São Paulo are one of the big guns in Brazilian football, but they’ve had a wretched run over the last few years. Things hit a new low on Saturday as they slumped to defeat against São Caetano, although the players do have a chance to redeem themselves on Tuesday night.
São Paulo have a proud history having one the Brazilian national league six times, the Copa Libertadores three times and the São Paulo state championship twenty times. That puts them among Brazil’s most successful clubs. No other Brazilian club has won more Libertadores (Santos and Grêmio have also won it three times) titles and only Palmeiras (9), Santos (8), and Corinthians (7) have won the national league more times.
By these high standards, the last few years have been very poor. São Paulo finished 10th in 2016 and missed out on a spot in the following season’s Copa Libertadores. They appointed club legend Rogério Ceni as their coach at the start of last year (who brought in Englishman Michael Beale as one of his coaching team), but had a disappointing State Championship, they were dumped out of the Brazilian Cup to eventual winners Cruzeiro. Their league form was so poor that relegation seemed like a possibility for a while. They ditched Ceni and appointed Dorival Junior, who improved them only slightly, but at least they avoided relegation and finished 13th.
Dorival Junior is a good, respected coach, but even he hasn’t been able to turn around their fortunes. They’ve started this season even more poorly and only scraped into the state championship quarter finals. Dorival Junior was duly sacked and the club have now appointed Uruguayan coach Diego Aguire, who lost his first game in charge against São Caetano yesterday.
São Paulo have decent players in their team, but their woes remind me of those at Everton in the English Premier League. Everton, like São Paulo, have spent a lot of money on players, but they have taken a scattergun approach to recruitment and their team seems like a collection of individuals rather than a team. They have also bought several players that they don’t need and who play in the same position and not replaced key departure. This year for example, São Paulo have recruited Diego Souza Valdivia and Nene – three very good players, that all play in the same position: attacking midfield. Everton, of course, signed Rooney, Sigurdsson, Klaasen and Vlasic, all of whom play in the number 10 role.
Everton sold Romelu Lukaku and didn’t replace him until six months later. São Paulo sold their main striker Lucas Pratto and have only signed a replacement -Trellez – a few months later. Trellez is a decent player but his signing hasn’t really inspired too much excitement among São Paulo fans (Trellez scored nine league goals in a struggling Vitoria team last year, which isn’t great, but isn’t too bad either.) Straight after signing for São Paulo he got injured and is currently unavailable.
The team just isn’t clicking and the team is lacking in confidence. Such an environment is not an ideal one to blood young players, but that is exactly what São Paulo have done with Brenner, who is one of Brazil’s best young talents but looks bereft of confidence. I watched some of their game against Red Bull Brasil (RBB) last weekend and they were very poor for large parts. To be fair, after falling a goal behind they did come back and win the game 3 – 1. They also beat CRB 3 -0 in the Copa do Brasil in midweek. But their old demons came back to haunt them and they slumped to a 1 – 0 loss against São Caetano yesterday.
The fans aren’t happy with the situation and the way the club are being run in general and a protest was done before their match against RBB last weekend. The fans asked for more clarity and transparency about how the club is being run. Its not clear that they will be getting any, anytime soon, even though club legends Rai and Diego Lugano are now on the club’s executive team. The return match against São Caetano is on Tuesday night at the Morumbi. São Paulo fans will be hoping for a reaction. Will they get one?
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