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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August 22, 2014
23:18Former Brazil international Sócrates blamed politics for short stint in Serie A with Fiorentina
23:15São Paulo’s Douglas close to Barcelona move, according to reports
23:06Agent of Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva confirms contact with Internazionale and Manchester United
22:48Report: Cagliari have €1.5 million for Gremio defender Werley rejected
22:38Adryan still committed to Cagliari despite Leeds United links
22:30Dodô believes it was his destiny to move to Internazionale
22:00Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva hasn’t ruled out move away from Anfield this summer
16:25Liverpool’s Coutinho discusses need to continue improving
16:11Neymar set to miss Barcelona’s La Liga opener
10:15Report Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano under consideration as Juventus target new forward
August 21, 2014
18:16Liverpool’s Coutinho: I expected to miss out on the World Cup
18:00Philippe Coutinho praises Liverpool ‘family’ for helping improve his confidence
12:03Zico: Liverpool’s football last season was beautiful
11:54Zico: Philippe Coutinho’s call-up is no surprise
10:51Léo Baptistão expecting Rayo Vallecano to have a great season
August 20, 2014
23:33Léo Baptistão excited after completing Rayo Vallecano loan move
23:15Kia Joorabchian believes Douglas Costa could move to AC Milan
23:00Willian: Chelsea must win titles this season
22:30Chelsea ace Willian looking to score more goals
21:55Report: West Ham United step up interest in Corinthians forward Paolo Guerrero with loan enquiry
18:36Report: Premier League trio plus Atlético de Madrid interested in Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
16:56Interim Brazil Assistant Coach Mauro Silva believes Dunga is the right man to revive the Seleção
14:17Report: Roma to target Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano if Mattia Destro is sold
12:57Report: Internazionale hold talks over F.C. Nordsjælland forward Emiliano Marcondes
12:25Shakhtar Donetsk attacker Douglas Costa open to AC Milan move
August 19, 2014
23:52Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino eager to secure deal for Cagliari midfielder Adryan
23:52Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto hoping for Brazil call up
23:42Agent Alessandro Alberti hails Jefferson Brazil call up and admits Botafogo may have to sell him
23:38Agent Alessandro Alberti pushes Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson towards Italy
23:34Shakhtar Donetsk Head Coach Mircea Lucescu confirms Fiorentina and Milan interest in Fernando
17:06Chelsea manager José Mourinho defends Diego Costa after striker booked for diving
16:09New Brazil head coach Dunga names just ten players selected for World Cup in his squad for September friendlies
15:40Neymar takes part in ice bucket challenge and calls on Juan Camilo Zúñiga to continue the campaign
15:17Neymar shines on return from injury for Barcelona
14:56Dani Alves booed by Barcelona fans with move away looking likely
August 18, 2014
22:52Representative confirms Cagliari midfielder Adryan is in talks with Leeds United
22:46Rafael Cabral, Jorginho and Henrique included in Napoli squad to face Athletic Bilbao
22:38Shakhtar Donetsk Head Coach Mircea Lucescu admits Douglas Costa could leave
22:35Internazionale defender Juan Jesus ready for Stjarnan tie
14:20Liverpool’s Coutinho wants more goals in the 2014/15 season
14:07Figueirense scores late on against Atlético Mineiro to grab vital Brasileirão point
13:45Alan Kardec returns to haunt old club Palmeiras as São Paulo earn 2-1 win
13:40Neymar cleared to return for this evening's Barcelona match
13:30Arsenal may move for Shakhtar star Bernard
13:27Fred misses a penalty as Fluminense defeated 2-0 by Botafogo
13:21Flamengo grab second straight win to ease relegation battle
13:11Rogerio Ceni plays down title chances after Palmeiras win
13:11Ricardo Goulart scores again to help Cruzeiro defeat Santos
12:56Thiago Motta's nose broken by Brandao, PSG confirm
August 17, 2014
13:49Dunga wary of Colombia quality ahead of next month's international friendly
August 20, 2014
16:56Interim Brazil Assistant Coach Mauro Silva believes Dunga is the right man to revive the Seleção
August 12, 2014
23:04Brazil Under-20 Head Coach Alexandre Gallo intrigued by World Cup tactical trends
23:00Selecao Under-20 Head Coach Alexandre Gallo believes it will be difficult for Brazil to collectively improve
18:03Brazilian flair to win European Fantasy League in 2014/15
August 11, 2014
23:19Under-20 Head Coach Alexandre Gallo compares Brazil with Germany
August 09, 2014
22:34Alexandre Gallo: Germany an example, but Brazilians don't have the same patience
August 08, 2014
22:47Brazil Under-20 Head Coach Alexandre Gallo hopes more attention will be paid to youth system
August 07, 2014
13:27Dunga takes Brazil back to the future
July 23, 2014
17:02Napoli goalkeeper Rafael Cabral hoping for Seleção return under Dunga
July 19, 2014
23:19Gerard Houllier explains why Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball
23:13Neymar believes Brazil can learn from Germany and Spain
23:07Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli welcomes introduction of vanishing spray into Serie A after World Cup success
July 14, 2014
23:57FIFA President Sepp Blatter denies involvement in selection of Lionel Messi as Golden Ball winner
23:48FIFA Secretary-General Jérôme Valcke expects Russia and Qatar World Cups to match Brazil
23:13Maicon philosophical over Brazil World Cup disappointment
July 13, 2014
23:44Fred hopes Fluminense will give him time off after World Cup disappointment
23:41Fred confirms he has retired from international football
09:54Sambafoot Sunday: Brazil's 2014 World Cup Fallout: New Failures
July 12, 2014
23:51Joachim Low: Germany can be the first European nation to win in Latin America
23:48Dunga: Germany played as a unit
23:44Thiago Silva left frustrated by Netherlands defeat
23:35Oscar has "horrible feeling" after Netherlands defeat
July 11, 2014
22:50Germany forward Thomas Muller looking forward to playing in the Maracana
July 09, 2014
23:55Neymar agent Wagner Ribeiro makes astonishing attack of Luiz Felipe Scolari
23:51Brazil Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insists Germany defeat "not all bad"
23:48Cafu refused entry to Brazil dressing room after Germany defeat
15:30Tim Vickery Column: A look at Brazil’s capitulation against Germany and what now for Luiz Felipe Scolari
July 08, 2014
23:59Luiz Felipe Scolari: “Who is responsible for this result? I am, it’s me”
23:55Germany forward Miroslav Klose "truly happy" to break Ronaldo's World Cup scoring record
23:50Julio Cesar struggles to comprehend Brazil defeat
23:39Brazil 1-7 Germany: Ruthless Germany tear Seleção apart to secure historic semi-final victory
23:29Brazil 1-7 Germany: Player ratings
20:10Brazil v Germany: line-ups
July 07, 2014
22:25Brazil legend Amarildo believes Neymar absence could work to the Selecao's advantage against Germany
22:22Germany Head Coach Joachim Low wary of "robust" Brazil
22:05Maicon disappointed with refereeing on Neymar challenge
July 06, 2014
09:25Sambafoot Sunday: Ney Problem - Can Brazil Cope Without Neymar?
