What Inter can learn from St Etienne

Other than Walter Mazzarri’s woes, last night’s Europa League tie underlined just how a team of Inter Milan’s stature could stand to learn a thing or two from Saint Etienne, who either put into effect or incarnate some methods that a cash-strapped Serie A needs to take an interest in. In the wake of news that Inter Milan are still over 100€ million in debt, the sight of a former trigger-happy coaching graveyard – not to mention relegation struggler- following a manageable yet promising strategy must set alarm bells ringing in Milan. Here are a few of the contrasts that struck me as a youthful and ambitious Saint Etienne side made Inter look like they were playing away:

If you’re not going to compete with the Galacticos, spend efficiently

The post-Champions League hangover didn’t take long to set in at the Giuseppe Meazza, with Massimo Moratti announcing spending cuts to keep Inter in line with the upcoming Financial Fair Play (FFP). With Italy already in decline compared to other, richer leagues, it was time for a rethink.

14-10 Inter- St Etienne 3

Alvaro Pereira upon being asked how he thinks Inter fans view him

If Inter couldn’t be big spenders either on the Italian or the European scene, then they needed to separate themselves from the pack, to find talent where no-one else saw it, develop their own, or at least sign players at market-efficient prices. Think of what the Oakland Athletics have been able to achieve in America, or indeed Udinese, going full Portuguese and reselling their young, cheap, well-scouted talent at exhorbitant prices.

What Inter didn’t want to do was spend in excess of £60 million over a season (that of 2012-13) on a few signings that didn’t really make the team significantly better. There was certainly quality to be found (Samir Handanovic, Rodrigo Palacio, Mateo Kovacic), but also ridiculous clangers (Alvaro Pereira) and overpaid players (Pereira alone cost Inter £10.96 million, Fredy Guarin £9.68), making sure that Inter couldn’t reel in many recruits and properly rejuvenate an ageing squad comfortably past its prime.

Why were Inter waiting in line behind the richer clubs and settling for the last turkey in the shop, and not looking for a value find to trump the competition?

Saint Etienne, for their part, have spent a mere £35.82 million since the 2012-13 season. Obviously, the French market is less affluent, but we’re still talking of the 8th budget in France  regularly overachieving since Christophe Galtier helped the club avoid relegation in 2010, coming in fourth last time round.

That 2012/3 window summarises the situation perfectly, ASSE snatching two exciting playmakers inYohan Mollo and Romain Hamouma, a decent striker in Brandão, one of France’s most dynamic midfielders (Renaud Cohade) and a veteran defender (François Clerc) for a combined £3.52 million. Only one of them -Mollo’s- was a loan, though he has recently signed with the club.

Invest in youth

Surprisingly, the average age of the Inter squad is lower than Saint Etienne’s (transfermarkt has them at 26.2 and 26.8, respectively). Nobody would believe that of the team that gave away Davide Santon to Newcastle for mere peanuts.

St Etienne are, by comparison, a model for many European clubs. One of France’s traditional four youth academies, Les Verts have unleashed Josuha Guilavogui, Faouzi Ghoulam, Allan Saint-Maximin, Kurt Zouma and Ismaël Diomandé, the latter three semi-finalists at the 2011 Gambardella Youth Cup. Not all of them are world beaters, but three have earned big transfers, and two are becoming contributors at the Geoffroy-Guichard, both playing over 180 minutes this year. St Etienne eventually welcomed six members of that Under-19s squad to the A team.

Inter don't want this guy! Nagatomo forever!

Inter don’t want this guy! Nagatomo forever!

Inter’s transgressions are too many to list, but their youth players all seem to go through the same gauntlet of endless loans, insignificant stints and preposterously low transfer fees. Not all these players have to be world-beaters, regular starters are a more than enough. Inter need both youth and development in their squad, not short-term punts on golden oldies looking for a golden parachute. A good example would be Davide Santon: did Inter so desperately need £4.5 million that they couldn’t be bothered to develop a fullback some had (prematurely) compared to Paolo Maldini? What about Faraoni, or Caldirola?

Italy’s Under-21 squad for the Slovakia game spins a sad yarn: Inter owns 4 of its members, but they’re all out on loan. Two more were recently given away. Again, this isn’t markedly different from other Italian clubs, but if you’re short of money and ideas, developing youth can provide a valid alternative, especially when it comes to resale.

