At 73, on the verge of ending (or not) his coaching career, Luis Felipe Scolari faces an impressive series of challenges: On Wednesday, Atletico will try to contain Flamengo and advance to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. In a few weeks, he will face Palmeiras for a place in the Copa Libertadores final. All this without neglecting the goal of taking the top four places in the Brazilian championship.
Filippao will attempt all these feats at an extraordinary moment in his career. In the past 30 years, since leaving Copa Brasil champion Criciúma in 1991, he has worked for only three clubs in Brazilian football: Grêmio, Palmeiras and Cruzeiro. In order to narrow the comparison to two other professionals of the same generation, in that time frame Vanderlei Luxembourgo managed 13 different teams. Abel Braga, 12.
Felipão shakes the field in an Athletico tracksuit – Photo: José Tramontin/Athletico
In a volatile market, where loyalty is an extinct commodity and contracts are cut off all the time, this is a rare path. As ge showed in this 2018 report, Felipão was always the one to come home to. So much so that after publication, nearly four years ago, the coach is back again in Cruzeiro and another in Grêmio.
Until, in May this year, Scolari changed his history and opened a new door, that of Atlético Paranaense. After Thiago Nunes was consecrated with the 2018 Copa América and Copa Brazil 2019 titles, no one was able to establish himself in the position of Hurricane coach. She was passed by Dorival Junior, Portugal’s Antonio Oliveira, Alberto Valentim and Fabio Carrell.
In this Brazilian championship, the club made the largest investment in its history. He reached R$52 million in just three players: Vitor Roque (17), Canobio (23) and Coelho (22). Another 12 million Rls in Pablo Celez (25 years old) and Brian Garcia (21 years old), as well as the return of idol Pablo. Then came Fernandinho and Alex Santana. To get a lot of expectations, the trend understood that it needed more experienced technicians than its predecessors.
– We had always hoped to hire him, but he was out of our budget parameters, he was a very expensive technician. Since his arrival, the environment that was a bit turbulent has changed. He transformed the team.” General ElectricBy phone, the president of Atlético, Mario Celso Petraglia.
Two calls to “yes”
The first invitation was made in April of this year, when Filipao was with his family in Portugal – and thus was turned down. The second was shortly after Fabio Carrell’s resignation, which lasted 21 days in office, and was accepted immediately.
Filippao arrived at Atletico to amass coach and manager positions, a role previously held by Paolo Autori. The passage of time, the positive results and the way he felt comfortable at the club led to him postponing the transfer. Now, Petraglia says, the decision is entirely up to Filipao.
The start of the year was very turbulent. He understood the needs of the club, became sensitive and took charge of the first team. Now, for the future, this is his decision: If he wants to continue to accumulate jobs, he can. If he wants to become just a manager, he appoints the coach – said Petraglia.
Atlético chief executive Alexandre Matos, who worked with Scolari at Palmeiras, the 2018 Brazilian champions and who was also responsible for his dismissal in 2019, says that in 2022 he found the same professional he had three years earlier.
– Even for the guys of our team, we needed someone who knew how to take the environment. He is good at it. He values the environment like few others in football. Matos says he doesn’t want to be bigger than everyone else, nor does he want to be a star in anything, he just makes the environment look as good as possible.
Move to the board of directors
An ordinary story told by agent Jorge Machado gives an idea of how difficult it was to “take” Filipao out of the countryside and put him in a more managerial role.
July 13 was the coldest day of 2022 in Curitiba. The thermometers reached below 3 degrees, and there was frost in the metropolitan area. The night before, Atletico beat Bahia 2-1 at the Arena, securing a place in the Copa del Rey quarter-final.
That Wednesday, Filipao’s manager Machado and two other players faced the cold for breakfast at CT do Caju, invited by Petraglia.
– Cold like that, it was snowing, it must have been about 70 degrees below zero. And Felipe is right there on the field, coaching everyone the day after a match they won, and they’re very happy. He didn’t need to be there, but he insisted.
Filipao Atletico – Photo: Jose Tramontin/Atletico
At Atlético, Filipao found a very young team that had not yet been able to keep up with the significant financial investment up until that point in the season. But within three months of work, he has moved the team from 13th to fifth in Serie A, as well as guiding them to crucial instances of knockout tournaments, which is his specialty.
Scolari is the oldest coach in elite Brazilian football. Under his leadership, the second youngest team in the Italian league (behind Red Bull Bragantino only) has achieved 16 wins, seven draws and four defeats, scoring 45 goals and conceding 26 goals.
