Wonderkid Factory | Part 39 | Robinho Lazaró: Greatest South American Manager Ever

As he approached 20 years in charge of Envigado, Robinho Lazaró had achieved outstanding success focusing solely on developing the club’s outstanding youth prospects. He’d led the small club on the edge of Medellín to a record-breaking 22 Colombian titles and four continental trophies, including being champions of South America twice.

However, he’d done all of that without spending a single peso on transfers and accruing a massive £145m by selling 167 players. Now, with the board repeatedly refusing his requests for a much-needed new stadium, he decided to try and spend the £78m he’d pocketed in the club’s bank balance.

This save effectively concluded in Part 37, as Lazaró extended his record to 22 titles. He now abandoned his homegrown-only approach to see how his side would fare by trying to spend the considerable transfer kitty he’d amassed. That began at the end of last season, as he upped the club’s scouting capacity to search all of South America in a bid to try and discover some of the best talent across the continent. However, he was going to retain his focus on young players and couldn’t go too wild as he was only allowed to register four non-Colombians.

The summer began by selling the undoubtedly talented but disruptive Yaliston Hernández to Fiorentina for £8.5m. Lazaró’s spending spree began by smashing the club’s record transfer for wonderkid Flamengo defender Dias for £8m. Two days later, he re-broke that record and set a new national record by spending £13m on Santos goalkeeper Alexandre Pato. He added strength at left-back in Martin De Fazio for £4.5m from Millonarios then exciting centre-back Diego Moreno for £1.5m from América.

Despite those signings, Envigado remained heavily reliant on their homegrown talents, with only Dias threatening the first 11, which would allow Diego Ceballos to move to his preferred centre-back position.

Significant Súperliga Success

Envigado began the season with a two-legged Súperliga clash against Independiente. They won 4-2 at home, which was enough for more silverware despite a 2-1 away defeat. This latest success took Lazaró to the top of the South American Hall of Fame, above former Flamengo boss Gabriel Milito, who retired in 2036, on 3209 points.

Apertura Season 20

Envigado started the season well with a 3-0 win at Santa Fe thanks to goals from main man Mateo Acevedo, last year’s assist king Juan José Vizcaino and sub striker Yan de Armas. Acevedo bagged twice in their first game at Polideportivo Sur before de Armas and a Ceballos header sealed a 4-1 win over Bogotá.

That set up a fine start led by the inspired Acevedo, who moved past 250 league goals for Envigado with a hat-trick in a 5-1 hammering of Petrolera and both goals in a rival win at Águilas Doradas. There was a special moment as Jhon Fredy Florián, the only decent graduate easily the worst intake of Lazaró’s reign, scored on his debut in a 2-2 at Junior. That was due to the usual necessary rotation, but even rotated teams did well, setting a new Liga BetPlay record of 31 games unbeaten before losing 1-0 at Tolima. But they sealed top spot with a 4-3 thriller at Nacional, which saw Envigado climb above their rivals on the final day.

That set up a group with Junior FC, Independiente Medellín and Tolima. They began with a cracking game at Independiente in which the two teams shared 42 shots and Envigado edged it 3-2 thanks to midfield stalwart Diego Mena creating the first two and scoring the winner. They drew 0-0 at home to Tolima but exciting midfielder Killiam Garza scored the opener in a 3-0 win at home to Junior and a de Armas double led a 4-0 hammering of Independiente. A rotated side drew 0-0 at Junior before Vizcaíno and captain Rodolfo Vega won the group with a 2-0 victory at Tolima.

That set up another meeting with Nacional, who’ve lost their last eight Finals. Nacional dominated the first leg by 16 shots to 10 but Polo popped up with the only goal of the game to give Envigado a lead to defend at Polideportivo Sur. And they did just that as a 1-1 draw was enough to seal Envigado’s 23rd Colombian title and a 9th successive Apertura!

Surprise World Club Cup Appearance

Despite winning Libertadores twice, Envigado had never been to the FIFA Club World Cup. But that changed in June 2041, slap bang in the middle of their Apertura Final against Nacional. The club played its first-ever matches outside of South America as they went to Estonia (random) for a group alongside Arsenal and Monterrey.

They began against Champions League runners-up Arsenal and were exceptional as they dominated the game by 16 shots to six, led early on and were unlucky to draw 2-2. A week later, they took on CONCACAF champions Monterrey, who had three days fewer rest but beat Arsenal 3-1. And that showed as Envigado rose to the occasion with a club record 7-0 victory led by an Acevedo hat-trick! A familiar foe lay in wait as they took on Santos in the quarter-finals. Envigado had one day of rest but still put up a good fight only for their nemesis Nildinho to score another hat-trick as Santos won 5-3. Santos went on to win the Club World Cup, defeating PSG 2-1 in the Final!

Last Copa Libertadores Adventure

Last year’s beaten finalists were oddly back to being third seeds and got a group alongside Sao Paulo, Chilean team O’Higgins and Venezuelan side Estudiantes de Mérida. They began with a 1-1 at home to Sao Paulo before a 5-0 win in Paraguay led by braces from Edisón Borrero and midfielder Álvaro Polo, in which they had 33 shots to three. A 4-1 win over O’Higgins was backed up by a 3-1 win in Chile to confirm qualification with two games remaining. And their goals tally was enough to top the group despite a 1-0 defeat at Sao Paulo.

