Tim Vickery Column: Strength in numbers needed by Brazilian clubs in Copa Libertadores

Atletico Mineiro are defending the title they won in 2013 - Action Images
Despite winning recent Copas, Brazilian club sides must do more collectively

The last four winners of the Copa Libertadores have come from Brazil – which is only to be expected.  In professional football, money matters.  And a financial chasm has opened up in the last few years between Brazilian clubs and those in the rest of the continent.  Revenue has been flowing in from sponsorship and TV rights.  As a consequence, talent from all across South America is heading for Brazil.  Andres D’Alessandro of Internacional heads an ever stronger contingent of Argentine players in Brazil.  But there are no high profile Brazilians in Argentina – the clubs there simply could not afford them.

It is no surprise, then, that Brazil is taking a grip on the Libertadores.  The surprise is that the grip is not even tighter.  Back in 2010 Internacional won the continent’s equivalent of the Champions League.  That year, there were four Brazilian clubs in the last eight.  One would have thought, that with Brazil’s financial advantage growing year by year, that such dominance would become increasingly noticeable.  In fact, the opposite has happened.

In 2011 Santos, the eventual winners, were the only Brazilian club to reach the quarter finals – and they were lucky to get past America of Mexico in the second round.  And in both the last two campaigns Brazil has contributed two of the last eight – Fluminense and both the champions, Corinthians in 2012 and Atletico Mineiro last year.

Had Atletico keeper Victor not saved an injury time penalty against Tijuana of Mexico, there would have been no Brazilian representation in the Libertadores semi finals – astonishing, given the financial balance of forces.  As it is, Atletico needed a penalty shoot out to win both the semi final and the final.  The decider was against Olimpia of Paraguay – whose entire wage bill would not come close to paying Ronaldinho.  But that imbalance was never seen on the pitch.  After a tense struggle which could have gone either way Atletico needed the drama of the shoot out to proclaim themselves champions.

There is something heartwarming in this – an observation that money might be important, but that it is not always determinant, that football always retains the capacity to spring surprises.  It could also lead to an interpretation that domestic Brazilian football is performing well short of potential – a view that performances in the World Club Cup over the past few years would tend to support.

So what of this year?  There are some interesting rivals in the field; San Lorenzo of Argentina, with a highly promising group of youngsters now coached by Edgardo Bauza, who took LDU of Ecuador to the title in 2008.  Or Atletico Nacional of Colombia, under the fascinating Juan Carlos Osorio, winners of both Colombian championships and the cup in 2013.  Or Cerro Porteno of Paraguay, with a bright new generation under Francisco Arce, former idol of Gremio and Palmeiras, who won the last domestic league without suffering a single defeat.

How will the Brazilian challenge stand up?  Clearly, the team that everyone wants to see is Cruzeiro.  Can they sustain the form that carried them so comfortably to the league title last year?  Some have their doubts.  Whatever happens, the format of the competition, with home and away knock out, will test them more than the Brazilian league was able to in 2013.

Astonishingly, of the 6 Brazilian sides in this year’s Libertadores, Cruzeiro are one of only two not to have changed their coach since the end of last season.  Marcelo Oliveira continues in charge, as does Jaime de Almeida with Flamengo, an improvised stand in last October who grabbed his opportunity in fine style.

The other four have all made a change – a trend which has much to do with an alarming realisation made by Brazil’s clubs.  Their spending was out of control.  Suddenly the money is not so abundant.

TV rights revenues may have risen with a decade from R$300 million to RS1.5 billion, but, as sports business expert Amir Somaggi point out, “the clubs have spent it, and some have even taken out bank loans as well.”  Suddenly the scenario looks bleaker.  The government is now taking a harder line against clubs that run up fiscal debts.  A year ago, writes Carlos Mansur in the ‘O Globo’ newspaper, “the sky seemed to be the limit in Brazilian football.  However, the limit seems to have been exceeded, and the pre-season market of 2014 bears the mark of recession.”

Botafogo have also suffered from the loss of revenue resulting from the temporary closure of the Engenhao stadium.  They have said a reluctant farewell to Clarence Seedorf.  Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira has also moved on.  No attempt was made to bring in a big name replacement.  Instead they have gone for a cheap, in house solution, the promotion of former assistant Eduardo Hungaro – who has already been jeered by fans in the opening games of the Rio State Championship.