Who would you believe had made more money off selling players, the Italian giant, or the French mining town scrapper that came within a few points of relegation back in 2010? Well, since 2012, it’s the giant, but by a whopping £2.97 million. St Etienne brought in £67.25 million over that time, £37.49 coming from Zouma, Guilavogui, Ghoulam and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Inter, for their part, sold most of the crown jewels two years ago, Erick Thohir’s policy of only spending what comes in a mere excercise in self-deception.

If you won’t buy Italian, Buy French

With Europe’s biggest clubs around snapping up most of the recognised star power, and Italian talent generally coming at a premium, clubs like Inter need to look for market inefficiencies in order to boost both squad and books. France is one such example, Newcastle paying £4.4 million for Yohan Cabaye and selling him back for £22, just a million less than what was spent on him, Yanga-Mbiwa, Debuchy, Haïdara, Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko combined.

Yet with the whole continent obsessing over Adrien Rabiot, only Fiorentina zoned in on Benjamin Stambouli, a highly promising young Frenchman. Most French clubs aren’t run by Jean Michel Aulas, and often don’t know how to extract the best price for their young talent: Faouzi Ghoulam’s £4.4 million price tag an example of a downright criminal steal from the Neapolitans. Stambouli himself left for a clip under €6 million, David Ospina for €3.5.

St Etienne, for their part, have been diligently recruiting French for a number of years: Renaud Cohade, Stéphane Ruffier, Benjamin Corgnet, Franck Tabanou, Yohan Mollo and Romain Hamouma being some of the examples. Most of them young, some from recently promoted clubs (and hence at better prices), all good Ligue 1 players. Worst case scenario, Les Verts have a cheap, well-stocked squad. Best case scenario, they compete for the Champions League and keep raking it in as some leave for foreign shores.

Keep your squad stocked

Inter are falling asleep at the wheel. Coach Mazzarri’s choice to play a 3-5-2 isn’t helping, of course, but there is no justification for how the Nerazzurri lack any serious cover at most positions. St Etienne’s sheer numbers are a major boon here. If Hamouma or Corgnet are out, Tabanou and Mollo can come on.

Inter’s barely-rejuvenated squad had seven players out last weekend (joint-most in Italy that weekend), a massive red flag for a team with evident fitness issues, which the club shamefully tried to bemoan after the humiliating 3-0 defeat to Fiorentina, as if it were normal after a whole seven games. Since the 2011/12 season it has become painfully obvious that Inter are stumbling around in the dark, not making any long-term plans or investing in their future. To quote Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball, “If we try to play like the Yankees in here [the boardroom], we’ll lose to the Yankees out there”. I guess Beane had never heard of Cagliari.

I veri Opti Pobà sono Made in Italy

“L’Inghilterra individua i soggetti che entrano, se hanno professionalità per farli giocare . Noi, invece, diciamo che Opti Poba è venuto qua, che prima mangiava le banane, adesso gioca titolare nella Lazio”

Un potenziale Presidente di federazione non dovrebbe parlare in questo modo. Ma in Italia… Da quando Carlo Tavecchio, candidato favorito alla presidenza della FIGC si è espresso in questi termini, il mondo del calcio internazionale ha reagito con sdegno. Ma non in Italia, dove Tavecchio può ancora farcela, a meno di un improvviso voltafaccia delle società più importanti.

Questo incidente rischia, come altri in passato, di coprire di vergogna l’Italia, e la dice lunga non solo sulla piramide inversa del potere nel vecchio stivale, ma anche su come razzismo e immigrazione vengano percepiti da queste parti; e su come l’ondata di sdegno non sia stata sufficiente né a squalificare Tavecchio, né a far sì che alcuni Italiani percepiscano le questioni razziali come nel resto dell’Europa.

In questo articolo, insisterò molto sulla parola “alcuni”. Ci sono infatti molti miei connazionali che trattano le altre nazionalità con il rispetto che meritano, anche se su un fenomeno sottile, diffuso e sfaccettato come questo, i numeri e le percentuali sono difficili da stabilire. Peccato che il dibattito sul razzismo in Italia sia a volte estremamente contorto. Ancor più preoccupante è che proprio coloro che detengono il potere o possono formare l’opinione pubblica spesso sono i peggiori trasgressori.

