At the time of writing, Ney Franco is still the head coach of São Paulo. By the time you read this, he will most likely have been dismissed. In his time at the club (one year to the day) São Paulo has neither worsened nor improved. In fact, the club has been stuck in the mud since 2009, since the sacking of Muricy Ramalho.
In four years at São Paulo, Muricy transformed the club into a winning machine, racking up three consecutive national championship titles, making them the first club to achieve such a feat since Pelé’s Santos in the 1960s. However after a poor state championship campaign in 2009, club president Juvenal Juvêncio gave him his jotters – but more about him later.
Since 2009, São Paulo has been through six different head coaches. Ricardo Gomes, Sérgio Baresi, Paulo César Carpegiani, Adílson Batista, Emerson Leão and now Ney Franco. The club has just one trophy to show for the last four years: the 2012 Copa Sul-Americana, won under the command of Ney Franco.
Each of their six former head coaches has a different style of working. The squad has undergone continuous changes, too. The only constant at the club is the old man at the end of the corridor: president Juvenal Juvêncio.
If there was any doubt about who makes the decisions at São Paulo, then this week’s news of the sale of right-back Paulo Miranda to Olympique Marseille and the arrival of Boca Juniors left-back Clemente Rodríguez should clarify the distribution of power. Both signings have been made while Ney Franco is about to lose his job, with no replacement in line to take over.
In May, the day after São Paulo was eliminated from the Copa Libertadores by Atlético-MG, Juvenal marched into the club’s training ground and presented a list of seven first-team players he decided would no longer play for the club and would be sold immediately.
Paulo Henrique Ganso, signed from Santos months after Ney Franco took the job, was brought by Juvenal and his cronies. It is suspected that Ney Franco was not keen on the transfer, and a struggle to shoehorn Ganso into São Paulo’s line-up has become a stick for which to beat the departing coach.
Juvenal’s authoritarian regime is what is holding São Paulo back. The club has invested millions in their infrastructure, training and medical facilities and the playing squad itself, but it will be for nothing unless proper political change happens within the Morumbi.
It is likely that Muricy Ramalho will return to São Paulo to fill Ney Franco’s vacancy. As an idol of the fans, he would be given more time and patience to try to turn things around. However, when the group disintegrates in Juvenal’s hands once again, Muricy will not be spared.
This week, I went to the cinema to watch Baz Luhrmann’s remake of “The Great Gatsby”. I am reminded of the novel’s famous line in which Nick tells Gatsby that he cannot repeat the past. I picture Juvenal Juvêncio today, sitting on the balcony of his luxury home overlooking the Marginal Pinheiros (a far less glamorous, smellier version of Manhasset Bay) and hearing one of his advisers utter those same words.
“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”
And with that, São Paulo beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.