Cruzeiro face the biggest crisis period in the club’s history
The team came from a bi-championship of the Copa do Brasil (2017 and 2018) and had beaten their rival Atlético in the final of the Minas Gerais Championship. However, they did not expect, however, that the second half of that year would mark the beginning of the biggest institutional crisis in the club’s history.
After reports from TV Globo in May 2019, the Civil Police began an investigation into irregular transactions and the use of front companies to hide crimes committed within the club. From then on, Fox was unable to take off in the season, was eliminated from all competitions that he competed in and began the fight against relegation in the Brazilian Championship.
Four (4) coaches – only in 2019 – tried to save Cruzeiro from falling to the second division, which was confirmed on December 8 of that same year – the first relegation in the club’s history.
The investigation and the fall to Serie B opened up a reality that the fans did not know, and which was hidden by its directors: the club had a debt of more than R$1 billion, did not have cash to put players’ salaries in day, and would face serious problems in the legal sphere in a short period of time.
2020: the first year in Serie B
After relegation, Cruzeiro tried to turn the page and started a revolution within the club. The then president Wagner Pires de Sá was persuaded to resign from the position – which he had held since 2017 –, with several expensive players, and the focus was on building a younger and cheaper team to return to the elite of Brazilian football. But the dream of rebuilding became a nightmare.
A management board formed by successful businessmen took control of the club and stayed until the president-elect, Sergio Santos Rodrigues, assumed the presidency in May 2020. The lack of money and debts knocking at the door would be the biggest challenges for the new leader. Businessman Vittorio Medioli, one of the board members at that time, even said that the only solution for Cruzeiro was to file for bankruptcy and start over from scratch.
Given the situation, the team was quickly eliminated in the Copa do Brasil and the 2020 Minas Gerais Championship and, a few days before the start of Serie B, suffered a penalty from FIFA with the loss of six (6) points for not having made the payment to an Arab club for hiring the player Denílson, in 2016. Cruzeiro, then, would already start its campaign in the second season with a negative score on the table.
As if the aforementioned problems were not enough, several former players began to sue the club for not complying with the contract termination agreements at the beginning of the year. Striker Fred, for example, filed a lawsuit against Cruzeiro in which he charged more than R$70 million in court. Other FIFA sanctions also appeared and the club was even banned from making new signings for the remainder of that season.
The result could not be different: Raposa did not get promotion to the Serie A. Even after hiring the famous coach Felipão, the 4th coach that season, Cruzeiro finished Serie B in 11th place and would have to play in the second division again in 2021. Felipão did not want to stay for the following year and his manager even commented that there was even a lack of food at the club’s premises.
2021: the second year in Serie B and the players’ strike
The 2021 season looks almost like a “reprise” of the previous year. Former players and coaches sued the club – like Rodriguinho, Edílson, Egídio and Rogério Ceni. FIFA sanctions for non-payment of debts to other teams also continued and, in June, Cruzeiro was again banned from signings for not having paid the Defender of Uruguay for the hiring of midfielder De Arrascaeta.
For fans, the start of the season was more exciting. Cruzeiro were doing well in the state and in the Copa do Brasil and had a lot of confidence in the work of the young coach Felipe Conceição. The usual wage delays, however, returned. The club ended up being eliminated from all competitions again, even before the start of Serie B, and the constant changes of coach were also repeated. The current commander is Vanderlei Luxemburgo, their 3rd this season.
Luxa took over as Coach of Cruzeiro in August and said that her acceptance of the position was conditional on the regularization of the athletes’ salaries. The coach had an optimistic speech of recovery and of taking Cruzeiro back to the elite of national football, even with the team bordering the relegation zone for Serie C, at the time.
Fox even improved, distanced themselves from the “relegation zone” and currently occupy 12th place in the Serie B of the Brazilian Championship. The problem is that only the top four (4) places move up to the 1st division, and the club is 11 points behind the 4th place, with only eight (8) rounds left in the tournament. The chance of access is remote – more precisely, 0.18%, according to mathematicians at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
Salaries were also not paid up to date. At the beginning of October, Cruzeiro players announced a training strike due to late payment of salaries and lack of satisfaction from the board. Goalkeeper Fábio, one of the greatest idols in history and current captain of the team, said: “We will stop training in voice for all employees who love the club and are helpless. Unfortunately, the way athletes and employees are being managed became intolerable and unjustifiable.”
Players went four (4) days without reporting for training, and the club now fears another FIFA punishment for points loss, this time due to salary delays. Cruzeiro prepares for the third year in the 2nd division, again in a nightmare scenario for the fans.
What does the future hold for Cruzeiro?
The fans want the resignation of the current president, Sergio Santos Rodrigues, who failed, in the two seasons he was in charge, to solve the club’s endless problems. The director, however, said that he still trusts Raposa’s recovery and that he is looking for investors and entrepreneurs from Cruzeiro to help change the situation.
Another hope for the fans is Cruzeiro’s project of becoming a club-company. President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) passed a law in August of this year that regulates the transformation of football clubs into businesses. The problem is to find someone willing to take over the entire situation of the club and put money into an institution without credit in the national and international market.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Or did Cruzeiro enter an endless hole? Despite the nebulous moment that this great Brazilian football club is going through, its huge crowd does not give up and dreams of seeing them rise again and return to their glory days.
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