Che sia La Gazzetta dello Sport a pubblicare una vignetta con Balotelli raffigurato come King Kong, o Tuttosport che che prova la battuta a effetto (“Li abbiamo fatti neri…”), non importa. Preoccupa che certi grandi quotidiani cerchino la battutaccia (senza ammetterne la natura razzista) anche quando Mario Balotelli (e chi sennò?), nato da genitori ghanesi, aveva appena schiantato la Germania con una doppietta che aveva proiettato l’Italia verso la finale dell’Europeo. Ma perché King Kong? Perché ricordargli che è nero? Non dovrebbe essere semplicemente italiano, ormai? Ancora piu inquietante e’ che sia La Gazzetta a macchiarsi d’un tale passo falso, la stessa Gazzetta che non ha lasciato la prima linea da quando Tavecchio ha parlato e che continua a tartassarlo di critiche. Se questi sono i cosiddetti non-razzisti, significa che il dibattito, da noi, non e’ poi cosi approfondito come ci piacerebbe pensare.

Non è la prima volta che cose del genere succedono in Italia, che persone di vertice imbarazzino il paese incuranti dello sdegno popolare, come quando Berlusconi definì “abbronzato” Obama, il giorno della sua inaugurazione. E’ forse per questo che ancora non si riesce a formare una massa critica sufficiente a liquidare Tavecchio. E così si spiega forse perché Joseph Minala sia corso in suo aiuto: Minala gioca nella Lazio, e il presidente della Lazio difende Tavecchio a spada tratta!

Ma sarebbe troppo facile dare tutta la colpa ai soliti politici e far finta che l’Italia sia un paese tollerante, al pari di quelle democrazie occidentali che cerca disperatamente di emulare. La verità è che tante persone di ogni estrazione non esitano, anche spesso, a oltrepassare i limiti del razzismo o della xenofobia. Che dire di chi sostiene che una casa popolare “è sporca da quando ci abitano gli albanesi”, oppure non frequenta ragazze di colore “perché puzzano” ? Devo queste citazioni a due miei amici italiani, istruiti, solitamente moderati, sensibili e fieri delle loro conoscenze multietniche…ma potrei citare parecchi altri esempi, a partire dall’italo-londinese che in piena estate si mette a gesticolare davanti ad una musulmana col velo, urlandole “Nevica, signora, nevica!”, o dei passeggeri in treno che, alla vista d’una poppante (musulmana anche lei) in preda alle lacrime, sparano: “Mamma, non voglio saltare in aria!”.

Certo, ci possono essere casi in cui la non conoscenza, o la mancanza di una componente africana nella cultura italiana moderna possono rappresentare un qualche tipo di scusa: come quando i giocatori del Crocetta Baseball Club (nel Parmense) si sono dipinti il viso di nero per prendere in giro l’attore Wesley Snipes nel film “Major League”. Dopotutto, mancando in Italia una tradizione teatrale con il “nero” stereotipato, e non essendoci stata la tratta, o peggio ancora la schiavitù dei neri, chi mai avrebbe potuto offendersi? E come potevano gli ignari giocatori immaginare di aver fatto qualcosa di sbagliato? Ma a pensarci bene, dietro cotanta ingenuità potrebbe nascondersi una memoria nazionale molto selettiva (come spesso succede), grazie alla quale, nella scia post-bellica degli “Italiani brava gente”, il paese si dimentica del suo passato fascista, punta il dito contro la Germania e cerca di dimenticare i propri peccati.

Forse il problema va oltre quello che sostiene John Foot, e cioè che l’immigrato tipo non sarà mai “uno di noi” . Forse non ci pensiamo nemmeno all’immigrato, o meglio non pensiamo a quello che prova quando gli tiriamo addosso l’ennesima pietra. Dopotutto, non fa nemmeno parte della nostra cultura o del modo di pensare: esiste perché noi possiamo farci gioco di lui. Eppure esiste un’altra Italia, quella che si dimena per i disperati di Lampedusa, o la famiglia che ha adottato un extracomunitario (già adulto), provando a far di tutto per aiutarlo ad ottenere il permesso di soggiorno. Lo hanno cercato disperatamente anche dopo l’espulsione, scoprendo pero’ che era morto nel disperato tentativo di attraversare il Sahara per tornarsene in patria.

