By Matthew Burgess, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After a six week break, the Campeonato Brasileiro – Brazil’s top flight soccer league – recommences this evening with a clássico at the Maracanã stadium as Flamengo meet Botafogo. The two clubs however, have endured wildly contrasting preparations for the restart of the competition following the World Cup hiatus.
Flamengo were forced to spend the break searching for reinforcements to the squad with strikers Vágner Love, Bruno Mezenga, Denis Marquees and Gil all exiting the club.
The Rubro-Negro were able to make a handful of minor signings with goalkeeper Vinícius (Boavista), midfielders Corrêa (Atlético-MG), Renato (Al-Shabab, UAE) and Marquinhos (Palmeiras), central defender Jean (FC Moscow) and forwards Val Baiano (Monterrey-Mexico) and Cristian Borja (Caxias) all moving to Gávea. But with the foreign based signings unavailable for Flamengo’s next five games due to Augusts international transfer window, coach Rogério Lourenço has already warned of his side’s unlikelihood to retain the trophy.
“Flamengo is always looking to have a strong team but we are far from having a team similar to the one that won the Brasileirão or began this season”, he warned, while hoping the speculation linking legend Ronaldinho Gaúcho with a move to Flamengo will come to fruition.
With the first team squad based at a training camp in Itu, São Paulo, Flamengo’s preparations were overshadowed by far more serious news emerging from Rio. Following a confession from his 17 year old nephew, goalkeeper Bruno handed himself in to police after alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of his ex-partner Eliza Samudio.
Having made headlines around the world, Flamengo are now threatening Bruno with legal action for damaging the club’s image and have already canceled the 25 year-old’s contract.
Former Flamengo coach Joel Santana, now at Botafogo, worked with Bruno in 2007 and spoke of his disbelief and disappointment:
“This case is so serious that I am trying to understand the situation better. When I was with Bruno, we got along just fine. In my head, it is difficult to believe that it all happened. It has made me re-think all my beliefs. We all need to find a way for society to become healthier. I am very upset about all that happened. It is inexplicable. It is a time for us all to reflect,” said Santana.
Santana’s Botafogo have enjoyed a relatively peaceful period in comparison. Jóbson, whose goals last season just kept Botafogo in the top league, has returned to the club from Brasiliense after completing a doping ban. Long term transfer target Maicosuel also finally began training with club and played in a friendly match on Saturday, despite not having officially completed his transfer from German outfit Hoffenheim.
The most significant signing made during the World Cup break was at Fluminense after Deco negotiated the release from his contract at Chelsea. The Tricolor expect to officially make an announcement regarding Deco’s arrival this week, with the Portuguese international signing a two year deal. The side restart their Brasileirão campaign on Thursday night when Grêmio Prudente visit Rio.
New Vasco coach PC Gusmão has kept his squad busy during the break with friendlies against Avaí, Grêmio and Coritiba. The club also secured the services of striker Éder Luís and midfielder Fellipe Bastos who arrive on loan from Benfica, whilst former star Felipe also returns, ten years after leaving the club. Carlos Alberto meanwhile has made his loan from Werder Bremen permanent, signing for three years with the Cruzmaltino who face Goiás tonight.