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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October 24, 2014
15:24'No chance' of Paulino loan says Tottenham boss Pochettino
15:19Hoffenheim's Firmino delighted with call up for Brazil
15:17FC Goa manager Zico unhappy with Atlético de Kolkata defeat
15:10Pochettino rules out Paulinho departure to Corinthians
14:13Kaká confident he can help Brazil over the short-term
13:18Leandro Damiao risks a six-match suspension
13:13Neymar congratulates Pele
13:06Assistant Toni Grande admits "it was a relief" when Diego Costa finally scored for Spain
13:04Arsenal and Manchester United chase Mario Fernandes
12:54Report: Juventus set to target Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro in January
October 23, 2014
23:25Report: Milan join race for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
23:14Head Coach Dunga refuses to confirm whether Neymar or Thiago Silva will captain Brazil
23:10Brazil Head Coach Dunga hopes Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano can help "create an alternative approach"
17:34Brazil remain sixth on FIFA ranking
17:27Pele, King of Football, celebrates 74th birthday
17:22Atlético de Madrid defender Guilherme Siqueira hails team-mate Koke after role in Malmö FF victory
17:18Dunga imposes new rules - here is a short list
15:44Head Coach Dunga names three debutants in Brazil squad to face Turkey and Austria next month
October 22, 2014
22:51Mário Fernandes believes CSKA Moscow's comeback against Manchester City has kept them in the Champions League
17:54David Luiz: “In every game we need to improve"
17:51Lionel Messi: “It is good that Neymar and I are in form together"
15:03Ralf may return to action at Corinthians after month-long absence
14:13Everton Ribeiro hopes he can play more for Brazil
14:07Neymar: "Messi remains the best"
13:58Arsenal scouted Anderson Talisca
13:47Italian press accuses Robinho of gang rape
11:36Ajax manager Frank de Boer compares Lionel Messi and Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
11:27David Luiz admits Paris Saint-Germain had a "tough match" against APOEL
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10:03Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano: "It was very special for me to score five times"
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October 21, 2014
22:56Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano enjoys record breaking night in the Champions League
22:33Report: Real Madrid target to Bayern Munich's David Alaba if Marcelo leaves next summer
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October 20, 2014
23:09 José Mourinho praises Dunga despite frustration over lack of communication with international managers
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October 24, 2014
14:13Kaká confident he can help Brazil over the short-term
October 23, 2014
23:14Head Coach Dunga refuses to confirm whether Neymar or Thiago Silva will captain Brazil
23:10Brazil Head Coach Dunga hopes Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano can help "create an alternative approach"
October 21, 2014
21:161994 World Cup winning Head Coach Carlos Alberto Perreira believes Brazil must regain their identity
October 20, 2014
23:09 José Mourinho praises Dunga despite frustration over lack of communication with international managers
October 18, 2014
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October 15, 2014
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October 14, 2014
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October 13, 2014
15:57Internazionale defender Yuto Nagatomo insists Japan must play as a team against Brazil
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October 12, 2014
22:38Neymar unconcerned with physical approach during Brazil's 2-0 win over Argentian
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October 11, 2014
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October 10, 2014
22:38Neymar hails Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi ahead of 2014 Superclásico de las Américas
16:182014 Superclásico de las Américas: Argentina vs. Brazil preview
October 09, 2014
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22:13Sambafoot is recruiting!
