao Paulo, holders Corinthians and Copa do Brasil winners Palmeiras) have been sorted as well. Palmeiras, despite their success in the domestic cup, will be playing Serie B football next season after being relegated last Sunday.
Copa Sudamericana: The second legs of the Copa Sudamericana semifinals will be played this week, with Brazil’s Sao Paulo hosting Chile’s Universidad Catolica on Wednesday and Colombia’s Millonarios welcoming Argentina’s Tigre on Thursday. Millionarios and Tigre are scoreless on aggregate after the first leg in Buenos Aires while Sao Paulo and Universidad are level at one following last week’s draw in Santiago.
MLS Cup: On Saturday David Beckham will play his final match for Los Angeles Galaxy as the reining Major League Soccer champions will host Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup. Los Angeles have so far overcome Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders in the 2012 playoffs while Houston have beaten Chicago Fire, Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United. Both sides had to win qualifying matches just to progress to the playoff round proper.