Opinion: What Red Bull Bragantino’s First Crisis under Red Bull Tells us About the Project

It only took six games for Red Bull Bragantino to have its first crisis upon their return to Série A. The club decided to part ways with head coach Felipe Conceição after a 1 win, 2 draw and 3 loss record that put the team in the relegation zone. Bragantino appointed Maurício Barbieri, a former Red Bull Brasil head coach, as the replacement.

There was no wait for Felipe Conceição like it happened in the Campeonato Paulista when a slow start was followed by results that made Bragantino the team with the most points at the end of the first round. Two consecutive losses against Coritiba (1-2) and Fortaleza (3-0), accessible rivals on paper, were enough to decide the coaching change.

The poor results at the start of the Série A could not just be blamed on Conceição’s tactics. While it’s true the team didn’t have a complete performance and wasn’t aggressive as a Red Bull team is supposed to be, there were signs of discontent between the coach and some of the players that were instrumental in 2019, when the team earned its promotion to Série A – the team was then coached by Antônio Carlos Zago, who decided to move to Japan to lead Kashima Antlers in December 2019.

Veterans like Uillian Correia (30) and Ytalo (32) haven’t featured in the starting line-up at any point this season until Sunday’s defeat to Palmeiras. Ytalo’s absence is the most notable since he has been the top scorer in the team for the past 20 months. There was also some controversy surrounding the use of Claudinho, their starting attacking midfielder in the previous season, because he wasn’t a regular in the starting XI.

What Conceição did was start most of the recent signings, none of them older than 24. This is something very on brand with Red Bull clubs, but most of South American soccer still relies a lot on the work of veterans as they are influential on the field and in the locker room. Bragantino have invested around R$80 milllion ($15 million) in players they would like to develop and get some value, but that could be at the expense of isolating veterans that still believe they can be in the limelight. 

It’s not the first time the Red Bull project to develop young players in Brazil crashes with the merciless behavior of Brazilian football when it comes to sacking coaches. Red Bull Brasil fired three head coaches between 2017 and 2018 after parting ways with Barbieri, who managed the team for two years, at the end of 2016. The rosters during that time included a good number of players that were 25 years old or more. Very few academy players featured with the first team during that time because it was thought that to climb the pyramid of Brazilian soccer it was necessary to have experience on the field.

The arrival of Antônio Carlos Zago coincided with the negotiations to take over Bragantino or another Paulista club competing in Série B. The team went to the market and signed veterans with Série A and Série B experience, and the strategy was successful as Red Bull Brasil won the first phase of the Paulistão and Bragantino, after the takeover took place, was promoted to Série A. However, Zago never felt the pressure to feature young players in 2019. It was obvious that promotion was the main objective. 

It’s hard to believe Correia or Ytalo would be with Bragantino in 2021. Sporting director Thiago Scuro is going to keep recruiting young players around South America. The problem is that good results can’t wait any longer in 2020. Barbieri has the task to take the team out of the relegation zone and it seems that he has to do it with the veterans on board whether is a Red Bull thing to do or not.

By Juan Mesa

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