The club are taking a risk.  Botafogo now embark on their first Libertadores campaign since 1996 – which begins with the home and away qualifying round against Deportivo Quito of Ecuador.  Their opponents have altitude in their favour in their home leg, but are in far worse financial straights than Botafogo.  Their star players from last year have all been sold, with a few replacements scrambled in.  It would indeed be a disaster if Botafogo’s long awaited Libertadores adventure were to come to an end after just two games.  Hungaro, then, is being thrown in at the deep end.

The other Brazilian side in the qualifying round are Atletico Paranaense, one of the shocks of last year’s domestic season.  Their decision not to retain the services of coach Vagner Mancini can only be described as baffling.  Perhaps it, too, was at least in part motivated by financial considerations.  Atletico’s financial resources are being stretched by the need to get their stadium ready in time for the World Cup.  In comes a Spanish coach, confusingly named Miguel Angel Portugal, who had been in charge of Bolivar in La Paz.  Presumably he comes considerably cheaper than Mancini, and although Atletico are favourites to go through, opponents Sporting Cristal of Peru have enough firepower to make things interesting – a word that applies very neatly to the prospects of all six Brazilian sides in the 2014 Copa Libertadores.

 





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July 30, 2014
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14:56Zlatan Ibrahimović expects David Luiz to settle quickly and succeed at Paris Saint-Germain
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11:12Report: Barcelona consider renewed approach for Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos
09:51Report: Robinho's future remains uncertain as Milan wait for an offer from the UAE
08:56Elche confirm the signing of forward Jonathas on a two-year loan deal from Pescara
08:04Corinthians set to move for striker Angel Romero's twin Oscar
07:50Fluminense refute rumours of moves for Ronaldinho and Wellington Nem
07:40PSG's David Luiz may be dropped for Dunga's first Brazil squad
07:21Diego Costa applauded by new Chelsea colleague Drogba
07:11Ronaldinho posts video online thanking Atletico Mineiro for the memories
06:59Neymar's second Barcelona season will be easier, says former player
06:46Ronaldinho won't move to Boca Juniors, say Argentine side
July 29, 2014
19:41Arena Amazônia hopeful of hosting Serie A games
18:53Grêmio appoint Luiz Felipe Scolari as new manager
18:19QPR interested in former Barcelona and AC Milan star Ronaldinho
17:15Grêmio striker Barcos praises Luiz Felipe Scolari
16:48Grêmio want Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella
16:31Cruzeiro defender Dedé on Juventus radar
14:35Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro set to depart White Hart Lane?
14:09Reports in Italy suggest Lazio looking to sign Marseille defender Lucas Mendes
13:02Rômulo having Juventus medical today
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11:17Liverpool’s Suso: Coutinho plays like a Spaniard
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10:03Chelsea manager José Mourinho praises Brazilian Filipe Luís
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07:47Atletico Mineiro president Kalil hails Ronaldinho contribution
07:34AC Milan CEO confirms Olympiakos Robinho offer
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21:35Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro part ways
21:19Jonathan insists Internazionale will give 100 per cent this season
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20:47Kaká insists his time with Real Madrid was not a failure
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July 23, 2014
17:02Napoli goalkeeper Rafael Cabral hoping for Seleção return under Dunga
July 19, 2014
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23:13Neymar believes Brazil can learn from Germany and Spain
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23:57FIFA President Sepp Blatter denies involvement in selection of Lionel Messi as Golden Ball winner
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July 06, 2014
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July 05, 2014
23:45Argentina forward Lionel Messi aiming for the World Cup final
23:30Medic insists vertebra injury will not compromise Neymar’s career
July 04, 2014
23:59Thiago Silva defends emotional Brazil
23:55James Rodriguez: David Luiz told me I was a good player
23:50David Luiz looks forward to "classic" encounter with Germany
23:47David Luiz: Colombia would have gone further if they “hadn't come up against Brazil”
