Hand in hand with Luiz Felipe Scolari: the day he arranged to direct Boca, behind the scenes of Germany 7-Brazil 1 and why he is a "fan of Bielsa"

The coach is in love with Buenos Aires:
The coach is in love with Buenos Aires: "Last year I spent 8 days. My great joy was to wake up in the morning, go to the San Telmo fair and eat a barbecue in a restaurant in the area" (Photo: Prensa Luiz Felipe Scolari)

Luiz Felipe Scolari is a prestigious and respected coach in the world. Like most of his colleagues, he adds worshipers and detractors. Following his convictions, Felipao became the fifth coach with the most titles in history: 27 in 38 years of experience. He worked in seven countries (Arabia, Portugal, Kuwait, Japan, Portugal, England, Uzbekistan and China). He won the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup and the 2013 Confederations tournament for the Brazilian team. He coached Portugal, reaching the semi-finals of Germany 2006 and won a Gulf Cup with Kuwait. In addition, he has a unique World Cup record: he achieved 11 consecutive victories added to the Verdeamarela and Portuguese campaigns between 2002 and 2006.

Beyond his achievements, Scolari keeps in his display case the diploma of honor for having directed figures such as Neymar, Cristiano, Ronaldhino, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Dani Alves, among others: "It is not difficult to handle these players because they are intelligent and they know how to behave on and off the field of play so that the team achieves good results," he remarked at 71, with the desire to continue training intact.

In a chat with Infobae, From his home in Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre), Felipao thanked the affection he receives every time he visits Argentina: “I don't travel to Buenos Aires only with the teams that I have to lead. I'm going on vacation with my wife. Last year I was 8 days. My great joy was to wake up in the morning, go to the San Telmo fair and eat a barbecue in a restaurant in the area ", he remarked during the interview …

How is this crisis due to the coronavirus happening?

With great care because at the moment Brazil has many infected. In addition, there are very cold winter areas that must take greater care to avoid the spread. It is a very delicate situation …

How will it affect football?

It has already affected the clubs due to the great financial difficulties that they drag. The activity has been stagnant for 4 months and this has its consequences. It also impacted many players who were left without work because the clubs did not renew their contracts due to financial problems. The situation of these footballers and that of the coaches will have to be analyzed again because everything has changed and it is a new panorama. The championships were paralyzed. It is not known when they will return, whether or not they will be active. I think that from September or October football will return to normal …

Are the conditions in South America for the Libertadores to be played?

No, the conditions are not given because there are countries in which you cannot play or have more difficulties such as Brazil and Argentina. We don't have to think about restarting football. Now, if the Conmebol should start the activity yes or yes, that it does it in a balanced way to avoid more infections.

You are a man with a long journey in the world. A pending account is directing in Argentine soccer?

I was a candidate to lead Boca if José Beraldi won in the last presidential elections. He had everything agreed with Gabriel Batistuta (he was running as manager). San Lorenzo de Almagro also contacted me at some point. Honestly, I like Argentine football a lot because when I went I was treated very well by the fans. Yes, I would like to coach in Argentina because it is a different football, which I have always admired …

Felipao and the World Cup, which he managed to raise in the 2002 World Cup in Korea-Japan (Photo: Luiz Felipe Scolari Press)
Felipao and the World Cup, which he managed to raise in the 2002 World Cup in Korea-Japan (Photo: Luiz Felipe Scolari Press)

Twenty years have passed since the Libertadores final between Boca and Palmeiras. What memories do you have of that series?

I have a sad memory, because we drew in Buenos Aires and then we played at home (San Pablo). We finished 0-0. We had good chances and we couldn't convert. We went to penalties and Boca had more quality in the set pieces. It was going to be our two-time championship. At that time, Palmeiras reformulated their entire team. He sold 7, 8 headlines and brought soccer players from the interior who appeared that year and we reached the final. For us it was spectacular to be able to win, but Boca got it right on penalties and we were left with nothing …

Did they feel like champions before playing the rematch?

Not at all. We did not feel like champions. That was a misinterpretation by the media. As I said, we had 7 or 8 youth players who had a small participation in the Libertadores. These young people were happy for what they had accomplished. For that reason, it was the connotation of champions. I meant to say "moral champions" just for the sake of reaching a final, but someone used it differently, and everyone does what they think they should do.

What did that Boca de Bianchi have that became champion?

He played very well, with high-quality midfielders and forwards. In San Pablo they showed defensive solidity to avoid counterattack. It was a team very similar to 1999, but with very high levels like Juan Román Riquelme's, who was very good. Smart, he kicked the ball well. He played with his head up, a very good footballer. Difficult to play against him.

Would you like Riquelme to call you to direct Boca?

Yes, I would like to direct Boca. Likewise, they hired another great coach like Miguel Ángel Russo, who has experience and is a good coach in everything. Boca is a team that is strong in the Libertadores and more at home …

What does directing at the Bombonera generate, pressure or fear?

It puts pressure, but not fear because we already have many years of life, experience and games. Directing at La Bombonera is very nice and incredible. I do not travel to Buenos Aires only with Palmeiras, Gremio or with the teams that I have to direct. I'm going on vacation with my wife. Last year I was 8 days. My great joy was waking up in the morning, going to the San Telmo Fair and eating a barbecue in a restaurant in the area. Buenos Aires is very pretty. He has a very good quality of life. Now, facing Boca motivated inside the Bombonera is very difficult and almost impossible to beat him …

Is Scolari as a coach closer to the style of Marcelo Gallardo's River or Carlos Bianchi's Boca?

