Win for Portuguese coach boosts foreign legion in Brazil

Soccer Football - Copa Libertadores - Final - Palmeiras v Santos - Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - January 30, 2021 Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira reacts Pool via REUTERS/Mauro Pimentel

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Palmeiras’ Copa Libertadores victory over Santos on Saturday crowned a Portuguese coach as a winner of South America’s premier cup competition for the second time in a row.

Last season it was Jorge Jesus who led Flamengo to victory.

This year, it was the 42-year-old Abel Ferreira who takes the plaudits for Palmeiras, who beat Santos with a late header in a disappointing tussle at the Maracana stadium in Rio.

The victory in South America’s equivalent of the Champions League cements the winning image of Portuguese coaches in Brazil and comes at the end of a year where Brazilian clubs have experimented with foreign-born managers more than ever before.

Brazilian football is notoriously insular, with many believing their unprecedented success on the world stage – it is the only country to win the World Cup five times and home to all-time greats such as Pele, Ronaldo, Romario and Neymar – means they have little to learn from the outside world.

But Jesus’ success – he also led Flamengo to the Brazilian league title in 2019 – prompted other clubs to look beyond Brazil and Internacional, Atletico Mineiro, Vasco da Gama, Santos and Flamengo were among those hiring from afar.

The changes came with mixed success in a nation known for the capricious way coaches are hired and fired.

Argentine Eduardo Coudet led Internacional to the top of the Serie A before departing to Spain and Jorge Sampaoli’s Atletico Mineiro are still in with a chance of winning the league.

But Domenec Torret, the Spaniard who replaced Jesus at Flamengo, lasted just three months in charge before being fired. Portugal's Jesualdo Ferreira led Santos for only 15 games before heading back across the Atlantic.

His countryman Ricardo Sa Pinto was at Vasco da Gama for only two months and Venezuelan Rafael Dudamel was at Atletico Mineiro for even less time than that.

Abel Ferreira only arrived at Palmeiras in November with a reputation for getting the best out of young players.

Palmeiras boast a squad packed with young talent, with Gabriel Menino, 20, Danilo, 19, and Patrick de Paula, 21, all playing a part in Saturday’s win.

Ferreira becomes only the third non-South American coach to win the region’s premier club competition, after Jesus and Croatian Mirko Jozic, who won with Colo-Colo in 1991.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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