In Brazilian football, coaches are scandalously overvalued. Tite, manager of league leaders Corinthians, earns a reported R$ 500,000 (approximately £85,000) a month. The league’s best player, Renato Augusto (once of Bayer Leverkusen), earns R$ 100,000 less. Corinthians have many players on salaries between $ 400,000 and R$ 500,000, but no-one earns as much as the coach.
Take Manchester City as a comparison. Manager Manuel Pellegrini earns £325,000 a month, while the vast majority of his squad receive far more. Sergio Agüero, City’s highest earner, is paid almost three times more than his coach.
The root of this skewed economy lies in the regularity with which teams change coaches. After 28 rounds of play, this year’s Brazilian championship has seen 24 managers sacked or resign. Only four teams have yet to substitute their head coach.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the constant chopping and changing has inflated the market for coaches in Brazil. With no job security, managers demand large salaries so they can fill their boots while they remain employed. Over time, this has transformed coaches into highly paid superstars.
Consequently, besides some money-spinning trips to the Middle East and Asia, Brazilian coaches like to stay home. A Brazilian managing a European club is rarer than a successful short corner. Instead of trying their hand in the Champions League, they prefer their perpetual seat on the Brazilian managerial merry-go-round.
So, what exactly does a Brazilian coach do to earn his substantial wage?
Romário, averse to training, maintained “a good coach is one that doesn’t get in the way”. Perhaps he had a point. Due to Brazil’s jam-packed football calendar, clubs are allowed little time between matches to train. Emphasis is placed on man management and morale-building. The manager’s role is therefore reduced to a cheerleader who (in theory) has the right to pick the team. Their influence is much smaller than their wage slips would suggest.
This feeling of impotence is no doubt frustrating. Especially to some of Brazil’s more ego-driven coaches. Often, this irritation manifests itself in animated touchline performances – reinforcing my cheerleader comparison. Coaches regularly spend entire matches on the edge of their technical areas, gesticulating wildly, barking orders and berating the referee. It is all for show. A pantomime to appease the fans.
The practical effect of such touchline antics is near to nil. Bookshops’ biography sections are rife with ex-footballers saying they were unable to hear (or ignored) instructions from the dugout. The only ways coaches can influence a match in progress are giving tactical instructions at half-time and making substitutions.
In recent years, Brazilian football has seen one coach perfect the art of the substitution. The secret to Marcelo Oliveira’s championship-winning Cruzeiro teams of 2013 and 2014 was their boss’s intelligent squad rotation. With a swollen roster of attacking players, Marcelo managed to keep everyone happy.
Marcelo Oliveira has continued this tradition at his current club Palmeiras. Substitutes score an incredible 20% of his team’s goals. The fact Palmeiras score the majority of their goals in the first half makes this all the more impressive. Roughly 50% of their second-half goals come from Marcelo Oliveira’s hand-picked replacements.
This was the case on Wednesday evening as Palmeiras faced Internacional in the Copa do Brasil quarter finals. Away from home and trailing one goal to nil, Marcelo Oliveira introduced Rafael Marques to the game. Two minutes later, he headed in a crucial away goal.
In the post-match interview, Marcelo played down his role in the equaliser. “It had nothing to do with ‘coaching magic'”, he said. “When one of our players is relaxed and happy, we notice. Using the subs’ bench is essential to winning football matches.”
Edited to include the dismissal of Milton Mendes at Atlético Paranaense, the 28th coaching change this league season.