Searching for Success in Brazil: The Eight Portuguese Coaches Preparing for the Upcoming Brasileirão Season

The 2023 edition of the Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Série A or Brasileirão kicks off in just over two weeks (April 15th) and this year, there are eight Portuguese coaches at the helm of Brazilian clubs.

To put this into even greater historical context, before Jorge Jesus arrived at Flamengo, only six other Portuguese coaches had ever managed in Brazil’s top division. Jesus was of course a resounding success, winning both the Copa Libertadores and Série A among several other trophies during his 60-game spell in charge of O Mengão. Another pivotal moment happened just a year later when another Portuguese manager in the form of Abel Ferreira arrived in Brazil. The former Braga coach would go on to be a huge hit in Brazilian football, winning back-to-back Copa Libertadores’, the Brasileirão, Copa do Brasil and most recently the Supercopa – beating compatriot Vítor Pereira’s Flamengo side 4-3 in the final.

Fast forward to today, nearly four years after Jorge Jesus’ arrival in Brazil and the Brasileirão season is about to commence with a whopping 40% of the clubs having Portuguese managers in the hot seat.

We take a look at who will be flying the bandeira for Portugal in Brazil this year:

Managers sorted in alphabetical order

Abel Ferreira – Palmeiras

The man from Penafiel has been in charge of the Verdão since 2020 and has enjoyed much success during his time in Perdizes. He joined the club shortly after leaving Greek outfit PAOK back in January 2020. Just a year later he had won his first title as Palmeiras manager and it was the big one – the 2020 Copa Libertadores. Palmeiras beat Santos in the final to win the competition for the first time since 1999 and in doing so, Ferreira became only the third non-South American coach to win it and the second Portuguese coach to do so following Jorge Jesus’ success the previous year with Flamengo.

A few months later, Ferreira made history by becoming the first foreign coach to win the Copa do Brasil – the first time the club had won that particular competition in five years. The trophies didn’t stop there though, Palmeiras would go on to defend their Copa Libertadores title in 2021 and won the Brasileirão in 2022 – losing just three games in the league all season. Ferreira has also won the Supercopa Sudamericana, Campeonato Paulista, Supercopa do Brasil and finished runner-up in the FIFA Club World Cup.

António Oliveira – Coritiba 

The 40-year-old former central defender is well-travelled, having managed in Portugal, Kuwait, Iran, and Slovenia before making his move to Brazil in 2020. Oliveira’s journey in Brazil started with him working under Jesualdo Ferreira at Santos before moving on to Athletico Paranaense to work again as an assistant manager – this time under Paulo Autouri. The former Benfica youth player then became a coach in his own right by first taking over the reins of the club’s U23 side and then the first team. His time in charge of the first team came to an end during a run that saw the Furacão win just two games from 12 across all competitions.

He left Brazil briefly in 2020 to manage Benfica B between January and May before returning to Brazil to take over Cuiabá in June. He guided the club to 16th and left at the end of the season to join Coritiba, the team he finished one point and one position below with Cuiabá that season.

Ivo Vieira – Cuiabá

It’s been a Portuguese affair at Cuiabá recently! After António Oliveira’s departure, Ivo Vieira was the man brought in to replace him. A coach that will be very familiar to fans of Portuguese football, Vieira has coached all over Portugal at the likes of Marítimo, Estoril, Famalicão and Vitória SC just to name a few. This spell at Cuiabá is Vieira’s first time managing in Brazil and so far he has managed 15 games this season across Campeonato Matogrossense, Copa Verde and Copa do Brasil – winning 12, drawing two and losing one. He will be hoping to work his magic in the Brasileirão when it starts next week and fire Cuiabá up the table.

Luis Castro – Botafogo

Another manager that will be very familiar to those acquainted with Portuguese football, Castro is a manager that worked primarily in Northern Portugal, presiding over the likes of FC Porto, Rio Ave, Chaves and Vitória SC.

The 61-year-old was brought to Botafogo after businessman John Textor acquired the club. He joined Botafogo in March 2022 and guided them to an 11th-placed finish in the league after winning 15 games, losing 15 games and drawing 8.

Pedro Caixinha – Red Bull Bragantino

Caixinha joined Red Bull Bragantino in December 2022 and presided over his first game in charge in January 2023, a 1-0 win against São Paulo in the Campeonato Paulista. This is Caixinha’s first spell in Brazilian football and for the 52-year-old it’s another country ticked off the list for a coach that has previously worked in Argentina, Mexico, Scotland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Portugal as well as in several other countries during his time as an assistant manager. Bragantino finished in 14th place last season in the Brasiliero and 4th out of 16 in the Campeonato Paulista. He has signed with the club until December 2024.

Pepa – Cruzeiro

The 42-year-old from Torres Novas did a brilliant job at Paços de Ferreira, guiding them to fifth place in the Primeira Liga and into the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying rounds. He then took over at Vitória SC, guiding them to sixth place in his only season in charge before leaving for his first stint abroad in Saudi Arabia with Al-Tai. His time with the club would come to an end after just six months however when after picking up just 18 points from 14 games and losing his last three consecutive matches, he was dismissed. The young coach now finds himself at the helm of newly-promoted Cruzeiro and looking to live up to the promise he shown during his time at Paços.

Renato Paiva – Bahia

A manager that is synonymous with SL Benfica, Paiva spent nearly two decades at As Águias managing various youth teams such as the U17 and U19 before moving on to manage Benfica B in the Segunda Liga.

He decided to exit the club in 2020 in a bid to establish himself as a senior first-team manager and to “win titles”. He joined Ecuadorian outfit Independiente del Valle and led them to the Ecuadorian Serie A title in his first season – the first league title in the club’s history. He would later join Mexican side León but left after just six months in charge. The 53-year-old took over at Bahia in December 2022. During his unveiling, Paiva spoke about the “strong influences” that both Jorge Jesus and Abel Ferreira have had on him throughout his career, even revealing that Ferreira helped him with some opposition information on Grêmio ahead of Independente del Valle’s clash against them in the Copa Libertadores when Paiva was in charge.

Vítor Pereira – Flamengo

Vítor Pereira joining Flamengo was an appointment that certainly caused a ton controversy in Brazil. Pereira was in charge of Corinthians for a season, guiding them to fourth in the league and to the Copa do Brasil final but decided against renewing his contract citing personal and family reasons. Pereira initially claimed that he wanted to continue the project in Flamengo but that there was “no possibility” due to his desire to return home. However, just a month later he joined fellow Brazilian side Flamengo. Corinthians president Duílio Monteiro Alves then publicly blasted Pereira, claiming the Portuguese boss had “deceived everyone” including the supporters who “had fallen in love with him”. Pereira recently guided Flamengo to the final of the Campeonato Carioca by beating Vasco de Gama in the semi-final. The Rubro-Negro will face Fluminense in the final.

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