MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Palmeiras won the Copa Libertadores for the second year in a row on Saturday and in doing so created a new club great in coach Abel Ferreira.
The 42-year-old Portuguese was already a hero in the green regions of Sao Paulo after leading his team to the 2020 title after just three months in charge.
But Saturday’s win in the South American equivalent of the Champions League elevates the spiky coach to iconic status.
He is now the only non-South American coach to win the Libertadores twice, after substitute Deyverson’s extra-time goal gave Palmeiras a 2-1 win over Flamengo in the final in Montevideo.
A former right back who played for Sporting Lisbon in his homeland, Fereira’s teams play a counter-attacking style that is not always loved by footballing purists.
But his methods have proven highly successful and at a club that has a generous sponsor he has helped build a formidable squad that along with Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro seem set to dominate Brazilian football for the foreseeable future.
Ferreira is one of a wave of Portuguese coaches coveted by Brazilian clubs keen to replicate the success of Jorge Jesus, the Benfica manager who led Flamengo to the Libertadores and Brazilian first division in 2019.
He is by far the most successful of that influx and his winning ways and intense and combative style have made him a figure of curiosity in a nation that often views immigrants from Portugal with a raised eyebrow.
When he won the Libertadores semi-final in September, Fereira spent several minutes during the press conference telling a “pain in the neck neighbor” that the win was for him for not showing him enough respect.
He has described football as “kill or be killed” and claimed he thinks not about winning but about “relationships, hugs and affection” with his players.
“Football is not mathematics, football is not two plus two equals four,” he said ahead of the final. “Who wins at football is not the team with the best players. Normally the team that wins at football is the best team and the most consistent team.”
After joy at winning the title, the sensation foremost in Fereira’s mind might well be tiredness. Tonight’s game was Palmeiras’ 88th of the year and the coach admitted that the intensity of the game in Brazil was draining.
“I am calm, at ease with myself,” he told Fox Sports. “I feel like it is job done. I have said it many times, football in Brazil is very intense. I am going to have to reflect a lot on what I want for myself in the future.”
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Daniel Wallis)