E persino quando scoppia la bolla dell’indignazione antirazzista, tanti la guardano con incredulità: “Ma come? Noi non siamo razzisti! Ma non capite che è una battuta? Basta con gli estremisti del politicamente corretto! “ Il colmo è che, a parti invertite, gli Italiani fanno presto a scendere sul sentiero di guerra: che si tratti di un giornalista inglese che fa la solita battuta sui napoletani, o dei siti internazionali che parlano di razzismo per giustificare le intemperanze di Balotelli in serie A (quando in alcuni casi si trattava di ben altro), o ancora del quotidiano Bild che spinge a fondo sul pedale della propaganda anti-italiana… Certo, per essere un popolo la cui storia è tutt’uno con l’emigrazione, gli Italiani potrebbero fare alle nuove generazioni cioè i loro padri avrebbero voluto per se stessi. O no?

Quello che succede con l’attaccante Mario Balotelli è tipico, e dimostra che anche coloro che hanno una sensibilità razziale non ne capiscono a fondo tutti i risvolti. Ad esempio, quando Super Mario è stato destinatario di uno striscione degli ultrà juventini che recitava :” Non ci sono Italiani neri” (e non sono gli unici), alcuni hanno attribuito la colpa proprio a lui e ai suoi atteggiamenti provocatori, che avrebbero per così dire fatto da catalizzatore e causato l’incidente. E tanto per spargere sale sulla ferita, alcuni altri si sono precipitati a difendere gli ultrà: non sono razzisti, hanno solo usato quelle parole perché sapevano che gli avrebbero dato fastidio e lo avrebbero innervosito… Vale la pena ricordare che buona parte dei media italiani non siano cascati nel tranello, e che abbiano anzi continuato a contraddire queste menzogne.

E’ notevole come alcuni siano pronti a difendere un branco di ultrà quando di mezzo c’è la questione della razza, mentre li condannerebbero all’istante su tutta una serie di altre questioni. Insomma, si è trattato di un attacco razzista e basta. E in secondo luogo, perché concedere il beneficio del dubbio ad un gruppo di tifosi non proprio conosciuti per la loro moderazione? E se anche volessimo dire che non si è trattato di razzismo, come minimo dobbiamo parlare di “mancanza di sensibilità razziale”: qualcosa di cui andare fieri ?

Il comportamento di Tavecchio dopo che è scoppiato il bubbone è a dir poco scandaloso. Ha dichiarato: “Pochi hanno fatto quanto me per il terzo Mondo”, riferendosi al lavoro che sostiene di aver svolto per portare più immigrati nell’alveo del calcio dilettantistico. Io non sono un esperto in materia, ma non posso assolvere questo modo di ragionare. E’ come dire: “ Ho aiutato i neri in alcune circostanze, quindi va bene se adesso non li tratto da eguali. Che grande dirigente che sono!”

Ancora peggio, il ricorso all’immagine di “Opti Pobà” o della non fa altro che anticipare i grandi classici del dopo-scandalo, tipo :” Ho tanti amici neri!”. Tavecchio ha tutta l’aria di un razzista che fa di tutto per dimostrare di non esserlo, quando in realtà lo è, eccome. Anche quando ha detto una cosa tutto sommato giusta, cercando di rendere omaggio allo sport femminile, ecco uscire della parole completamente inopportune (“handicappate”).

E’ francamente deprimente che un paese che dà così tanta importanza alle buone maniere sembri pronto ad abbandonarle quando si parla di immigrazione e razza. Non è solo mancanza di consapevolezza, ma anche una questione di saper maneggiare con cura certi argomenti. Il fatto di non capire che una certa parola può essere percepita come un insulto non autorizza a muoversi con la grazia di un pazzoide leghista come Mario Borghezio che di mattina presto spruzza DDT sulle prostitute africane in treno.

La domanda è: il fatto che un settantenne usi un linguaggio dai toni razzisti proprio mentre si prepara all’incarico più importante della sua vita, cosa ci dice del personaggio Tavecchio, e soprattutto dell’Italia? Forse la risposta a questa domanda è la cosa più deprimente di tutte.

 

Romanzo d’una catastrofe

Who would have thought that Italy’s 2-1 win over England would turn out to be the consolation prize in a group dominated by a CONCACAF team? Who would have expected Group of Death whipping boys Costa Rica to send two European giants packing in a little over ten days?

Following two humbling defeats in as many lacklustre performances, Italy are going home without manager Cesare Prandelli, who resigned in the wake of the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay that sent Italy crashing out of the competition whilst assuming responsibility for the defeat.

