Coaches steal limelight ahead of all-Brazilian Libertadores final
This year’s Copa Libertadores final between Flamengo and Palmeiras, the last two winners of South America’s equivalent of the Champions League, is the second all-Brazil affair in a row and the focus is as much on the coaches as the players.
On one side is Abel Ferreira, the Portuguese coach who guided Palmeiras to the title last year and is aiming to become the first man to win two Libertadores in a row since Carlos Bianchi did it with Boca Juniors in 2001.
On the other is Renato Gaucho, the coach of Flamengo, where he took over in July after a stellar spell at Gremio, a team he led to the Libertadores in 2017.
Both have outsize personalities and have had successful careers, but they approach the match under different levels of scrutiny.
Ferreira’s team have not won any of their last four matches but he is still considered an icon at the club, in large part for last year’s victory, their second Libertadores triumph and the first since 1999.
Although he has been at Palmeiras only 13 months, he is the second longest-serving coach in Brazil’s first division.
“He won the Libertadores last year and he’s in another Libertadores final,” Renato said of his rival. “Few coaches have managed to do what he has done. It’s not easy to come to Brazil and win the titles he’s won.”
Renato is considered one of the greatest Libertadores performers in Brazilian history, winning the title as both a player and a coach.
But he is nevertheless under fire from his own supporters for his team selections, for not celebrating goals enthusiastically enough, and even for talking to opposition players during matches.
The criticism seems harsh for a man who has guided his team to the Libertadores final and to second in the league with four games remaining.
“Flamengo fans are very demanding and sometimes they go over the score,” said Ronaldo, the former Real Madrid and Brazil striker and himself a boyhood Flamengo fan. “In the best of circumstances a coach needs time to implement his ideas. Renato is doing very well.”