Flamengo head coach Renato Gaucho is dreaming of Copa Libertadores glory as defending champions Palmeiras bid to become the first team in 20 years to retain the South American crown.
Montevideo is the scene for this year’s all-Brazilian Libertadores final between 2019 winners Flamengo and titleholders Palmeiras on Saturday.
Uruguay’s iconic Centenario stadium brings back good memories for two-time champions Flamengo, who trumped Chile’s Cobreloa in 1981 for their first Libertadores trophy 40 years ago.
Flamengo remain undefeated in the 2021 edition. They will be aiming to repeat the feat of rivals Corinthians, who are still the only team to win the title while going undefeated in the current format of the tournament, following their 2012 achievement.
Speaking ahead of the decider, Renato – the record holder for most victories as a coach in Libertadores history (50) – told reporters on Friday: “The feeling is of a dream come true for having reached another Libertadores final, because it is for few coaches and I have that privilege working with Flamengo, in the same way as Abel [Ferreira] doing with Palmeiras.
“The feeling is that of having fulfilled my job leading a wonderful group in a club with so many fans and with an immense responsibility, but we are professionals and we are prepared for this.
“I hope that Flamengo gets their third cup, we know that we have a very strong team in front of us and they also want to be champion, but we have all done what it takes to be here, the managers, the coaching staff and the players, we know the importance of this match.
“We are two great teams with players at the level of the Brazilian national team, I am sure it will be a great game, well played because we are two teams that always go to the front looking for the goal and we both arrived with our merits. As I said, I think it is going to be a game with a lot of emotions.”
Not since Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors in 2000 and 2001 has a team won back-to-back Libertadores trophies.
Palmeiras continue to flourish under Portuguese head coach Abel Ferreira – the club have only lost two of the 19 Libertadores games with the 42-year-old in the dugout, while they are seven games unbeaten having eliminated Atletico Mineiro in the semis.
Abel’s Palmeiras have won 13 Libertadores match – the joint-second most of any coach in the club’s tournament history, alongside Vanderlei Luxemburgo and only behind Felipao (24 wins in 44 games).
“Experience tells us how difficult it is to be consistently winning and after last year if they asked everyone from Palmeiras if they thought they would be twice in a row in the final of the Copa Libertadores they would have had many doubts,” Abel, who is looking to become the first European coach to win two Libertadores titles, said in a pre-game news conference.
“Last year we reached the final because of the players and this year I infected the players to be here again. We climb the mountain because we have a very clear purpose from day one: to win the final.
“This is our purpose and we are here for merit, for a lot of effort and for the help of many people and above all because of the character, courage and capacity of our players.”