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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January 31, 2015
18:23Dante’s Bayern hammered at Wolfsburg
17:28Thiago Silva happy with return for PSG
17:19Liverpool's Lucas Leiva explains celebrations against Aston Villa
17:09Corinthians in negotiations with Vagner Love
16:05Internacional to sign Manchester United's Midfielder Anderson
13:13Wenger reveals Arsenal’s methods over Gabriel Paulista signing
13:08Manchester City's Fernandinho banned for six months for speeding
12:57Tite ignores interest from Boca and wants Lodeiro to stay at Corinthians
12:53Muricy Ramalho says Alexandre Pato will get his chances in the team
12:49Barcelona president says Neymar is a footballing magician
09:10Fred renews his contract with Fluminense
January 30, 2015
21:46Carlos, the next Brazilian on his way to Shakhtar Donetsk?
21:33Sao Paulo have a deal with Racing's Adrian Centurion
17:10Manchester City midfielder Fernando respects and admires Matic
16:41Paolo Guerrero has other offers but priority is to stay at Corinthians
16:37Fluminense don't want to sell Gérson and denies Juventus link
16:31Walter says he has lost weight; also revealed three offers
16:25Atletico Madrid players condemn Neymar
14:19Gabriel Paulista set for Arsenal debut
12:03Lucas Leiva: 'I am enjoying my football with Liverpool'
11:58Internacional reaches agreement with Anderson who left Manchester United
11:55Tottenham reject AC Milan's loan offer for Paulinho
11:53Fernandinho: 'Manchester City can beat Chelsea without Toure'
11:42Manchester United's Anderson a target for Internacional
11:33Gabriel Paulista: 'Arsenal should be competing for title'
11:27Chelsea's Cahill defends Costa
January 29, 2015
22:30Report: Manchester United midfielder Anderson close to sealing Internacional switch
22:19Report: Schalke 04 defender Felipe Santana set to join Olympiacos
22:09Grêmio forward Júnior Viçosa joins Swiss Challenge League side FC Chiasso on a free transfer
15:41Guerrero seeks Europe return
15:10Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho taking Ronaldinho inspiration
14:00Lucas Lima explains why he decided to stay at Santos
13:52Wolfsburg make bid for Fluminense's Kenedy; an English club also enquired
13:41Neymar dreams about first Olympic Gold medal
13:38Cruzeiro have a deal in place to sign talented youngster Pará from Bahia
13:34São Paulo's offer for Éder Álvarez Balanta has been rejected
11:42Manchester United's Rafael takes up golf while recovering
11:27Chelsea's Willian: 'There was more pressure at Corinthians'
11:17Chelsea's Diego Costa handed violent conduct charge
11:09Willian desperate for a trophy with Chelsea
January 28, 2015
20:41New Arsenal signing Gabriel Paulista has "huge desire to play in the Premier League"
18:11Pereira could be on way out at Manchester United
18:02Chelsea: Mourinho backs Diego Costa
17:02Milan and Valencia consider Paulinho bids
16:00Fluminense midfielder Darío Conca denies he is joining Shanghai SIPG for the money
15:51Report: Juventus close in on €11 million deal for Fluminense midfielder Gerson
15:43Grêmio officials deny defender Rhodolfo is set to join Internazionale on loan
14:43Atlético-PR's Marcos Guilherme wanted by Bayern Munich and Shakhtar
14:09Manchester City's Fernandinho chosen by Shakhtar fans as the best Brazilian in their history
14:06Roma's offer for Luiz Adriano considered low by Shakhtar
January 31, 2015
13:13Wenger reveals Arsenal’s methods over Gabriel Paulista signing
13:08Manchester City's Fernandinho banned for six months for speeding
12:57Tite ignores interest from Boca and wants Lodeiro to stay at Corinthians
12:53Muricy Ramalho says Alexandre Pato will get his chances in the team
12:49Barcelona president says Neymar is a footballing magician
January 30, 2015
16:41Paolo Guerrero has other offers but priority is to stay at Corinthians
16:37Fluminense don't want to sell Gérson and denies Juventus link
16:31Walter says he has lost weight; also revealed three offers
11:58Internacional reaches agreement with Anderson who left Manchester United
11:55Tottenham reject AC Milan's loan offer for Paulinho
January 29, 2015
14:00Lucas Lima explains why he decided to stay at Santos
