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Exclusive: Why Flamengo pulled the plug on Pereira

Vitor Pereira’s short spell in charge of Flamengo is over. Having been appointed at the beginning of 2023, the Portuguese manager failed to make it to the opening day of the Brasileriao.

The Portuguese coach walks away from Flamengo having lost seven of his 21 matches in charge, scoring 39 goals as well as conceding 25.

So where did it all go wrong for the 54-year-old?

Early exits and final defeats

Having left Corinthians last season, Pereira became the sixth Portuguese to manage Flamengo. With Olympiacos, Fenerbahce and Porto all on his CV, Pereira appeared well equipped on paper to handle the pressure a club like Flamengo demands.

However, this was not to be.

A Recopa Sudamericana defeat to Independiente del Valle, alongside a disappointing exit in the Club World Cup semi-final to Al Hilal, Pereira had his work cut out early on.

Fans were on his back and the more games Pereira began to lose, the strain between him and the supporters was evident to see.

A similar pattern was unfolding at Flamengo which those at Corinthians had witnessed during Pereira’s reign at the club based in Sao Paulo.

A lack of cutting edge in front of goal saw Corinthians knocked out of the Libertadores having failed to score a single goal in four knockout stage matches – and many were surprised Pereira was able to land the job in the first place.

However, the recent return of his star striker Pedro, who scored 12 goals in 13 Libertadores appearances in 2022, somewhat delayed Pereira’s exit. Three consecutive wins in the Campeonato Carioca appeared to ease tension ever so slightly, but an extremely poor showing against Ecuadorean debutants Aucas in the Libertadores, before a 4-1 annihilation against Fluminense in the Carioca final meant the board had little choice but to send Pereira packing.

The head coach made the decision to field a much-weakened side in Ecuador in order to preserve his players for the Carioca final – a decision which clearly came back to haunt him and only piled on the pressure to deliver against Fluminense – of which, the players did not.

Defensive frailties and stubborn approach

Defensively, Flamengo have been a shambles. There were signs last year that Flamengo were not watertight at the back, despite winning back-to-back Libertadores titles. Yet their ability to play free flowing football and be ruthless in front of goal was enough to see them lift a second title.

However, under Pereira it’s been worse. Far worse. Teams have been able to carve through their midfielder and defence with ease, often backing off and inviting attacking pressure, allowing shots from the edge of box. It’s also been as simple as playing balls over the centre backs on occasions, which is simply unforgivable at any club, let alone Flamengo.

Whether Pereira has opted to play a 3-4-2-1 formation or 4-1-3-2, there’s been a lack of cohesion throughout the starting XI, with many raising the question if the players were buying into Pereira’s approach.

David Luiz has been at the heart of the defence this season, but the 35-year-old has struggled with the pace of the play, which was evident in Flamengo’s 4-1 defeat to Fluminense, where German Cano, the same age as the former Brazilian international, ran him ragged the entire match.

Yet having featured in eight of Pereira’s 12 matches this season, there was no desire to change what appeared an evident problem.

Pereira’s inability to listen to others or adapt his approach were the main reasons which led to his sacking, much to the relief of the fans who know what their team of superstars are capable of.

His press conferences only angered fans further with his stubborn response to his tactics and management style, and failing to back up his beliefs on the pitch was only going to end one way with a trigger-happy board looming over him.

Pressure on the board

This could be the turning point Flamengo desperately crave, but their next appointment must be right. Last season, the appointment of Paulo Sousa was short lived, having been sacked after less than six months in charge.

The board actively chose to ignore their fans, who made it very clear they were not keen on Sousa. After his dismal period, the board faced plenty of criticism for their lack of competent strategies when appointing a manager – something which has only been replicated less than a year later.

Ultimately, the board will know they can’t afford to waste money firing a manager every season, and another poor appointment will be detrimental to their strained relationship with the fans. There’s plenty of lessons to be learnt from Pereira’s four-month stint at the helm, but it does feel as though the concerns from Flamengo’s supporters are falling on deaf ears.


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