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Twenty years since departing South America to pursue his dream of managing in Europe, Roberto Nascimento da Silva Lazaró was mobbed by adoring fans as he landed in Medellín for the first time since being sacked by Colombia in 2044.
Fresh from lifting Ligue 1 – which saw him win titles in Germany, England, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France – the Colombian manager returned to his homeland for a little downtime and to begin the search for his next Football Manager adventure. He wanted to return to where it all began, having successfully lifted every league title available across North and South America between 2021 and 2041. With that in mind, Lazaró wasn’t too bothered about where he managed next and was happy to wait for an intriguing opportunity.
Back on the job hunt
Upon resigning from PSG, Lazaró noticed his former clubs Liverpool and Milan, plus Inter Milan, had vacancies. And Liverpool and Milan both offered him an interview. But he’d turned off the European leagues starting in the summer of 2065.
Over in South America, there were no jobs currently available – as only Brazil and Colombia were playable, México and Argentina kicked in from the end of June, and other leagues weren’t available until January. So he played the waiting game.
And it didn’t take long for movement at sack-happy Brazilian teams, including Lazaró’s former club Palmeiras – who’d got themselves into a real mess – and Vasco da Gama. Both offered interviews and Palmeiras made an offer – but the club was bottom of the league, appeared to still be in a poor financial position and the board wanted to avoid relegation, so this didn’t seem the wisest option. A few days later Vasco came in with an offer, which Lazaró delayed to see if a couple of interesting insecure jobs became available. But those failed to materialise, so Lazaró accepted the offer from Vasco.
Back to Brazil
Lazaró boarded a flight over to Rio de Janeiro, where he was met by even more fans than he encountered in Medellín, as fans mobbed their 2042 World Cup-winning coach. Lazaró’s 20th club side Vasco da Gama have won Série A six times, most recently in 2060 and 2062 which ended a 60-year wait for the title. They’ve also won Copa Libertadores three times, two of which were during this save in 2034 and 2060, and Copa Sudamericana four times, all during this save. And it has great training and youth facilities.
Vasco currently sit 13th with 19 points after 17 games, but was predicted to finish sixth. The board expect Lazaró to qualify for Copa Sudamericana through the league – which covers down to 13th – and aim to win the continental tournament. They have a £15 million transfer budget and £860,000 wage budget, but a balance of minus £5 million. That was addressed by a firesale of aging players for a profit of around £50 million, which left them seriously short on numbers.
Lazaró discovered several hot prospects to build around. The pick was wonderkid winger Dedé, but the previous regime put a ridiculous £15.75 million buyout clause in his contract in June, so predictably a host of European teams bid and he joined Newcastle. Him aside, there was plenty of promise in strikers Denis and Joao Francisco, a midfielder also called Joao Francisco, centre-back Samuel and goalkeeper Fábio Nunes. He also promoted two 17-year-olds in midfielder Otacilio and full-back Camacho.
Having assessed the players available to him, Lazaró was torn between the 4-3-3 he’d used several times through his career, including at Palmeiras, a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder and his unique La Caosbala approach. But he had a long-term plan to move to a two-striker formation.
Lazaró returns to Série A
Two-time Série A winner Lazaró was swiftly reminded of how manic the Brazilian schedule is as his new side faced 12 games in 39 days. They began with a dull 0-0 at Paranaense but picked up his first win by beating struggling Ponte Preta 2-1 thanks to a brace from winger Leonardo Augusto who, worryingly, was wanted by Real Madrid. Game three was also away and they were a little unlucky to lose 1-0 at title-chasing Cuiaba.
Lazaró’s first game in charge at Ademir Menezes Park, which was built in 2040, was against his former club Palmeiras. And Vasco breezed to a dominant 3-0 win with Denis ending his 10-game goal drought. Augusto bagged another brace to earn a 2-2 draw at home to sixth-place Fluminense and scored again in a 2-0 win at Internacional. Then another win over Ponte Preta lifted Vasco into the top half of the table for the first time all season after 24 games.
Lazaró soon faced his first reunion with old foes and reigning champions Corinthians, who it’s safe to say Vasco had a terrible record against. But they bucked that trend with a solid defensive performance, nine saves by Nunes and two goals from winger José Gómez, which doubled his tally for the season.
Vasco surge up the table
Vasco continued their fine run of form by winning 3-2 at leaders Goianiense thanks to another Gómez brace. That moved them into the Libertadores qualification fight, trailing seventh-place Cruzeiro by four points with eight games to go.
