Same as the old boss...
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - When Atletico Paranaense appointed German legend Lothar Matthaus as manager last month it hinted at a new dawn for Brazilian football.
With clubs held hostage to the short-term thinking of fanatical fans, directors are afraid to take a risk with new managers.
Instead they call on the same people over and over again, managers who for all their talent barely have time to stamp their authority on the team, never mind implement any kind of footballing philosophy.
Coaches can win trophies or perform miracles but if they lose a couple of consecutive games the pressure mounts and if results are not forthcoming after three or four matches then they are shown the door.
Today, managerial stints are measured in months rather than years. Of the 22 clubs that competed in the Brazilian First Division last year, only four went the whole season without firing their manager.
'The biggest problems facing Brazilian managers is the lack of time,' said Levir Culpi, the former boss of clubs like Botafogo, Cruzeiro and Sao Paulo.
'The pressure is on from the very start. It's gotten worse because the directors lack character and they don't plan ahead. The press are always stirring things up and the directors are susceptible to that pressure and to pressure from fans.'
Culpi acknowledged that Brazilian managers have never enjoyed the same prestige as their players. That is partly because only few of them are significantly better than their European counterparts but also because their brief is more limited. In Europe, managers identify players, sign them, motivate them, decide tactics, hire and fire, and often administer what goes on behind the scenes as well.
In Brazil, managers are rarely involved in identifying and signing players, never mind the larger questions of running the club's day-to-day affairs. At club level, the only big name Brazilian manager to join a major European side is Vanderlei Luxemburgo, the former Brazil coach who spent almost a year at Real Madrid.
|“||There are no new managers. The old guys just move around. ”|
|— Levir Culpi|
Unfortunately, he also brought a level of professionalism that was well below what he brought to many a midfield. Although he won five of seven games in the state championship (and drew the other two), he went AWOL just five weeks after signing his contract.
Matthaus informed officials he had to rush to Europe to deal with a serious personal problem and would be gone three or four days, according to club director Mário Celso Petraglia. But he was gone for almost fortnight before faxing them his resignation letter. The mysterious German never even returned to Brazil to pick up his things.
So it was no surprise when Atletico named Givanildo Oliveira to replace him. Oliveira is known in managerial circles, particularly in the north of the country, where he has coached Sport and Santa Cruz three times each and Nautico and Paysandu twice.
But he is exactly the kind of manager that Atletico tried to avoid when they went for Matthaus. Not because Oliveira is a bad manager; he has won eight championship titles in three different states and took America MG to the Brazilian Second Division in 1997. But he hardly represents a break with the past.
Oliveira is on the fringe of that group of 15 or 20 Brazilian managers who have at one time or another proven themselves capable of winning trophies, lifting moribund sides or saving struggling teams from relegation.
Those same names are the ones quoted with every vacancy.
With so much at stake and so little time, directors are reluctant to give untested managers a shot. Antonio Lopes, for example, has managed Vasco six times. Joel Santana has been at Flamengo a reported eight times. Abel Braga recently returned to Internacional for the fourth time.
'Quite clearly, new managers aren't appearing in Brazilian football,' said Guilherme Gomes, a columnist with the sports newspaper Lance. 'It's probably not their fault. The biggest culprits are the directors and the current philosophy that exists in the game today.'
'They choose someone who is well known because it is easier to justify to fans. Even if he has failed at other clubs it is less hassle for them than betting on a new name and risk being criticised. No one has time to appear. Only if they are very lucky. Something has to change.'
Changing that status quo was never going to be easy. But now it is harder than ever thanks to Lothar Matthaus.