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 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
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
August 22, 2014
23:18Former Brazil international Sócrates blamed politics for short stint in Serie A with Fiorentina
23:06Agent of Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva confirms contact with Internazionale and Manchester United
22:48Report: Cagliari have €1.5 million for Gremio defender Werley rejected
22:38Adryan still committed to Cagliari despite Leeds United links
10:15Report Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano under consideration as Juventus target new forward
August 20, 2014
21:55Report: West Ham United step up interest in Corinthians forward Paolo Guerrero with loan enquiry
18:36Report: Premier League trio plus Atlético de Madrid interested in Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
14:17Report: Roma to target Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano if Mattia Destro is sold
12:57Report: Internazionale hold talks over F.C. Nordsjælland forward Emiliano Marcondes
August 19, 2014
23:52Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto hoping for Brazil call up
23:52Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino eager to secure deal for Cagliari midfielder Adryan
23:42Agent Alessandro Alberti hails Jefferson Brazil call up and admits Botafogo may have to sell him
23:38Agent Alessandro Alberti pushes Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson towards Italy
23:34Shakhtar Donetsk Head Coach Mircea Lucescu confirms Fiorentina and Milan interest in Fernando
August 18, 2014
22:52Representative confirms Cagliari midfielder Adryan is in talks with Leeds United
22:46Rafael Cabral, Jorginho and Henrique included in Napoli squad to face Athletic Bilbao
22:38Shakhtar Donetsk Head Coach Mircea Lucescu admits Douglas Costa could leave
22:35Internazionale defender Juan Jesus ready for Stjarnan tie
August 16, 2014
23:11Report: Juventus to target Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar as alternative to Benfica captain Luisao
23:05Zlatan Ibrahimovic confident new signings such as David Luiz can help Paris Saint-Germain win the Champions League
23:04Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants Bastia forward Brandao banned for life
22:56Thiago Motta head butted by Brandao following Paris Saint-Germain's victory against Bastia
22:20Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo grateful for World Cup reception from Brazilian fans
August 15, 2014
23:06Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes new signings such as Diego Costa and Filipe Luis have made his side title contenders
22:57Ronaldinho's agent and brother Roberto Assis seemingly opens door to Palmeiras switch
22:49Internazionale midfielder Hernanes wary of Stjarnan threat
22:45Internazionale midfielder Hernanes ready for the Europa League after returning in PAOK draw
22:41Benfica President Luís Filipe Vieira insisted over captain Luisão despite Juventus rumours
22:37Adriano open to Catania move
August 13, 2014
21:53Report: Juventus target Benfica captain Luisão
21:45VfL Wolfsburg General Manager Klaus Allofs insists Luiz Gustavo is not for sale
21:41Luiz Gustavo insists he is happy at VfL Wolfsburg
21:34Santos Vice President Odílio Rodrigues Filho denies Ronaldinho talks
August 12, 2014
23:08Diego Costa eager to prove himself at Chelsea
22:56Sampdoria sell midfielder Renan to Al Nasr
August 11, 2014
23:00Roberto Carlos believes Real Madrid's Galácticos gives opposition extra motivation
22:55Roberto Carlos warns Real Madrid need to be patient with Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez
22:49Four Brazilians named in Internazionale Europa League squad
22:38Roma's Leandro Castan hopes defensive partner Mehdi Benatia will stay at the club
22:34Roma defender Leandro Castan aiming for the Scudetto
August 10, 2014
22:35Cruzeiro forward Júlio Baptista expects Real Madrid to win more trophies
22:30Barcelona Head Coach Luis Enrique explains with Daniel Alves missed HJK friendly
09:12Report: Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva eager to join former Head Coach Rafael Benítez at Napoli
08:42Report: Virtus Lanciano set to sign Hellas Verona goalkeeper Nicolas
August 09, 2014
22:41Cruzeiro forward Julio Baptista believes Real Madrid are favourites for the UEFA Super Cup
22:29Alexandre Gallo: Brazil are still the "best in the world in terms of technical ability"
22:23President Enrico Preziosi confirms former Sao Paulo defender Diego Lugano will not be joining Genoa
August 08, 2014
22:41Robinho aiming for the Brasileirão title with Santos
22:38Santos Head Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira confirms Robinho will feature against Corinthians on Sunday
22:32Robinho delighted to return "home" at Santos
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