15:34Luiz Felipe Scolari feels Brazil’s lack of a rivalry with Colombia will allow his players to be “more at ease'
July 03, 2014
18:58Brazil v Colombia – Preview
July 02, 2014
22:14Neymar confirms he is fit to face Colombia
22:10Colombia Head Coach Jose Pekerman confident his side can upset Brazil
22:06Neymar insists he can fit in any formation amid rumours that Luiz Felipe Scolari will switch to a 3-5-2 against Colombia
22:02Neymar happy for Brazil to win 1-0 against Colombia
July 01, 2014
23:24Fernandinho confident Brazil can handle expectations
June 30, 2014
16:29Brazil Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari unsure whether Neymar will be fit to face Colombia
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June 29, 2014
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22:56Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli pleased with Fluminense victory
22:52Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli delighted with Brazilian support
June 07, 2014
23:32Italy line up confirmed for Fluminense friendly
May 19, 2014
22:13Portugal Manager Paulo Bento names his 23-man 2014 FIFA World Cup squad
May 18, 2014
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April 13, 2014
08:34Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian Clubs' Libertadores Numbers Game
April 06, 2014
09:20Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Mineiro's Anelka Interest Should be the Norm
February 14, 2014
12:23Shakhtar Donetsk: President decided to support Maicon’s family
February 09, 2014
09:25Sambafoot Sunday: Where’s Wallyson? Botafogo find their new hero post-Seedorf
January 26, 2014
10:09Sambafoot Sunday: Cruciate curse affects Seleção hopes of three midfielders
December 01, 2013
13:36Sambafoot Sunday: Could Éverton Ribeiro Crack Europe?
November 25, 2013
11:39Brasileirão Week 36 round up: Vasco shock champions to stay in contention while defeat leaves Ponte Preta on the brink
November 24, 2013
10:17Sambafoot Sunday: Palmeiras Promoted with Chapecoense in Tow
November 17, 2013
12:00Palmeiras secure Brasileirão Série B title with 3-0 win against Boa Esporte
November 12, 2013
08:42Relegation threatened Fluminense sack head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo
November 10, 2013
12:59Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Paranaense's hurricane season
November 09, 2013
10:05Drummer angers Flamengo fans
November 04, 2013
13:04Brasileirão week 32 round-up: Big win for Vasco as in-form Goiás maintain top four push
November 03, 2013
17:31Sambafoot Sunday: Surprise Packages in the 2013 Brasileirão
October 28, 2013
11:31Brasileirão Week 31 round up: Vital win for Ponte Preta while Goiás maintain top four push
October 21, 2013
13:21Olympique Marseille without defender Lucas Mendes for Napoli fixture
12:12Injury rules Bayern Munich defender Dante out of Viktoria Plzeň tie
October 20, 2013
23:50São Paulo president Juvenal Juvêncio admits interest in Lucas Moura loan return
October 18, 2013
11:47Diego Maradona dispute’s Pelé’s FIFA recognition
09:04Del Bosque: Costa approach no insult to current strikers
October 17, 2013
21:43Hard work is paying off insists Bayern Munich defender Rafinha
13:17Rodrigo Lasmar: Ronaldinho on track to be fit for the Club World Cup
October 16, 2013
19:53Report: Tottenham Hotspur set to offer Paulinho extended deal
09:12Report: São Paulo could terminate Lúcio’s contract if injury concerns prevail
October 13, 2013
18:32Brasileirão: Grêmio slip up as Vitoria and Santos grab victories
14:49Vanderlei Luxemburgo: ‘Simulation part of football’
October 09, 2013
20:37Mineiro learn Club World Cup fate
October 06, 2013
22:39Oswaldo de Oliveira in hospital after Botafogo defeat
11:55Sambafoot Sunday: Cruzeiro cruising at the top of the Brasileirão
October 04, 2013
23:52Internacional manager Dunga sacked
September 14, 2013
14:29Guerrero: Corinthians can still be champions
September 11, 2013
20:49Roberto Carlos: Anzhi could collapse
14:57Exeter City play down Brazil fears
September 07, 2013
14:12Atlético Madrid's Filipe Luis: Barca-Madrid dominance an injustice
September 06, 2013
19:04Santos announce tour of South East Asia
18:42São Paulo slump to defeat as Rogerio Ceni misses penalty
September 05, 2013
19:17Cruzeiro go four points clear after defeating Bahia
18:43Romário and Maradona fight against CONMEBOL corruption
September 03, 2013
21:29Marcelo Mattos says Botafogo will overcome difficulties
20:54Réver believes Atlético Mineiro can challenge for Brazilian title
September 02, 2013
23:21São Paulo to honour Brazil legend Leonidas da Silva
July 30, 2014
17:43Torino forward Barreto not worried about Fabio Quagliarella arrival and looking forward to IF Brommapojkarna challenge