20:55Japan recall Kagawa for Brazil clash
October 08, 2014
12:11Sebastian Coe doubts a men's Great British football team will compete at 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
October 07, 2014
23:28CBF announce Brazil friendlies against Austria and Turkey in November
23:09Report: Brazil Head Coach Dunga monitoring Guangzhou Evergrande forward Elkeson
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October 06, 2014
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12:16Kaká wants Brazil to follow Germany model
October 03, 2014
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17:12Grêmio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe brought into Brazil squad for Argentina and Japan friendlies
October 01, 2014
15:54Japan squad named for friendlies against Brazil and Jamaica
September 30, 2014
08:34Brazil drawn in Group B alongside holders Colombia for 2015 U-20 South American Championship
September 24, 2014
22:13Brazilian Football Confederation President José Maria Marin wants Germany rematch
September 22, 2014
22:09Argentina squad named for next month's friendly against Brazil
June 26, 2014
14:33Report: Flamengo one of eight clubs who have enquired about loaning Internazionale midfielder Rubén Botta
June 16, 2014
11:35Brazil Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari backs Portugal to recovery from heavy Germany defeat
June 09, 2014
23:18Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne insists Italy’s poor defending in victory against Fluminense is “not important”
23:12Italy forward Ciro Immobile “excited” with hat-trick against Fluminense
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
19:09Sambafoot Sunday: Botafogo's Shaky Start to 2014
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
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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
October 24, 2014
15:17FC Goa manager Zico unhappy with Atlético de Kolkata defeat
13:06Assistant Toni Grande admits "it was a relief" when Diego Costa finally scored for Spain
12:54Report: Juventus set to target Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro in January
October 23, 2014
23:25Report: Milan join race for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
17:22Atlético de Madrid defender Guilherme Siqueira hails team-mate Koke after role in Malmö FF victory
15:44Head Coach Dunga names three debutants in Brazil squad to face Turkey and Austria next month
October 22, 2014
22:51Mário Fernandes believes CSKA Moscow's comeback against Manchester City has kept them in the Champions League
17:54David Luiz: “In every game we need to improve"
17:51Lionel Messi: “It is good that Neymar and I are in form together"
11:36Ajax manager Frank de Boer compares Lionel Messi and Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
11:27David Luiz admits Paris Saint-Germain had a "tough match" against APOEL
11:22David Luiz pleased to be back alongside Thiago Silva in Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 over APEOL
10:03Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano: "It was very special for me to score five times"
09:57Luiz Adriano thanks team-mates after five goal haul in Shakhtar Donetsk's 7-0 win over BATE Borisov
October 21, 2014
22:56Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano enjoys record breaking night in the Champions League
22:33Report: Real Madrid target to Bayern Munich's David Alaba if Marcelo leaves next summer
20:36Neymar admits he now feels more settled at Barcelona
20:30Former Santos President Luis Alvaro de Oliveira claims Neymar's father received €3 million from Barcelona
19:04Referee Gianluca Rocchi admits he could have handled Maicon penalty incident better
16:35Fernandinho hopes Manchester City can emulate Bayern Munich in "must win" tie against CSKA Moscow
16:00Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho believes empty Arena Khimki will hinder CSKA Moscow clash
October 20, 2014
18:42Chelsea manager José Mourinho bemoans Diego Costa injury
15:35Report: Internazionale latest club to join race to sign Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
15:34Chelsea manager José Mourinho hails development of "number ten" Oscar
11:53Report: Manchester United to target Torino wing-back Matteo Darmian as alternative to Barcelona's Daniel Alves
11:40Barcelona Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta expects contract talks with defender Daniel Alves
10:44Hernanes hails Internazionale character and believes he's getting back to his best
10:35Internazionale midfielder Hernanes: "The season is beginning from this moment"
10:21Brasileirão round 29: Team of the week
October 18, 2014
22:01Daniel Alves' agent Dinah Santana admits the defender looks likely to leave Barcelona next summer
12:49Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto insists he would never join rivals Juventus
12:41Goalkeeper Neto hoping to remain in Europe if Fiorentina renewal doesn't materialise
10:35FIFA agent Francois Gallardo claims Barcelona defender Daniel Alves has already agreed to join Manchester United
October 17, 2014
15:07Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock hails Chelsea duo Diego Costa and Oscar
15:00Cruzeiro forward Júlio Baptista admits Real Madrid regrets and hails Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos
13:50Júlio Baptista: Lucas Silva would "fit in very nicely at Real Madrid"
13:42Cruzeiro forward Júlio Baptista admits joining Real Madrid "would be a wise move" for team-mate Lucas Silva
13:35Santos forward Leandro Damião could be set for six match ban following "shirt pull"
October 16, 2014
23:37Celta de Vigo forward Charles willing to be patient despite lack of playing time
23:24Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva admits he would like to play for Real Madrid
15:53Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva "proud and happy" with reported Real Madrid interest
15:46Roma defender Maicon believes "referee’s mistakes did affect" 3-2 defeat to Juventus
15:40Roma defender Maicon against video replays
October 15, 2014
20:16Bayern Munich Sporting Director Matthias Sammer hopes for speedy Thiago recovery
20:08Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago "profoundly disappointed and upset" with injury setback
19:53Report: Chelsea to compete with Real Madrid for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
19:42Foot injury ends Internacional defender Juan's season
12:13Multiple British teams monitoring K. Lierse S.K. winger Wamberto
11:35Defender Alex admits Milan must improve defensively
11:27Report: Arsenal set to compete with Chelsea for Benfica attacking midfielder Talisca
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