For a change, they got a half-decent second-round draw against Newell’s Old Boys. That showed as they dominated the away leg and won 3-1 before a 2-2 at home, which Lazaró was furious they didn’t win. Next up was a first meeting with Corinthians for 10 years. The Brazilians edged their home leg by 15 shots to eight but Lazaró’s side defended superbly and Juan Fernando Rivas’ late goal earned a huge 1-0 win. And another 1-1 home draw ensured progression to the semis for the sixth year in a row.

Their reward was a first reunion with goalkeeper José Mosquera as they took on Flamengo. The home leg was up first and they got a great start as Polo scored inside four minutes only for Flamengo to get on top and turn the game around. But an inspired substitution saw de Armas replace the underperforming Borrero and bag a 15-minute hat-trick to inspire a stellar 4-2 victory. Envigado bossed the return leg in Brazil, having 14 shots to eight, but the hosts went ahead with their first shot on target. Lazaró went more defensive and, thanks to a couple of big Pato saves, they held Flamengo off for a 1-0 defeat.

That sent Envigado into their fourth Copa Libertadores Final. And guess who they faced? For the fourth time and the second time in 12 months, world champions Santos and they were back in Uruguay where Envigado won their maiden crown. Lazaró had a clean bill of health and lined up:

Pato; Ceballos, Franco, Vega, Belalcázar; Mena; Polo, Rivas; Acevedo, Vizcaíno; Borrero

Santos started on top and made the breakthrough after 15 minutes through that man Nildinho. But Envigado came back into it in style as Acevedo picked the ball up 30 yards out and fired a howitzer into the top corner. Ten minutes later, the winger won an aerial battle and sent the ball into the path of Borrero, who coolly tucked it home. And Envigado led 2-1 at the break despite having just four shots to 13. Santos were again the better team after the break, forcing a good save out of Pato before eventually finding the equaliser with nine minutes remaining. Lazaró reverted to a positive approach and sent on de Armas, who had an immediate impact. On 88 minutes, he got down the left and found Rivas, whose perfect pass put the winner on a plate for Polo.

Envigado won their 3rd Copa Libertadores!!

A Final Finalización Campaign

Envigado began Finalización with a 3-2 win at home to Santa Fe inspired by a goal and assist from Borrero who, by his high standards, had been lacking goals with ‘just’ 16 in 32. But he scored again in a 6-0 away hammering of Petrolera led by Polo’s first career hat-trick. That set the scene for one of the strongest campaigns of Lazaró’s reign as they went unbeaten through the first 14 games to lead Millonarios by 11 points. And they stretched it to 14 points as a rotated team due to international call-ups defeated Millonarios 2-0, with Borrero scoring the opener to notch his 300th league goal for Envigado. What an achievement!

A 2-0 win at América saw Envigado secure first place with four games remaining, allowing Lazaró to rest and rotate. The dream of an undefeated campaign ended at Cortuluá but they still won the league by a whopping 14 points.

The post-season began two days after the Libertadores Final, and Envigado had a group with Nacional, Junior and Santa Fe. Strangely, their first three games were all at home. Lazaró rotated a little for the opener against Santa Fe but de Armas came in to inspire a 4-0 win with a brace then repeated the feat in a 3-1 win over Nacional then Acevedo bagged a brace as they hammered Junior 4-0. A 1-1 at Nacional had them close to the Final and they confirmed it with a 3-0 win at Junior led by goals from Borrero and de Armas. And a fully rotated side still won 2-0 at Santa Fe.

That teed up a final against the second-most successful side in Colombian history, Millonarios. But Envigado showed their dominance again in the first leg as the brilliant Acevedo ran riot with an 18-minute hat-trick in a 4-1 victory. The second leg took place the day after Lazaró celebrated 20 years in charge of Envigado on 21 December 2041. And Acevedo was at it again, scoring a penalty before Vega headed home to seal a comfortable 6-1 aggregate success.

Envigado won a 14th successive Colombian league title and their 24th in total!!

Signing Out In Style

Lazaró had a superb final season in Envigado, winning a famous quadruple to sign out in style. Despite spending some cash, he retained his focus on homegrown players and was particularly pleased to see Juan Fernando Morales, Polo and de Armas make their Colombia debuts, while de Armas also scored on his international debut.

Acevedo was Enviagdo’s star man this season, racking up an incredible 38 goals and 22 assists and a 7.69 average rating in 58 appearances. That won him Liga BetPlay Player of the Year for the fourth year in a row. de Armas went to a new level with 35 goals in a ridiculous 74 appearances, of which just 27 were starts, and Borrero still did well with 27 in 62. Vizcaíno again led the assists chart with 27 plus 14 goals in 65 matches while Polo impressed with 17 goals and 19 assists as did his midfield partner Rivas with seven goals and 17 assists.

This season crowned a glorious 20 years in charge of Envigado, winning a total of 42 trophies. Join us on Monday as we wrap up the series with a look back at some of the heroes of Wonderkid Factory!


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