It’s a significant move more due to the events leading up to his appointment rather than because a moderately successful, well-respected and unusually well-balanced coach has taken on the biggest job in football.
Menezes was the third favourite for the job and was only appointed after Luiz Felipe Scolari ruled himself out by singing a deal to manage Palmeiras and Muricy Ramalho refused to break his contract with Fluminense and accept the job he was offered on Friday.
The key issue here is that two of Brazil’s best managers turned down Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the Brazilian Football Confederation. That would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
One of the main reasons is that the dictatorial head of the CBF has created lots of enemies recently.
He politicised the election for president of the Group of 13, the alliance of Brazil’s top clubs that negotiates television rights for the Brazilian league championship. Teixeira pressured several top clubs, Fluminense among them, into supporting his man. They didn’t and his man lost.
Teixeira has had it in for them ever since and that backfired yesterday when Fluminense refused to let Ramalho out of his contract. Fluminense were not just upset at losing the manager who has taken them to top spot in the league, they were reportedly also angry that Teixeira never even took the time to advise the club he was talking to their coach.
(Another club that opposed his choice to run the Group of 13 was São Paulo and Teixeira got his own back by ruling their stadium out of the 2014 World Cup, a ridiculous move given that the Morumbi is the biggest stadium in the biggest city in Brazil and was the clear favourite to host the opening match.)
With Teixeira looking weak following Ramalho’s principled stance, he turned to Corinthians, a club run by Andres Sanchez, the friend and ally who was chosen by him to lead the Brazilian delegation in South Africa. Teixeira knew there was little chance Menezes would refuse the job and none at all that Sanchez wouldn’t release him from his contract.
Menezes is a good manager, having taken both Gremio and Corinthians to the Second Division title. But he has lifted only one major title, the Copa do Brasil, which he won with Corinthians last year.
But he is at least well suited to the pressure, having managed the club with the most fanatical fans in the country. Moreover, he has dealt well with the competing demands of media and sponsors. And he is very likeable, an asset after Dunga, a bad tempered and ill-mannered coach who managed to alienate almost everyone.
The question for Menezes is what guarantees he will have regarding the 2014 tournament. It’s obviously the dream of every Brazilian manager to manage the seleção at home.
But Ramalho is said to have baulked in part because he was worried he was going to be a stopgap if everything did not go perfectly.
I think he was right to be worried. As I said in this post three weeks ago, I still think that Felipão will be in charge when the World Cup kicks off in Brazil. Menezes will have to have a pristine record in the years leading up to the competition if that is not to happen.
As for Teixeira, the refusal of Felipão and Ramalho to accept the job have weakened him and for the first time since a Congressional enquiry accused him of a host of corruption charges in 2001, he looks vulnerable.
Juca Kfouri, the journalist who has long campaigned against his corrupt reign suggested this could be the first cracks in his once-impregnable empire. I’d like to think that’s right but I fear it’s too early to say.
Much will depend on whether Teixeira can bring some semblance of order and organization to the troubled planning for 2014. He needs to get things done and get things done quickly.
His fate is also linked to the on-the-field success of Menezes. If Menezes can renew the aging squad and start playing (and winning) with style, as well as avoid fights and scandal, Teixeira will look good.
Today, though, Menezes is on the way up. Teixeira, we can only hope, is on the way down.