Hello and welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. This week, we’re looking at the latest surrounding the Neymar transfer saga, after the PSG fans turned on him in unambiguous fashion over the weekend. We also have news of Rogério Ceni joining Cruzeiro in their battle to beat the drop. And we have the stats of a historic performance from Brazil at the Pan American Games in Lima. Happy reading!
Another torrid week for Neymar
In the week the rape charges against him were shelved in Brazil, Neymar’s future remains unclear. Set on leaving PSG just two years after having signed for EUR 220 million, the forward was the target of protests from the Parisian club’s support, during their opening league match this weekend.
PSG fans unfurled a banner saying “Neymar, f**k off,” while chants of “Neymar, hijo de puta” rang out from the stands throughout the match. Neymar himself was not in the stadium as his club defeated Nimes 3-0.
With the doors well and truly closed in Paris and sporting director Leonardo admitting that negotiations around his exit are “more advanced,” the question now concerns where Neymar will go next. At this stage, it would appear to be a straight choice between the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona—his former club.
French media have reported that PSG will dig in for a fee of EUR 200 million for the player, but have offered Real Madrid the option to take Neymar on loan for one year, to purchase him in 2020. A similar proposal made by Barcelona was reportedly rejected.
Though neither side have an evident “need” to sign Neymar, it would be slightly easier to fit him into the squad at Real Madrid. At Barcelona, slotting Neymar into a forward unit already containing Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembélé and new signing Antoine Griezmann, seems improbable. At Madrid, he could realistically take the place currently held by fellow Brazilian Vinicius Júnior.
Indecent proposal. If Real Madrid or Barcelona don’t work out, Neymar always has a back-up option in the Russian third division. On social media, FC Tyumen declared that they were “ready” to loan Neymar, offering him a monthly salary of 10,000 rubles (just over USD 150), an “amazing” apartment, a discount at the local barbers, and the chance to play in “the strongest league in the galaxy.” The deal could hit a snag, however, with FC Tyumen’s unwillingness to pay a loan fee. “We suggest you give it to us for free,” said the Russian club.
Ceni boards Cruzeiro
In the latest installment of the Brazilian managerial merry-go-round, Mano Menezes has been dismissed as coach of Belo Horizonte club Cruzeiro, being replaced by Rogério Ceni. Foreign observers will remember Rogério Ceni from his playing days, as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of São Paulo FC and the record-holder for the most goals scored by a goalkeeper—all from penalties and free-kicks.
He hung up his gloves at the end of 2015, and one year later he was given the manager’s job at São Paulo. Results were not good, and seven months later, with the team lying in the relegation zone and eliminated from domestic and continental cups, the club’s board had to make the awkward decision of telling one of São Paulo’s biggest idols that he had been sacked.
The following year, he was given the head coach job at Fortaleza, a traditionally well-supported club from the northeastern state of Ceará. Playing in the second division, he was under less pressure to produce immediate results and managed to thrive. Fortaleza won the second division title, and with that the right to play in the 2019 Série A.
He was adored at Fortaleza. Despite being there for little over 18 months, some fans reckon he was the greatest manager in the club’s history.
Now, having taken the job at Cruzeiro—who currently sit two positions below Fortaleza in the league—Rogério Ceni has a much harder challenge ahead of him. Cruzeiro is a club in crisis. Across all competitions, they have won only once in their last 12 matches and find themselves in the relegation zone. Behind the scenes, several club executives are tied up in corruption scandals.
This early in his managerial career, it would seem like a risk for Rogério Ceni to take a job which essentially requires someone to put out fires and keep the club in the first division. We have already seen how he suffered under pressure at São Paulo, and this role will hold similar challenges.
Were he to fail, the reputation he built at Fortaleza will be tarnished.
Brazil breaks records at Pan American Games
The Pan American Games came to a close in Lima this weekend, capping off a superb performance from the Brazilian delegation. The country’s athletes won the most medals (171) and most golds (55) in Brazil’s Pan American history, and came second in the overall medals table for the first time since 1963.
While the tournament is not the highest standard of international sport—for example, the United States tend to bring second-string athletes and still manage to top the medals table every time—the Pan American games is crucial for Olympic qualification, particularly when it comes to team events.
This time around, Brazil’s teams grabbed important Olympic spots in handball, equestrian, archery, table tennis, tennis, pentathlon, and sailing.
The final shot …
Serie A. Leaders Santos saw their seven-game winning streak broken, losing 3-2 away to rivals São Paulo. In second, Palmeiras were unable to capitalize, drawing their fixture 2-2 at home against Bahia, a match marred by the ugly sending off of Palmeiras midfielder Felipe Melo. The big winners of the round were Flamengo and Atlético-MG, who both managed home wins to close the gap between them and the top two.
Tragedy. Corinthians futsal player Douglas Nunes was killed in the early hours of Sunday morning, when he was shot after leaving a nightclub in the southern Brazilian town of Erechim. Reportedly, the 27-year-old forward was involved in an argument over paying the bill and the attack was not premeditated. A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murder.
Parapan. The Pan American Games had its closing ceremony in Lima yesterday, but the Parapan American Games is soon to get underway. The Brazilian Paralympic Committee has sent 337 athletes to Peru, almost one-quarter more than the last edition in 2015, and Brazil is looking to top the medals table for the fourth time in a row.
UFC. Rio de Janeiro born middleweight Rodolfo Vieira made his UFC debut on the weekend, defeating his Polish opponent Oskar Piechota with a second-round submission. There is much hype around Vieira, who takes his MMA record to 6-0 with Saturday’s win. Before stepping into the octagon, Vieira was five-time world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and has earned the nickname “The Black Belt Hunter.”
Brands. After we discussed the Formula 1-ization of Brazilian football shirts a few issues ago, Coca-Cola sports marketing exec Ricardo Fort weighed in on the matter on his Twitter page, criticizing the excessive brand placement on show during a Fluminense press conference. Indeed, this is another aspect of Brazilian football marketing which makes little sense. Besides the traditional media backdrops containing a slew of sponsors, brands often choose to leave their products (ranging from drinks and shoes to olive oil and dried beans) on display in front of the interviewee. Asked if he thought the exposure would increase product sales, Fort said “100% no.”
Balotelli. Far and away the most exciting transfer rumor of the year in Brazil, Flamengo have confirmed they are in talks to sign Italian forward Mario Balotelli, who is currently without a club. Flamengo director Marcos Braz said an official offer has not yet been made, due to the “complexity” of the deal, but assured that Balotelli has shown interest in coming to Brazil. “It was the first question I asked him, whether he would want to play in Brazil … he said that he would be happy to, if we agreed on a good deal.”
Goal of the Week
We’re going down to the lower leagues again and to the Copa Espírito Santo, where Rael scored this stunning finish in Serra’s win over Vilavelhense. Advancing down the left wing, Rael improvised with a lovely right-footed rabona which incredibly sailed over the keeper and into the back of the net. Another Puskas nominee?
- São Paulo 3-2 Santos
- Flamengo 3-1 Grêmio
- Inter 0-0 Corinthians
- Palmeiras 2-2 Bahia
Copa do Brasil
- Grêmio v. Athletico-PR (Wed. 9.30 pm)
- Vasco v. Flamengo (Sat. 7 pm)
- Grêmio v. Palmeiras (Sat. 9 pm)
- Cruzeiro v. Santos (Sun. 4 pm)