Before him, Huriken played another 27 matches in the year, but with much less performance: 10 wins, eight draws and nine defeats, with 32 goals and scored 32. Her predecessor numbers include the state championship, from the lowest technical level to the tournaments played since Filippau’s arrival.
Filippao did it his own way: he used all the freedom granted by President Mario Celso Petraglia, whom he calls “a visionary,” and convinced players that his ideas were worth pursuing.
Young people listen to me and understand what we want in training. They are trying their best, and we have succeeded. What these guys need here is more experience, and that’s what I gave them,” the coach told GM last Sunday.
Filipao on Fernandinho’s arrival at Atletico – Photo: Jose Tramontin / Atletico
The assessment of those who work at Atletico is that Filippao’s presence – and his importance in football – helped to coordinate the atmosphere at the club. With no more stress needed, Scolari was able to handle the internal pressure in a less stressful way. As one of the staff says, the atmosphere has become more welcoming.
Filippao also changed the relationship between the technical leadership and the club – that is, between the current coach, whoever he is, and Mario Celso Petraglia, who makes all the decisions. The closeness between the two (less than five years in age) and the chief’s confidence in the trainer translate into a more armored division.
Thanks to this shield, Filipao was able to implement an ancient strategy: the formation of a unified group. The technician even changed the layout of the tables in the cafeteria – now there is one larger table, respectively, instead of several smaller ones. The goal is to get players to live together more closely. They also started with privacy in the cafeteria, used by all categories of the club’s youth, for 30 minutes a day.
– We agreed to his request. “People sit together, they are no longer completely separated,” Petraglia said.
Furthermore, the ancestors of a character like Scolari are different from those represented by his ancestors. Felipão, for all that he stands for, is naturally more independent, and therefore is better able to protect the cast. Management of Felipão’s locker room includes special care for players who eventually lose their positions or fall out of important games.
Filippau insists on speaking personally to those who have been bypassed to explain his standards, thus trying to value those who stop playing and preventing eventual discontent from increasing and polluting the environment.
Those close to the group say that Scolari manages to treat the players as if they were children, but he also knows how to say “no”. Among those garnering the most attention is young star Vitor Roque, who scored the last minute qualifying goal against Estudiantes, in the Libertadores. Despite the sudden success, the 17-year-old is still in the reserve and has been carefully handled so as not to skip his development stages.
Filipao and Vitor Roque after Atletico MG vs Atletico – Photo: Jose Tramontin / Atletico
Jorge Machado, the businessman who struck the deal with Atletico, says Filipao is “brilliant” at the club, finding a president with whom he has an affair and a young group willing to listen and learn from him.
Last Sunday, bolstered by the wisdom of someone who defined Heaven and Hell with a 7-1 score, Filippao seemed the most relaxed of men as he entered the small press room to visit the teams at the Maracana.
The Atletico reserve had just snatched 5-0 from the Flamengo reserve for the Brazilian Championship. The defeat caused minimal damage in the Italian league, losing a place (from fourth to fifth). But the concerns in Curitiba were (and still are) related to the game’s impact on another competition: the Copa do Brasil. Hurricane hosts Flamengo this Wednesday, after drawing 0-0 in the first leg in the Maracana.
With the calm that only experience gives her, Filippao tried to put everything in its place. He did not underestimate the size of the defeat and admitted his team’s defensive mistakes, praised the opponent and said it was unacceptable to talk about “scorched earth”. He did not criticize a single player, did not complain about excessive matches and competitions, but only looked to the future and invited the fans to the Arena.
– We’re working properly. And it won’t be that small drop that will make any difference.
Filippao receives a photo from an Atletico fan at the Baixada Arena – Photo: Robson Mafra/AGIF
After talking about the game, use the first plural to refer to the club he’s working for for the first time in his career.
– We, athletics, are taking very good steps […] It is a club that is expected to be one of the biggest in Brazil and South America in five, eight or ten years. Because we have room for that, and we have a president with a vision, who is always thinking about the future.
For Mario Celso Petraglia, this future will be built with Felipão.
– He’s definitely part of that future. For us, as a young club, it stands out both nationally and internationally. It is the biggest name in Brazilian football.
Discover a little girl’s love story for Atlético and Filipao
* Collaboration of Alexander Allati and Nadi Moawad.
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