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 this 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. “He just asked the questions that any coach would ask,” says a source close to the coach.
The interrogations addressed to the president and from the technician were not new. On several occasions and already this season, Pepa will have tried to contact António Miguel Cardoso by phone, but the calls have not been returned. On the other side of the barricade, a club source told another version of the story: only twice did this happen, once when the president was in a meeting, the other because it coincided with a family program. The truth will be somewhere in between.
When Rochinha, one of Vitória’s captains and best players, was sold to Sporting, they tell Express Tribune that the coach only heard from the footballer’s own voice and on the day he left the pre-season training camp, which started on June 20th – the Guimarães were the first team to return from vacation, due to the morning schedule that the Conference League requires . From within Vitória, they say that ‘the blame’ without being exactly the fault will be on the player, because the deal with Sporting was lightning, it was done in less than a day and they say that Rochinha informed Pepa of the imminent transfer when the president would have him asked not to say anything until confirmed.
The departure of the player nicknamed with the diminutive of a rock for the national runners-up, for €2 million, will have precipitated a crater in the relationship between Pepa and António Miguel Cardoso.
Upon learning that Vitória’s management did not inform him of the lightning negotiations, the coach questioned the president, who will have tried to explain the situation. On the Vitória side, they allege that Pepa even abandoned a WhatsApp group in which they were both; person close to the coach repeats that António Miguel Cardoso kept the coach on the sidelines of the club’s sports policy.
The official logic was presented by the president on Wednesday, sitting at a press conference 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 with a person close to the coach. From within the club, they say that the coach was told that they would have to bet on young people and that he “only talked about 30-year-old players at meetings”.
In April, even before the end of last season, Pepa had already launched six footballers trained by the club in Vitória’s first team – more than the five to whom Rui Vitória made his debut, in one of the seasons he worked in Guimarães, between 2011 and 2015. , for example. The now Egypt coach left the club with a reputation for being an avid giver of opportunities to youngsters.
This summer, Vitória’s need to generate revenue to take care of its accounts will have 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 thousand) or Falaye Sacko, on loan from Montpellier (€500 thousand). 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 had “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.
* News updated at 21:41 on Thursday.