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Football Manager 2023: Rebuilding fallen giants in Brazil

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Beginning a save in Brazil is notoriously difficult for multiple reasons. At the centre of them is financial mismanagement. Aside from a few, most Brazilian clubs find themselves in unbelievably bad financial situations, struggling to stay afloat. Take Corinthians, for example. Despite performing relatively well this year, the São Paulo giants find themselves with a net debt of £169,463,844. Additionally, according to the projection tab in FM23, they are expected to have a balance of -£32.75M after three seasons. Despite inheriting a side with quality and history, taking over Corinthians, who are still at the top of Brazilian football, would mean climbing out of a deep financial hole.

In addition to the financial situation of most clubs, the type of administration is far from ideal. Throughout the history of Brazilian football, clubs have always been run through presidential elections, with politics often overshadowing football. One, of course, is not entirely separate from the other. Four-year administrations often have their own self-interests and image in mind, with little thought for the future of the club. In recent years, this lack of organisation, consistency, and sustainability caught up to some of the biggest clubs in the country.

Since 2019, four of the biggest clubs in Brazil have been relegated to the second division. All four were a direct result of poor management on all ends, from a sporting perspective to a financial one. Luckily, since then, a law was passed in Brazil which allowed for clubs to be purchased and privately owned. As most of these clubs found themselves in deep holes without much value, they were the first targets of foreign investment.

In this period, three of the four clubs were purchased, with Grêmio being the only exception. Nonetheless, rebuilding these fallen giants, especially with foreign investment, will be one of the most interesting challenges in Football Manager 2023. In the 2023 season, all four of these clubs will be back in Brazil’s first division. However, as FM23 will be released before the league officially ends, three of the four clubs will begin the game in Série B.

In this article, we will take a deep dive into each one of these four save ideas, looking at each club’s current environment, what the immediate future may look like, and the identity these new owners are trying to implement in real life, aside from Grêmio of course. In addition to providing a detailed insight into these ideas, this article will also provide a mini guide with key tips for managing in Brazil. For most, the South American country is a foreign and rather confusing environment. Don’t worry, though! This article will provide you with everything you need as you embark on these new journeys.

Botafogo

Of the four clubs on this list, Botafogo are the only one that begin the game in the first division. After a disastrous 2020 campaign, the Glorioso were relegated with a bottom-of-the-league finish. One of the most traditional clubs in Brazil, Botafogo are a two-time Campeonato Brasileiro champion and one-time Copa Conmebol winner. In addition to always being at the elite of Brazilian football, Fogo have also produced football legends such as Garrincha, Jairzinho, and Mário Zagallo. However, despite such history, Botafogo found themselves in the second division with over £100M in debt and not much hope for the future.

At any rate, towards the end of the 2021 Série B, things took a turn. In August 2021, a law was passed in Brazil which allowed for clubs to be purchased and privately owned. A few months later, Botafogo were the first target of foreign investment. The man interested was John Textor, an American businessman who is also the co-owner of Crystal Palace and a majority owner of Belgian second-division side RWD Molenbeek.

After securing the purchase of Botafogo, John Textor put himself at the forefront of a new era in the Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos. As the Glorioso wrapped up a title-winning Série B campaign, Textor began restructuring the club’s backstage. Shortly after, as the Brazilian transfer window opened, Botafogo’s squad was drastically upgraded. At the forefront of these changes was their new manager, Luís Castro. After an inconsistent start to the league, Castro has been able to lead this new-look Botafogo to a mid-table finish in 2022.

On the rise, Botafogo represent an exciting challenge in FM23. Almost a year into his ownership, John Textor has invested serious money into the club. In addition to signing new players, the American has also put an emphasis on enhancing the club’s recruitment and analysis department. Additionally, with his links to Crystal Palace and RWD Molenbeek, Botafogo have a direct link to European football.

With Textor’s ownership, Botafogo have the perfect structure to climb their way back to the top. From financial resources to a great youth academy, you should have everything you need to compete with the likes of Flamengo and Palmeiras after a few seasons. Botafogo has undisputable history, but what does the future hold?

Cruzeiro

The next challenge may not have the financial backing that Botafogo have, but it has a much more interesting backstory to it. Cruzeiro were amongst Brazil’s elite, having won the Série A and back-to-back Copa do Brasil titles in the span of four years. However, in 2019, only a year after winning the second Copa do Brasil, the Belo Horizonte side were relegated for the first time in the club’s history. In a year where football was overshadowed by politics and financial issues, Cruzeiro’s worst nightmare was just beginning.

The following year, Cruzeiro failed to reach promotion and looked ahead to another year in Brazil’s second division. Without the money from an expected Série A return, the financial crisis grew deeper. As if things could not get worse, Cruzeiro found themselves in the relegation zone of the second division at the beginning of the 2021 campaign. After another failed attempt at promotion, at the end of 2021, Cruzeiro stared out of the darkest hole in the club’s history.

After opportunities for investment in Brazil opened up, similar to Botafogo, Cruzeiro were one of the main targets. Although the club were in tremendous debt, their value had significantly diminished. With one of the richest histories in Brazilian football and a massive fan base, this investment opportunity was a promising one.

The person to jump on this opportunity was a familiar face. In December 2021, Ronaldo Nazário, O Fenômeno, bought a controlling stake in his boyhood club. The 2002 World-Cup champion purchased 90% of Cruzeiro for over £60,000,000. With his connections, Ronaldo has been able to attract lucrative sponsorship deals and rebuild the club’s internal structure. On the sporting end, Ronaldo’s administration has made good signings with promising manager Paulo Pezzolano at the forefront of them. In his first year, the Uruguayan manager was able to lead Cruzeiro to a historic Série B title.

