This week, the Brazilian national team’s coaching situation became clearer and somehow more confusing at the same time.
Local FA president Ednaldo Rodrigues is confident Carlo Ancelotti will take over the job in a year’s time when his contract with Real Madrid expires. However, there is no confirmation from Ancelotti, and there can be none in the official sense. He is free to sign a pre-contract in January once his contract with Real runs into the last six months.
In the meantime, however, a number of important points still need to be agreed. Salary could be one of them; the composition of his replacement staff could be different. And a question that could well become a bone of contention: where will he be stationed?
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Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni, for example, lives in Spain and there’s a certain logic to that as it puts him closer to most of his players. Would Ancelotti be allowed to do the same, or would he be expected to spend much of his time in Brazil?
It’s true that there are months to work out these details, but that raises another big question: what happens to the Selecao in the meantime? A temporary caretaker manager will have to take charge – certainly for six rounds of World Cup qualifiers later this year, likely for friendlies and in preparation for next year’s Copa America.
It’s possible Rodrigues had planned to continue with Under-20 coach Ramon Menezes as his temporary manager, but the results prompted a rethink. Under Menezes, Brazil were beaten by Morocco in March and then lost to Israel at the U20 World Cup. Last month they lost 4-2 to Senegal. Given these results, Menezes became difficult to sell and Rodrigues went in search of a name with more credibility.
And the problem – or one of them – that he has now created is this; The man Brazil have appointed as interim coach is less of a replacement for Ancelotti. He’s more of a rival.
Fernando Diniz has been appointed caretaker manager and will combine coaching the national team with his normal job as Fluminense of Rio coach for the next few months. Rodrigues doesn’t see a headache here – he feels both Diniz and Ancelotti are taking a similar tactical approach – but that’s not entirely true. Diniz doesn’t share a tactical approach with anyone, which is exactly the quality that makes him so interesting.
Over the last decade, Diniz-led teams have drawn attention. They like to play from behind but they don’t share the positional approach of, say, Pep Guardiola, which is all about avoiding players on the same vertical or horizontal line to ensure the man on the ball has as many options as possible. Diniz’s approach is much freer, off the cuff, almost anarchic. A trained psychologist, Diniz sees his teams as an expression of the human relationships built between them.
This poses several challenges for him in his new role. National coaches have little time for their players. So how can the coach build the collective spirit they desire? This approach can also result in the team lacking structure and leaving the defense vulnerable when the team loses the ball. In the “Basics First” world of national team football, it will be fascinating to see how far Diniz can turn his ideas into reality.
Also, his resume is poor. Diniz got jobs based on promises rather than reality. And some – including many Fluminense supporters – argue that it is a short-term approach, that opponents can outsmart his team and that the manager’s explosive temper can sometimes sabotage his own project. His current job at Fluminense has been the best of his career and in exciting fashion earlier this year saw him claim his first major title when his team won the Rio State Championship.
Since then, however, Fluminense has struggled with two wins from their last 12 games. And Diniz probably earned a lengthy ban a couple of weeks ago when he was sent off and, without any control, spent ages yelling in an assistant referee’s face.
There is also the question of how he will combine the two roles. He is dangerously exposed as coach of the national team – every disappointing Fluminense performance becomes a judicial investigation – and he is prone to allegations of conflict of interest. For example, he could be accused of picking Player X to tire him out and weaken Team Y’s league campaign. Furthermore, the busy calendar of domestic football leaves him little time to delve deeply into performances in the major European leagues, where the best Brazilians can be found.
So there are pitfalls everywhere. Should Diniz stumble and do poorly with the national team, all is not lost. With so many teams progressing in South America’s World Cup qualifiers, Brazil will certainly be able to make up lost ground. If he gets off to a good start, there is potential for conflict. Then many in Brazil would question the need for Ancelotti and the Italian would be under a lot of pressure even before his side kicked a ball.
So these are interesting times and despite the manager announcements, things should get even more interesting.