Denis scored the only goal at home to Náutico before a 0-0 at Lazaró’s former club Flamengo. A massive 3-0 win over sixth-place Gremio confirmed Sudamericana qualification but also lifted Vasco to eighth. Just eight points separated fourth-place Cuiaba and 11th-place Cruzeiro, who’d gone six without a win and Vasco made that seven thanks to a brace from on-loan winger Juan Arenas.
Next was a trip to the brilliantly-named Pelé Arena to face Santos. And a brace and an assist from exciting midfielder Carlos Miguel inspired a surprise 3-1 Vasco win that took them six points away from second place with three games remaining! A Leonardo Augusto hat-trick led a 3-1 win over bottom-side Chapecoense before a dominant 4-1 win at struggling Bragantino secured Libertadores qualification. That teed up a thrilling final day with third to seventh separated by just two points!
Vasco welcomed Paranaense on the final day but their five-game winning streak ended with a 1-1 draw despite racking up 18 shots to seven. But they still finished in an impressive fifth place after taking 48 points from Lazaró’s 21 games in charge, compared to 19 in 17 before he arrived. Elsewhere, his former club Palmeiras survived relegation with a record-low points total.
Right-winger Leonardo Augusto finished runner-up in the top goalscorer with 18 in 32, including nine in 10 under Lazaró, and a joint-high nine player of the match, which won him 1st Division Best Player. And left-winger Gómez had the second-most assists (9) and highest average rating (7.72) from 18 games, 16 of which were during Lazaró’s reign, which won him 1st Division Player of the Year.
Latter stages of Copa Sudamericana
One month after joining the club, Lazaró led the resumption of Vasco’s Copa Sudamericana campaign. Their quarter-final opponent was Fluminense – which sandwiched the league clash. Vasco edged a tight away leg 1-0 thanks to midfielder Joao Francisco then Denis scored both in a 2-0 home success.
That teed up a semi-final with Peruvian side Binacional. A trip to Peru was up first and Vasco dominated by 32 shots to four but only made two count thanks to a Denis brace. The second leg was a similar story with Binacional offering nothing as Vasco created and missed 20 opportunities then had a goal disallowed in injury-time. But a 0-0, which set a new competition record for seven straight clean sheets, sent them through to the Final!
Vasco’s opponent in the Final was fellow Brazilian side Gremio, who were playing in their first-ever Sudamericana final in their 162-year history. Lazaró lined up:
Nunes; Camacho, Samuel, Amarante, José Lucas; Eli; Paulo Vitor, Joao Francisco, Arenas, Gómez, Denis
Subs: Francisco, Luiz, Otacilio, Tadeu, Renan Nelson, Marcos Rogério, Cacá, Bruno César, Reinaldo
A cagey start saw neither side do anything in the early stages. But Vasco made the breakthrough as Gómez cut in from the left and put a low ball in for Denis to tap home at the near post. Gremio offered nothing and it drifted to 1-0 at half-time.
Just after the break, Gómez was felled in the box and Joao Francisco slammed home the penalty to double the lead but straight from the kick-off Gremio got one back with their first attack. Vasco soon restored the two-goal advantage with Denis returning the favour for Gómez on 76 minutes. And that proved enough for a 3-1 win thanks to some big late saves by Nunes.
Vasco da Gama lifted their 5th Copa Sudamericana and Lazaró’s 2nd of his career!!
The future is bright at Vasco
Lazaró has certainly had a positive impact at Vasco in his short time at the club. He’s led the team surging up Série A and won the 30th cup competition of his glittering managerial career.
The star man in his short time at Vasco has been Leonardo Augusto, who scored 27 in 52 with nine assists. However, he’s now wanted by the likes of Arsenal, Man UFC and Barcelona. The youngsters have progressed nicely, including Denis scoring 14 and getting 11 assists in 39 appearances, Joao Francisco scoring eight and assisting six in an impressive 60 appearances, and Samuel getting a 7.27 average rating from 59 appearances.
The promise was added to by an incredible youth intake containing seven elite talents. The pick of the bunch is Thiago, who’s already the third-best right-winger at the club so will step up to the first-team next season. While winger Walace, midfielder Edmilson, holding midfielder George Santiago, right-back Carlos Vinícius and centre-back Peter Vieira Feitosa also have 5-star potential and goalkeeper Rudimar has 4.5-star potential.
Excitement was further added to by the board announcing plans for a new stadium due to the need to accommodate a bigger crowd than currently possible.
Even at the age of 81, Lazaró was excited about the prospect of leading this team of promising youngsters. And the form they showed at the end of the 2065 season suggests they could achieve great things in 2066.
Join us next time to discover how Lazaró’s exciting young Vasco charges fare!