With R9 as the owner, taking Cruzeiro back to the elite of South American football comes with an extra incentive. After years of struggling in the second division, Cruzeiro finally seem to have found their way back to the top. Now it’s up to you to bring titles back to the Toca da Raposa.

Vasco da Gama

The most recent club to become privately owned in Brazil was Vasco da Gama. After a long and exhausting process, Miami-based 777 partners were able to successfully acquire a 70% controlling stake in the Rio de Janeiro side. Similar to Botafogo, this new era at the São Januário comes with heavy foreign investment. As the purchase only became official in the second half of 2022, there has not been much movement in the transfer market. On the other hand, the club’s organisational structure has been completely revamped, with upgrades being made in roles such as the Director of Football and Chief Financial Officer. After recently securing promotion back to the Série A, heavy investment can be expected in the next transfer window.

Similarly to Cruzeiro, Vasco da Gama were unable to reach immediate promotion back to the top flight. After going down alongside Botafogo in the 2020/21 season, Vascão finished in a disappointing 10th spot in their first Série B season. In 2022, they were able to battle their way back to the first division with their promising youth players leading the line. Andrey Gomes, Eguinaldo, and Marlon Gomes are all just 18 years old and have been key players in this year’s Série B campaign. Unsurprisingly, previous to the 777 acquisition, Vasco found themselves in a serious financial crisis. Luckily, turning to the youth academy proved to be an effective yet cheap solution to lead them back to the top. Now with 777 in charge, the financial resources are there to build around such promising talent.

In addition to resorting to the club’s homegrown talent, the new administration has also expressed their wish to take advantage of the undervalued South American market. Similar to Red Bull Bragantino’s recent transfer activity, very promising yet undervalued talent can be found in other South American leagues. In FM23, you can adopt a similar strategy by resorting to youth and intelligent recruitment.

777 partners bring the financial resources to rebuild Vasco da Gama. After reaching heights such as a Copa Libertadores and a Série A title in 1999 and 2000, respectively, the Gigante da Colina have seen some dark days. However, with new and foreign ownership, it is time to take them back to the top of Brazilian football.

Grêmio

We’ve saved the best for last – that is, of course, if you like difficult challenges. At the beginning of 2021, Grêmio assembled a so-called “Super Grêmio”, with star players such as former Bayern right-back Rafinha and former Juventus forward Douglas Costa. As a result of multiple factors, the season could not have gone worse. The Porto Alegre side got off to an extremely poor start, and despite slightly picking up their form, they were still unable to climb out of the relegation zone. Once relegated, of course, star players all left and Grêmio were left with nothing but a financial crisis on the horizon.

Without much money, or even quality players, Grêmio had a turbulent Série B campaign in 2022. After a few managerial changes, they fell back to club legend Renato Portaluppi, the same manager who guided them to a Libertadores title in 2017. Renato was able to achieve promotion with a few games to spare, but as previously mentioned, in FM23, Grêmio will still be in the Série B. Additionally, unlike the previous three clubs, Grêmio have not been purchased. The Tricolor failed to attract any investment opportunities and are still under the good old presidential elections. In FM, this is especially notorious as new presidents tend to come and shake the house up with promises such as unwanted transfer targets.

Grêmio reached the top of South American football after conquering the 2017 Libertadores. Four years later, the Porto Alegre side were relegated to the Série B. Without investment from elsewhere, leading Grêmio back to the elite of Brazilian football represents an extremely challenging on all ends. This is what FM lovers live for, and if you are one to take on tougher challenges, then this one is for you.

Guide to Brazil

Managing in Brazil in itself can be a very difficult task, especially for those not familiar with the country’s football calendar. Before travelling to the South American country there are a few general tips and recommendations everyone should know. Most are centred around the country’s notorious calendar, but there are also other issues to consider.

Brazil has a notoriously long season. As a country south of the Equator, the season begins in the middle of January and carries on until the very end of November. Not only is the season long, but there are a lot of competitions taking place. From January to April, teams participate in their local state championships. Meanwhile, towards March, the Copa Libertadores/Sudamericana will start. The Copa do Brasil, or Brazilian Cup, starts anywhere from March to May, depending on the team. The league also begins at the end of April and carries on until the end of November.

Right off the bat, squad depth is extremely important. For most clubs, you will be playing two matches a week nearly every week. In addition to ensuring depth in the first team, it is also worth going through the academy and promoting a few youngsters who could prove useful in those injury-riddled games. While on the subject, testing out youngsters in the state championships is a very good idea. Some of the sides in these competitions are not even in the fourth tier of Brazilian football, providing good opportunities for youngsters to step up and impress.

Another issue to take care of is the reserves team. In the game, the reserves team are only involved in one competition, which goes from June to August. Arranging friendlies for those other months will be key to ensuring your youngsters receive playing time and continue their development.

Finally, as with any other country, it is important to adapt your financial standards. Even though your team may contain incredible wonderkids, it is unrealistic to expect to sell them for over £30M. Unless, of course, you have the next Neymar or Vini Jr.

Rebuilding fallen giants is perhaps the most exciting type of save in Football Manager. Luckily, in Brazil, there are four very interesting challenges to take on. Although it may be a new experience for many FM players, it is definitely a very fun challenge to venture into Brazil.

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