For a four-time world champion, two consecutive group stage exits are unheard of around these parts since the early 1960’s- and are more than enough justification for the resumption of a favored Italian pastime: the blame game.

After a wonderful showing at Euro 2012, few would have thought that Cesare Prandelli ran the risk of losing his job. The Azzurri had qualified without breaking sweat, and looked to be in the process of replacing their traditional defence-minded philosophy with an attractive brand of possession football- albeit more reactive than the hype would have us believe.

Yet the coach may well be the biggest culprit this time around, a position confirmed by the numerous tactical blunders he was responsible for during the tournament, and which would have arguably justified his sacking had he not left the fold immediately after Italy’s elimination.

Prandelli failed to adapt to the constant pressure that sides like Uruguay and Costa Rica applied on Italy’s midfield, all while tightening it up and the back and requiring Italy to pick apart a nine-man wall. In that light, is it so surprising that the Azzurri struggled against Ireland two years ago at the European Championship?

It is quite one thing to play Spain, Croatia and Germany- opponents who are far more expansive, and hence liable to give Pirlo more room and breathing space. It is another to try the same stunt against sides that are waiting for the opportunity to counter, exploiting a potentially lethal combination of inferior Italian defending and unimaginative attacking play. Italy’s front three (or front two against Uruguay) moved so poorly that Andrea Pirlo & co were often forced to spurn good opportunities on the counter by going for the safe pass down the wing, allowing their opponents to come back and cover. Italy’s form was so poor that they failed to muster a single dangerous chance from open play against Uruguay, or indeed in the second half against Jorge Luis Pinto’s Costa Rica.

Though it later emerged that Cassano was not well liked in the dressing room, he may well have been the X factor Italy were lacking up front, where a sedentary Balotelli added very little to Italy’s buildup and looked horrific when pulling the trigger. In a possession system a little bit of unpredictability is always needed, and Cassano would have added the counterweight Italy needed to avoid looking like the slow, cumbersome and predictable team we saw against Latin American opposition.

Things were little better on the wings: just like Guardiola’s Barcelona needed Lionel Messi and a mobile front three to provide an outlet to their buildup, so Italy needed both a creative spark and pace.Instead, the Azzurri got two disappearing acts in Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile, not to mention Alessio Cerci, who was “born offside” in the decidedly wrong sense of the term.

It is here that Prandelli’s months of experimentation were downgraded to mere tinkering, to tell-tale signs of a coach uncertain about both his starters and his attacking philosophy. Italy looked atrocious second half against Costa Rica, and though the players definitely deserve a share in the blame, a manager’s job is to make his charges comfortable in their roles. The Azzurri were as sloppy on the ball (if not more) as they had been back in the equally catastrophic 2002 and 2010 campaigns.

A robust dose of mea culpa is in order here, as Giuseppe Rossi, a player I discounted on fitness grounds, could not have done worse than those who boarded the plane instead of him. The Rossi debate opens up Prandelli for further criticism, namely regarding the 23 men who ultimately flew to Brazil. Did Prandelli call up the best players in the league, rather than those who best fit his system? Did the players who really raised their game this season (including Cerci and Immobile) get enough playing time in the (admittedly few) games Italy played in 2014?

A good example of how to handle a similar situation can arguably be found across the Alps- where Didier Deschamps kept plugging away with roughly the players and system, all whilst including new elements (notoriously Antoine Griezmann). He may, admittedly, have been a little fortunate that it all came together in the return leg against the Ukraine, but at least his side have shown clear signs of progress and look to be on the right track four years after the Knysna incident. Four years after failing to beat New Zealand, Italy are stuck in a rut once more.

Prandelli can, admittedly, attribute part of this disaster to factors beyond his control- including injuries to Christian Maggio as well as Riccardo Montolivo, two vital cogs in the 2012 campaign. Though he kept from criticizing his charges, Il Mister certainly didn’t have the pick of the European litter some of his predecessors had access to, right-back Ignazio Abate being a case in point. It is quite ironic, moreover, that many of these young players aren’t getting the opportunities they need to grow, especially when one considers how star-drained the Serie A really is. That considered, Italy’s made it all the way to the final just two years ago with a similar squad.

