A sports season is not prepared yesterday, the day before or a week in advance. A club goes halfway through a season and in its bowels, in the shadows behind the curtains, there will be people sniffing out pre-season locations, narrowing down lists of potentially signing players, making progress reports on what areas to clean up in the squad. What a football club will not want, at all, is to start a new season hesitantly, groping the ground instead of putting firm footsteps on an already defined route. Walk in stability.
It will, yes, want the opposite of what Vitória Sport Clube dynamited for itself, on Wednesday, eight days before the first official game of 2021/22: he fired the coach, his face usually seen as a figurehead of a team , the head that decides how to play, where to go, who is needed for which positions and other technical considerations about what happens on a football field. Pepa was that person in Guimarães since last summer, but he won’t be on July 21, when the club face Puskás Akademia in the first leg of the 2nd round of access to the Conference League.
He was “removed” from the “technical command”, described Vitória himself, after a meeting held on Tuesday with the president, António Miguel Cardoso, who blamed him for having “exceeded certain limits” and accused him of a “misalignment” of the project. club sports. In that meeting, to what was possible for the Express Tribune find out, Pepa asked what this strategy was defined by the club’s management. The answer would have been that the coach had nothing to do with such mainstays of Vitória. “It just posed the questions that any coach would ask,” says a source close to the lawsuit.
The interrogations addressed to the president and coming from the technician were not new. On several occasions and already this season, Pepa has tried to contact António Miguel Cardoso by phone, but the calls have not been returned. Not even when Rochinha, one of Vitória’s captains and best players, was sold to Sporting, a departure from which the coach only heard from the footballer’s own voice and on the day he abandoned the pre-season stage started on June 20 – the Guimarães were the first team to return from vacation, due to the morning schedule that the Conference League requires.
The departure of the player nicknamed with the diminutive of a rock for the national runners-up, for €2 million, without the direction of Vitória informing the coach, will have been put in the logic presented by the president, on Wednesday, sitting next to Moreno, a former player and man of the house who became the team’s new coach. When talking about the “project” of the board that he has led since March, when he was elected to the position, António Miguel Cardoso summarized the goals that the club aims off the field: “some salary reduction, some reduction in what are expenses and, probably, , a perspective of younger players, of projection, who could come from other levels, from the formation, allied to that strategic pillars of more experienced players, who could make all this happen.”
It is this sports policy that the leader of Vitória was telling Pepa that did not concern him, to which the Express Tribune found out. It is also the intention that led the club to send other players: Gui Guedes to Almería (€3 million), Pedro Henrique was sold to Sailores of Singapore (€1.3 million), Dennis Poha went to Sion ( €850,000) or Falaye Sacko, on loan from Montpellier (€500,000). Apart from these, Óscar Estupinán, Vitória’s top scorer, Rafa Soares, left-back from the camps based in the position, and Toni Borevkovic, Croatian center of equal constancy in the team, were three other big names from last season’s squad who left the east club summer.
Inferring from the words of António Miguel Cardoso, all the deals will have been framed in the resolution of the “financial aspect” of the club. In March, at the time of the elections, the Vitória SAD presented a liability of around €49 million to each of the three candidates for the position. At that time, the incoming president guaranteed, during the campaign, that he would have access to “a €20 million cushion”, for which “everything was closed and signed”.
About four months later and already after Pepa was fired, who gave the team a new coach and respective new ideas, António Miguel Cardoso indicated his reasons for the disagreement: “What has been happening since our entry is that there is a misalignment in relation to our ideas, of the way to save the club, and what were the interests of the coach, who was more interested, understandably, in the sporting aspect and less in the future of the club”. Asked about the relationship between the president and the club’s former coach, Vitória’s communication said it referred to these statements.
Also on Wednesday, Pepa said he was “with a clear conscience” for “everything” he had done “to defend the interests of Vitória”. In a statement, the coach thanked him for “having given him the opportunity to have been” in the Guimarães team, after the separation that left the club changing needles a week away from the competition in earnest and the coach, one was even hyped as a target. of interest to Benfica, with no place for this season.