14:56Zlatan Ibrahimović expects David Luiz to settle quickly and succeed at Paris Saint-Germain
13:42Ronaldinho's agent and brother Roberto de Assis confirms his new club will be announced on Wednesday
12:21Report: Chelsea still pushing for Atlético de Madrid defender Miranda
11:12Report: Barcelona consider renewed approach for Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos
09:51Report: Robinho's future remains uncertain as Milan wait for an offer from the UAE
08:56Elche confirm the signing of forward Jonathas on a two-year loan deal from Pescara
July 28, 2014
18:06Report: Beşiktaş ready to bid €4 million for in demand Milan forward Robinho
15:14Forwards Luan and Wanderley excited to be working with Head Coach Paulo Bonamigo at Sharjah SC
13:33Report: Barcelona willing to let defender Daniel Alves leave for cut price fee
11:52Manchester United confirm defender Rafael will leave United States tour after suffering a groin injury
10:112014 Brasileirão Round 12 summary: Late Alex strike earns Coritiba dramatic win and Flamengo secure vital derby victory
July 27, 2014
20:18Chelsea manager José Mourinho expects Diego Costa to adapt to the Premier League
16:51Representative suggests Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernando could join Fiorentina
14:30Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian Soccer - Can Kaká Bring Magic to Orlando City?
14:01Hellas Verona Sporting Director Sean Sogliano confirms negotiations with Juventus for midfielder Rômulo are at an "advanced stage"
12:31Hellas Verona Head Coach Andrea Mandorlini admits Juventus move would be a "chance of a lifetime" for midfielder Rômulo
July 26, 2014
22:33Report: Flamengo putting a plan in place to sign Robinho from Milan
13:04Hellas Verona confirm the signing of Nenê on a free transfer from Cagliari
July 25, 2014
22:58Report: Juventus close in on deal for Hellas Verona midfielder Romulo
18:33Napoli midfielder Jorginho admits he would "immediately accept" a call up to the Italy national team
15:20Report: Botafogo set to sign Shandong Luneng Taishan teenager Tang Shi after successful trial
12:20Report: Fiorentina make loan offer for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernando
10:10Report: Juventus hold negotiations with Hellas Verona for midfielder Rômulo
08:44Report: Palermo to target Sampdoria forward Éder
July 23, 2014
21:19Flamengo reappoint Vanderlei Luxemburgo as Head Coach following Ney Franco sacking
19:42Santos Vice-President Odílio Rodrigues Filho admits Robinho deal will be "a difficult operation"
15:17Report: Werder Bremen set to sign Internacional defender Cláudio Winck
13:43President Enrique Cerezo believes Atlético de Madrid can cope with Diego Costa and Filipe Luís sales and refutes Miranda rumours
10:07Report: Roma in negotiations with São Paulo to re-sign defender Rafael Tolói
July 22, 2014
23:27Report: Cruzeiro set to hold talks with Milan over Robinho
23:16Former Internacional forward Ignacio Scocco set for Newell's Old Boys return
23:11Agent confirms Robinho offers amid interest from Cruzeiro and Orlando City
14:36Al-Wasl team manager Majed Obaidallah confirms loan signing of Fábio Lima from Atlético Goianiense
12:44Report: Juventus and Roma could move for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Douglas Costa following refusal to return to Ukraine
July 21, 2014
23:53Report: Barcelona to target São Paulo defender Rodrigo Caio
23:47La Liga newcomers Córdoba confirm the loan signing of forward Ryder Matos from Fiorentina
23:42Serie B newcomers Perugia sign veteran midfielder Rodrigo Taddei on a free transfer from Roma
23:352014 Brasileirão Round 11 summary: Internacional thump struggling Flamengo
July 19, 2014
23:01Report: Hellas Verona to target Cagliari forward Nenê
09:30Report: Chelsea set to move for Atlético de Madrid defender Miranda after completing deal for Filipe Luís
July 18, 2014
22:42Udinese complete the signing of midfielder Guilherme from Corinthians
22:34Robinho representative suggests temporary switch to Brazil is likely
22:31Representative confirms negotiations between Milan and Orlando City over Robinho
22:27Report: Livorno striker Paulinho set to join Al Arabi
17:542014 Brasileirão Round 10 summary: Newly promoted Sport Recife shock Botafogo
10:51Report: Genoa set to sign defender Edenílson on loan from Udinese
July 17, 2014
22:58Report: Sunderland forward Ignacio Scocco can't return to Newell's Old Boys until payment is settled with Internacional
22:53Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale bemoans lack of a second goalkeeper for Fluminense test
22:49Exeter City Manager Paul Tisdale expecting stern test against Fluminense
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