13:52Wolfsburg make bid for Fluminense's Kenedy; an English club also enquired
13:41Neymar dreams about first Olympic Gold medal
13:38Cruzeiro have a deal in place to sign talented youngster Pará from Bahia
13:34São Paulo's offer for Éder Álvarez Balanta has been rejected
January 28, 2015
14:43Atlético-PR's Marcos Guilherme wanted by Bayern Munich and Shakhtar
14:09Manchester City's Fernandinho chosen by Shakhtar fans as the best Brazilian in their history
14:06Roma's offer for Luiz Adriano considered low by Shakhtar
12:22Cruzeiro want Felipe Gedoz from Brugge but a transfer is difficult
12:17Alexandre Pato interests Everton
January 27, 2015
14:50São Paulo to sign Adrián Centurión from Racing
14:41Brazil U20's Marcos Guilherme says Uruguay's Facundo Castro called him a 'monkey' several times
12:05Luiz Adriano will only leave if the offer satisfies Shakhtar
12:00Éverton Ribeiro is in London to have his Al-Ahli medical
11:56Neymar thinks Cristiano Ronaldo should be punished
January 26, 2015
16:41Douglas Costa will be happy to continue at Shakhtar if they reject Chelsea's offer
12:04Darío Conca will earn more than Neymar at Shanghai Dongya
11:53Luiz Adriano sees advantage in playing in Italy and admits AS Roma interest
11:47Paulinho wants clarification over his Tottenham future
January 24, 2015
13:45Santos trying to sell Patito Rodríguez
13:40Tite says he wants Jádson to stay at Corinthians
13:35Fluminense coach Cristóvão says Fred is close to renewing his contract
13:30Cruzeiro reveals other offers for Éverton Ribeiro
13:26Cruzeiro president says Real Madrid paid what they asked for Lucas Silva
January 23, 2015
12:46Internacional might find it difficult to hold onto Aránguiz
12:42Álvaro Pereira to leave São Paulo and join Estudiantes
12:40Santos sign Marquinhos Gabriel on loan
12:37Cruzeiro will unveil De Arrascaeta today
12:33Douglas Costa confirms Shakhtar rejected Chelsea's initial offer
January 22, 2015
13:47Douglas Coutinho will go to Holland, says Doyen Group's representative
13:43Fluminense striker Fred has an offer from China and can leave soon
13:25Bernard again says he's unhappy at Shakhtar
13:17Lucas Silva's father confirms the rapprochement of Real Madrid
13:11Real Madrid willing to meet Cruzeiro's demands for Lucas Silva
January 20, 2015
15:12Jádson wants to continue at Corinthians
15:07Flamengo wants Cícero and Walter from Fluminense
14:46Fluminense coach Cristóvão also admits Conca is on his way out of the club
14:12Agent says De Arrascaeta went to Cruzeiro because of Internacional's delay
14:05Brazil U20 recover from the loss against Uruguay and overcomes Venezuela
January 19, 2015
13:35Montillo intends to return to Brazil and has an offer from Flamengo
January 19, 2015
20:37Willian: 'Chelsea controlled the game'
January 11, 2015
19:49Coritiba confirm the signings of Negueba and Pedro Ken
17:17De Arrascaeta to Internacional can be announced any time now, says Defensor president
January 04, 2015
16:03Mircea Lucescu: Tour of Brazil will become part of Shakhtar history
15:08Lucescu: Shakhtar’s Brazil tour will be part of the history
January 03, 2015
12:16Sergei Palkin: It’s important for us to play with the top teams of the Brazilian league
January 02, 2015
16:49Cruzeiro confirm survey from Mexico regarding Anselmo Ramon
15:28Internacional have competition from Europe for De Arrascaeta
14:16No contacts with Internacional, says Sandro's agent
14:13Shakhtar goes on tour across Brazil
December 30, 2014
17:18Fluminense director says no offer for Darío Conca
December 25, 2014
14:37Leandro Damião to Cruzeiro is back on
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
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
January 31, 2015
16:05Internacional to sign Manchester United's Midfielder Anderson
January 29, 2015
22:30Report: Manchester United midfielder Anderson close to sealing Internacional switch
22:19Report: Schalke 04 defender Felipe Santana set to join Olympiacos
22:09Grêmio forward Júnior Viçosa joins Swiss Challenge League side FC Chiasso on a free transfer
January 28, 2015
20:41New Arsenal signing Gabriel Paulista has "huge desire to play in the Premier League"
18:11Pereira could be on way out at Manchester United
17:02Milan and Valencia consider Paulinho bids
