There are plenty of things for which you can criticise Luiz Felipe Scolari, most recently of Palmeiras, especially over the last few years as he’s refused (or has been unable) to adapt to modern football practices in tactics or training. But you cannot ignore the sizable trophy cabinet of a man who lead Brazil to our fifth World Cup title back in 2002, and won more trophies than we could care to count on three different continents over a nearly four-decade-long career.
He is the definition of a man-management head coach — simple, conservative tactics, strong personal influence and motivation.
It is therefore rather ironic that it were his latter qualities that got him into trouble back in 2008, when he was appointed Chelsea head coach, as he reflected in a recent interview in the Guardian. Then again, those Chelsea teams were almost as famous for “player power” as for winning.
“Chelsea had some problems with injuries, some problems in the team. I had a form of leadership that clashed with one or two players: Anelka and Drogba.
“Our medical department thought we should let Drogba go and recover [from surgery] in Cannes, in the middle of summer. I thought he should stay in London. I would also like to go to Cannes in the middle of summer. I’d stay there for a month, two months, enjoying myself.
“When he came back, I tried to adapt so that Drogba and Anelka could play together. Anelka was the top scorer in the league. We had a meeting and Anelka said: ‘I only play in one position.’ So, there was a bit of a lack of friendship, of respect, of trying to play together with Drogba. They were both great, but someone had to do something different, to get back to help when we lost the ball. That was when it changed a bit.”
This isn’t the first time Scolari has talked about what may have gone wrong for him at Chelsea, and he’s usually reflected on these events fairly harshly — and understandably so. After all, he was sacked just eights months after his appointment.
But these days, at age 71, Big Phil looks back more with the sense of an opportunity lost, rather than an opportunity taken away. After all, the very next season, Carlo Ancelotti, another manager known more for his man-management than his tactics or training, would find a way to make it work despite all the egos — and in a record-breaking manner with both Drogba and Anelka starting 40 games (31 each in the Premier League).
“But we’ve met since then, me and Drogba. The last time was in Russia in 2018. We spoke openly about it. There wasn’t any ill intention from him or Anelka. But it happened and I lost out on one of the great chances of my life.”
Despite his advancing age and recent poor results, Felipão is not yet ready to call it a day. In fact, he’s looking to improve and learn and enter his fifth decade in management with a renewed sense of purpose, wherever that may come.
“I’ve watched the Premier League. I’ve watched games in Brazil. I’ve had time to examine the games, examine teams and the goals that have been scored. I’ll come back better than I was before.”
-Luiz Felipe Scolari; source: Guardian