Adored in 2002 after the world title, then reviled following the humiliating elimination in the semi-finals of the Brazilian World Cup in 2014, former Seleçao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is preparing to leave the benches with the ultimate challenge of win the Copa Libertadores final in Guayaquil (Ecuador) on Saturday.
A few days before his 74th birthday, “Felipao” will try to offer his club, Athletico Paranaense, the first trophy in its history in this competition bringing together the best South American clubs, against a Brazilian giant, Flamengo, double winner of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League.
The opportunity to close in the most beautiful way a long career of four decades, which will end definitively on November 13 at the end of the last day of the Brazilian Championship.
“Children want to be with their father, and the same goes for my grandchildren and my wife,” explained the former mustachioed Scolari.
In a country where football crystallizes passions, Scolari went through two very distinct periods at the head of the Brazilian selection. Praised by a whole people after the fifth world title in 2002, Scolari entered the prestigious club of titled coaches with Brazil in football’s greatest competition, alongside Vicente Feola (1958), Aymoré Moreira (1962) , Mario Zagallo (1970) and Carlos Alberto Parreira (1994).
– “Pelé, and then Scolari” –
With this title and his aura, he was called back at the dawn of the 2014 World Cup to win the first Seleçao World Cup at home. But in the semi-finals, Germany crushed Brazil 7-1, a humiliation synonymous with national explosion which did not spare Scolari, dismissed from his duties in stride.
Delegitimized but not discredited in Brazil, Scolari bounced back to Grêmio until 2015, before offering himself a prolific Chinese interlude in Guangzhou from 2015 to 2017, where he won an Asian Champions League, three championships and a Chinese Cup .
Last May, he took the reins of Athletico Paranaense, a club in the state of Curitiba in southern Brazil, which he was able to recover after a mediocre start to the season.
“In Brazil there is Pelé and then there is Scolari. He came to Paranaense with his philosophy, his way of playing that gave him so much success, and the result is there for the whole world to see”, says Paranaense midfielder Agustin Canobbio to Uruguayan radio Sport890.
“Since winning the 2002 World Cup, he has adopted the paternalistic posture of a + dad + for the players”, assures AFP Victor Figols, editor-in-chief of the sports portal Ludopédio, about the coach, who also managed Chelsea and Portugal, with which he reached the Euro final in 2004.
“The idea of the + Scolari family + (the nickname of the Seleçao at the 2002 World Cup, editor’s note) says a lot about the coach’s ability to create good working conditions”, he adds.
An environment filled with serenity installed by Scolari, who will seek Saturday to win his third Copa Libertadores title, after those of 1995 with Grêmio and 1999 with Palmeiras.
Only two managers have won three or more Libertadores: Argentinian Osvaldo Zubeldia with three trophies, only one less than Carlos Bianchi, the former Paris Saint-Germain player from 1977 to 1979 who owns the record (4).