16:00Fluminense midfielder Darío Conca denies he is joining Shanghai SIPG for the money
15:51Report: Juventus close in on €11 million deal for Fluminense midfielder Gerson
15:43Grêmio officials deny defender Rhodolfo is set to join Internazionale on loan
January 27, 2015
23:37Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Douglas Costa praises Chelsea manager José Mourinho
21:52Report: Fenerbahçe target Grêmio forward Marcelo Moreno
21:39Cruzeiro agree deal to sign defender Eugenio Mena on a free transfer from Santos
21:29São Paulo loan defender Luis Ricardo to Brasileirão Série B side Botafogo
January 26, 2015
22:32Midfielder Lucas Silva "felt emotional" during Real Madrid unveiling
22:03Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista given work permit to secure Arsenal move
21:55Report: Milan ready to rival Al Ahli Club bid for Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro
21:45Report: Roma to pursue Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano as alternative to Chelsea's Mohamed Salah
January 25, 2015
20:45Report: Queens Park Rangers offered Corinthians forward Alexandre Pato
20:40Manager Arsene Wenger confirms Arsenal are set to sign Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista
January 24, 2015
22:39Report: Everton latest club linked with Corinthians forward Alexandre Pato
22:30Report: Arsenal set to seal €14.7 million deal for Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista
January 23, 2015
22:13Report: Manchester United to rival Arsenal bid for Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista
22:02Sporting CP announce deal for Anzhi defender Ewerton
21:57Real Madrid sign Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
January 22, 2015
16:22Arsenal are close to finally signing Gabriel Paulista - Wenger confirmed
January 21, 2015
23:25Report: Manchester United quoted €86 million for Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos
15:46Forward Ryder Matos eager to earn a starting berth at Palmeiras after joining on loan from Fiorentina
15:37Report: Milan tracking Fluminense forward Kenedy
15:34Lazio confirm they have agreed a deal with Sporting CP for defender Maurício
January 20, 2015
15:10Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho hopeful of Wembley appearance
15:00Fluminense Head Coach Cristóvão Borges confirms offer from China for midfielder Darío Conca
January 19, 2015
15:56Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu explains why his team are touring Brazil
15:20Barcelona confirm thigh injury will keep defender Douglas out for "three to four weeks"
15:10Report: Juventus to rival Roma bid for Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano
15:00Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista refusing to be distracted by reported Arsenal interest
15:00Report: Midfielder Lucas Leiva open to Liverpool exit amid Atlético de Madrid and Internazionale interest
January 18, 2015
22:59Galatasaray defender Alex Telles denies he has received offers to move elsewhere
January 17, 2015
22:46Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho prefers to praise team despite individual contribution of Diego Costa and Oscar to win over Swansea City
January 16, 2015
22:40Juan Jesus unhappy that with Giorgio Chiellini's handling of 'elbow' altercation
22:31Internazionale defender Juan Jesus explains 'elbow' on Giorgio Chiellini
17:19Report: São Paulo are back in for Darío Conca
January 15, 2015
16:37Report: Sampdoria consider Corinthians forward Alexandre Pato as alternative to Everton's Samuel Eto'o
15:46Ronaldo open to making return to playing with North American Soccer League side Fort Lauderdale Strikers
15:07Veteran defender Betão rejoins Dynamo Kyiv on a free transfer
January 13, 2015
15:12São Paulo have received an offer for Osvaldo from Al-Ahli
13:15Lucas Lima to stay at Santos
12:13Report: Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva once again linked with a move to Napoli
09:38Report: Milan in talks with Atlético de Madrid over possible deal for full-back Guilherme Siqueira
09:29Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson disappointed injury forced him off in the Derby della Capitale
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