That of Carlos Bianchi, without a doubt. I share the style of strength and temperament unlike what River de Gallardo is. He is a very good coach and works more technically, with much more determination than we do. Our idea is to work with a style of will. For this reason, I identify more with Bianchi than with Gallardo, but I respect both in the same way …

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Who is the best coach in South America?

Today there is no activity, but I think Marcelo Gallardo, because for years he has been doing a very good job at River. He reached the final of the Libertadores three times. Likewise, Guillermo Barros Schelotto did a good job in Boca reaching the final of Libertadores 2018. Also, Mauricio Pochettino who was at Tottenham. Diego Cholo Simeone has been at Atlético de Madrid for seven years. So we have great South American coaches. In Brazil they are very good too. They are fighting in a balanced way the possibility of going to direct abroad. On a global level, Jürgen Klopp is the best of all for what he has done in the last three years with Liverpool.

He has 27 career coaching titles. Which do you consider to be the most important?

You're going to laugh at what I'm going to tell you, but the first is the most important of all (the local championship with Centro Sportivo Alagoano in 1982). After that many more came. After achieving the first, I tried to improve myself to continue working as a team and improve the results. But, obviously, the first is the one that marks you in your career …

Scolari at La Bombonera, in 2018: it was on the occasion of the semifinal between Xeneize and Palmeiras, for the Copa Libertadores (REUTERS / Marcos Brindicci)
Scolari at La Bombonera, in 2018: it was on the occasion of the semifinal between Xeneize and Palmeiras, for the Copa Libertadores (REUTERS / Marcos Brindicci)

Pep Guardiola is 26. Do you think he will reach it?

It will catch up with me and surpass me. I am 71 years old, I am going to continue directing, but there will come a time where I will have to retire. Pep is going to win more titles for his quality as a coach and will have much more time ahead of him.

Was the toughest defeat of your career against Germany 7-1 at the 2014 World Cup?

Yes, because we cannot change the attitude. We thought one thing, when I say we I mean me and the members of the coaching staff. The players tried, but when we imagined something different we suffered a goal. When we went to attack we created four or five very good chances, but then we suffered a goal. It was a defeat that was very marked in Brazil and in the rest of the world. A painful defeat that we could not avoid. We did not have the ability to modify that situation due to the game that Germany presented in that match. So it was the saddest defeat I have ever suffered.

Do you regret the proposal or the players chosen for that game?

I do not regret. It was thought, studied, but it went wrong. Some things went wrong and would not happen again for a thousand years, but they did. So, you cannot think now that I had to change the approach, that player or that. No no no. They (players) were at fault. I was to blame and the quality was that of Germany. We have to accept that one day we were highly inferior and the opponent had a great game to do everything right.

I remember that he once maintained that he would like Brazil to have Marcelo Bielsa's game system. What was it that caught him?

I like the idea that depending on the players you have in the squad, you use a system that suits them better. All the coaches have very good systems. In the last week, I watched an interview with Marcelo Bielsa that I really liked. Now I really want him to do very well. I admire him more than I admire him for his quality of exposing some things in front of journalists in a seminar. I agree with him in everything. Bielsa stated that we all have qualities, but you have to know how to use them. If you don't have a player to carry out a certain function, you have to place another system. One that is a winner and suits them. It is not a question of putting a system that is interesting but that does not fit with the players.

What is your opinion about Bielsa, whom you have faced on several occasions?

Of much respect and admiration, especially now that he achieved promotion with Leeds and after having seen his last three interviews. The way he expresses himself before the footballers. The sincerity that your ideas reflect. I became his fan. In addition, Marcelo always has words of affection towards me. I remember when we faced Argentina (for the 2002 qualifiers) he complimented me. There is a friendship on both sides, that's why I admire Marcelo, for a series of factors …

He directed Neymar, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaká, Adriano, Roberto Carlos, Cafú, Dani Alves. How do you manage a locker room with so many egos?

I was in charge of many national teams. In Portugal I had Cristiano, Pauleta, Figo, Rui Costa. It is not difficult to handle these footballers because they are intelligent and they know how they should behave so that their teams achieve good results and are valued. I had no problems with anyone until today, except for an altercation during a game or in training that we were overcoming as a result of the game. But I had no problems. I like working with people who have quality and know how to put it into practice in training sessions and in meetings. It is my role to make them understand that and to do their best to strengthen their teams.

The veteran coach, in the
The veteran coach, in the "toughest defeat" of his career, against Germany in Brazil 2014 (AFP)

What happens to the Argentine team that cannot win with Messi as a figure?

It is a strange situation. I can't give a deep opinion because I never lived in the Argentine soccer environment or was part of the national team. Messi is fantastic and he is one of the three best players in the world in the last 10 years along with Cristiano and another. Many times Lionel could not give everything his team wanted. Argentina needs to understand that Messi is fantastic, but they must learn to play as a team because depending on him alone is not good.

Whenever we talk about the best in history, Pelé, Maradona, Cruyff, Cristiano or Messi are named. For you, Scolari. Who is the best of all time?

Pele, without a doubt. He had all the virtues of a soccer athlete. A complete and very good player. He knew how to do everything, and well. It didn't have a feature that's not good. We will not find a player like him in the future. For me, Pelé is the most fantastic footballer of all time and the one I could face when I was a central defender. He knew how to position himself on the field of play and he was very smart. For any coach, having footballers like this is essential …

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