Flamengo are on their way to their third Copa Libertadores final in the last four editions. (Photo: Matías Napoli / EFE)
A football of the highest level that in José Amalfitani showed Velez from amateurs and a result that has practically closed one of the semifinals of the Libertadores Cup Almost without having to wait for the rematch at the Maracana, he has installed the gaze of South American football on him in these hours flamingo, the team that has long since established itself at the top of the subcontinent and which presents itself as the great candidate to still remain with the main club competition in America. Millionair investments, heaps of consecrations, gray cycles and changes of direction preceded this fortunate present.
In the first 59 editions of the Libertadores, the Mengao only played one final: the one who beat Cobreloa in 1981. In the last four editions he was champion in 2019 (he beat River in Lima in the decisive match), second in 2021 (he fell at Palmeiras in Montevideo) and everything indicates that this year he will return to give the gift in the duel for the crown that will be played in Guayaquil. In this period he also won two editions of Brasileirão, two of the Brazilian Super Cup, three of the Carioca Championship, two of the Guanabara Cup, one of the Rio Cup and one of the Recopa Sudamericana.
This cycle coincided with the four-year term of Rodolfo Landima former manager of Petrobras (he worked there for 26 years) who now works as a consultant to Jair Bolsonaro on hydrocarbon issues, which in April rejected a proposal from the president to head the board of directors of the state oil company and whose name was cited for a possible presidential candidacy that did not materialize.
Under Landim’s direction (he took office in January 2019 and was re-elected in December last year) and in a country that has significantly strengthened its internal competition over the past decade, Flamengo has bet very hard to make the leap in quality in an ocean of sharks where he competes with other potentates such as Palmeiras and Atlético Mineiro. This also allowed him to transfer his power to foreign borders.
If he was able to sustain those huge investments, it was because he also got a juicy stream of income. because in the rubronegroa club that prides itself on having 42 million supporters in Brazil, everything is excessive. As an example, suffice it to point out that he invoices $ 40.6 million a year for the broadcasting rights of his games and that he receives 28.7 million a year from Adidas and the eight companies whose names are stamped on the clothes. of the team (including, the bank BRB pays 6.1 million).
In this way he was able to form the dream team that won the Libertadores 2019. That year, for example, he repatriated Gerson (Rome), Rafinha (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Barbosa (Inter) and Filipe Luis (Atlético de Madrid) from Europe, and also added the Uruguayan Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro). The last three still wear the Rossoneri and on Wednesday they were the protagonists of the 4-0 at Liniers’ home. Éverton Ribeiro and Bruno Henrique also continue as playmaker three years ago, who is recovering from a ligament injury in his right knee suffered in June and which will require at least 10 months of recovery.
They were followed by other reinforcements that many teams on the continent would have envied, such as the Chileans Arturo Vidal (Inter) and Erick Pulgar (Fiorentina), the Uruguayan Guillermo Varela (Dynamo Moscow), the Brazilians Éverton (Benfica) and Ayrton Lucas (Spartak) Fly). And also the man who held a recital at Amalfi on Wednesday: Pedro. The Rio forward, trained in the Fluminense youth teams, arrived from Fiorentina in January last year in exchange for 14 million euros. Since then he has played 138 games and scored 52 goals. Of them, 11 were in this edition of the Libertadores and three against Vélez.
With this super-powerful troupe, Flamengo is thrilled to repeat the success of 2019. From that consecration to this promising present, not all have been joys, beyond the two international titles, the four national and the six state. He also had to go through opaque cycles which turned his bench into a warm seat.
When the Portuguese Jorge Jesús, architect of the 2019 champion team, cheered and returned to his country in July 2020 at the helm of Benfica, he was replaced by the Catalan Domènec Torrent, former assistant to Josep Guardiola, who led the team for only 103 days and 26 games: he was sacked in November after a 4-0 defeat to Atlético Mineiro. He was replaced by former goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who won the Brasileirão 2020, the Guanabara Cup and the Carioca Championship (both in 2021). But they didn’t have much patience with him either: he was sent off in July 2021, when the team was 12th in the local competition.
Renato Gaúcho took the helm and took the Mengao to another continental final. However, the 2-1 overtime defeat to Palmeiras was sentenced to him after just 139 days of work. Portuguese Paulo Sousa lasted only 24 more days: he left the Polish team to take office in December 2021 and was sacked in June. With him on the bench, the team had comfortably won their group at the Libertadores, but were 14th at the Brasileirão.
As Jorge Jesús and Renato Gaúcho had done, Dorival Junior caused an immediate shock. Since taking over, the Fla records 17 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats. And they have been undefeated in 15 games (13 wins and 2 draws) since falling 1-0 against Corinthians in Sao Paulo for Brasileirão’s 16th round. This allowed him to move up to second place in the national competition, seven points behind Palmeiras, when there are still 14 games to go.
But it’s not just a question of numbers. Flamengo, with its elite individuals, have formed a team in all respects: solid in defense, very tidy in the center, supersonic, wide and intelligent in attack. Against this team that has won 10 of the 11 games in this Copa Libertadores (they only matched Talleres in Cordoba), who scored 30 goals and conceded only 7, Vélez will have to try the feat on Wednesday at the Maracana. In football there are no impossible things, but …