A more reasonable defence of the manager could well hedge on the difficult weather conditions the Azzurri encountered. Why Italy should have to play all three of their games in a tropical climate is frankly beyond me, and would have only escaped this damp furnace in the second round or, even worse, the quarter finals if they topped the group. With Italy’s players barely able to stand in the second half of last year’s semi-final Confederations Cup defeat to Spain, it is likely Prandelli wanted to keep his charges fresh for as long as possible this time round, and chose to adopt a more possession-based system to do so. Keep the ball, the logic goes, and you can slow the game down to a pace more suited to Italy’s heavy legs, thus allowing them to change the tempo when they need to. It is not a coincidence that so few European teams have made it to the second round, penalized as they were by conditions which their Latin American colleagues exploited to the full.

This all considered, the former Fiorentina coach can’t blame all of his errors on the weather, nor indeed on the Marchisio red card that some fans are blaming. My contention is that he lunged in looking for more than just the ball, his foot twisting awkwardly on Arevalo’s leg and giving the impression that the Juventus midfielder was aiming to add something extra to the contact, presumably unaware that the referee was right behind him. Then again, Italy have survived red cards before, namely against Australia in 2006, when Marco Materazzi was unfairly sent off early on in Italy’s Round of 16 tie. The Azzurri ended up holding Australia to just two clear-cut chances, and scraped through thanks to a highly questionable penalty call. It was significant that Uruguay really didn’t create much after the Juventus midfielder’s marching orders- but were able to exploit set-pieces, a major weakness for Italy in the qualifying campaign.

Prandelli’s substitutions are equally indefensible. His changes against Costa Rica were particularly rash- coming at half-time when Italy had at least showed some signs of life. It turned out that removing Candreva and Marchisio may well have cost Italy the game: both midfielders, whilst not brilliant, did at least provide an outlet to the midfield and a link (albeit tenuous) to Balotelli. They were both instrumental against England and arguably had a bad half against Costa Rica. There was no such luck for Insigne and Cerci, who blundered around looking listless and confused, and were more often than not caught offside anyway. The choice of Thiago Motta for the latter two games was puzzling- looking more tired than team-mates who had played the full 90 is a rare feat, but one Motta accomplished consummately.

Though he deserved more of a chance as a starter, Cassano the sub seemed a ridiculous choice once Italy went down to ten men against Uruguay, as he lacked the pace to contribute either offensively or defensively. It is a convenient microcosm for how the tournament went for the Azzurri- lacking a clear purpose, or indeed a read on the situation. Just like Prandelli’s Fiorentina sides seemed to run out of steam towards the end of the season, so Italy look to have exhausted their seemingly ample supplies of both energy and ideas. It’s high time for a change.

Telecronaca di Red Bulls – Union, MLS

Dopo un inizio di campionato a dir poco turbolento New York riesce finalmente a sbloccarsi, portanto a casa la prima vittoria grazie alle reti “londinesi” di Thierry Henry e di Lloyd Sam (ex Charlton Athletic).

[button link=”https://audioboo.fm/boos/2240279-new-york-red-bulls-philadelphia-union-italian” bg_color=”#428bca”]Ascolta la radiocronaca di Red Bulls – Union su Audioboo[/button]
Un sospiro di sollievo per Mike Petke,  l’ex colonna vertebrale dei Bulls (nonche’ dei Metrostars) che ha condotto i Bulls al primo titolo dalla fondazione della franchigia nel 1995.

A nulla e’ servito il rigore trasformato dal francese Le Toux.

Telecronaca di Santos – Ponte Preta 4-0, Campeonado Paulista

Gara che racchiude tutte le migliori caratteristiche di un Santos vivace e spensierato, finalmente ripresosi dall’esodo di Neymar per avviare bene il 2014. Una rosa tornata sui binari giusti grazie al sagace reclutamento della societa’, che ha finito col vantare la bellezza di 6 giocatori nell’ undici ideale del torneo.

Oltre all’acuto siglato da Geuvanio (eletto come la rivelazione del torneo), il Santos ha potuto poggiarsi sulle giocate di gran classe di Cicero (tra i capocannonieri del campeonado con 9 reti) e Leandro Damiao, la cui apertura in semirovesciata ha propiziato il secondo gol del “Peixe”, segnato proprio da Geuvanio.

Unica nota storta la finale persa ad inizio Aprile dall’Ituano, l’outsider par excellence capace di imporsi 7-6 ai rigori dopo l’errore fatale di Neto.