"Underachievers" is a label many clubs get saddled with these days as they spend millions in fruitless attempts to chase trophies. But there aren't many clubs who deserve the tag more than Brazilian giants Flamengo.
But if this season is any indication, Flamengo could return to being the powerhouse it once was. After 11 rounds of the
Flamengo has been in sensational form and, last Sunday, won its eighth match of the season, a comfortable 3-1 victory over crosstown rival Vasco da Gama in front of almost 70,000 fans at the Maracanã.
Since its "Golden Age" of the 1980s -- when it won four domestic championships, the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup (thrashing Liverpool 3-0 in the final in Tokyo) -- Flamengo hasn't come close to creating such high expectations. Even though it doesn't currently boast a player with the caliber of the legendary
Having said that, we're still less than one-third of the way into the season, and as is usually the case in the Brazilian championship, big-money transfers often jeopardize the title aspirations of the early front-runners.
In Brazil, success seems to come with a price. Just last week, Flamengo lost key attacking midfielder
To make matters worse, more changes could soon follow. Caio Júnior, who only replaced South Africa-bound
Another key loss could be that of
At this rate, Flamengo's squad could be completely disassembled by midseason. This will surely affect its title aspirations, although many of its rivals find themselves in a similar situation.
"This happens to all the teams, especially the big ones," declared an optimistic Caio Júnior. "I'm not so preoccupied because
Despite Caio Júnior's hope to retain Flamengo's key squad members, it's almost a formality that the Mengão will suffer further losses now that the European transfer market is in full swing. Although the rest of South America is affected in a similar way, nowhere is this as evident as in Brazil. For decades, rich European clubs have raided the league of its best players and, although Brazilian clubs have often benefited from the sales in financial terms, it has drastically reduced the level of quality in the competition.
But that's a whole different issue. Brazil is renowned for producing world-class players, and even if it's constantly selling its best players to Europe, tremendous talent keeps emerging from the youth ranks of its clubs. Unlike most of its rivals, Flamengo understands that in order to achieve immediate results, it needs to find suitable replacements. To that end, the club is vigorously seeking the services of established stars instead.
In recent days, Flamengo has been linked with several high-profile players, including
D'Alessandro's transfer seems more realistic. The San Lorenzo midfielder has returned to his top form since returning to Argentina, but is apparently in conflict with his club's directors and would welcome a move to Brazil. If Flamengo wants to secure his signature, it'll have to act quickly, because fellow Brazilians Internacional has confirmed it will offer the player a lucrative contract by the end of the week.
If Flamengo doesn't manage to get its man, it's likely to go for former club idol
Meanwhile, Flamengo president
Even if these transfers aren't made immediately, it's vital for Flamengo to continue to pick up positive results in the championship. After years of failure, Flamengo finally has the opportunity to revive its past glory, and is in a favorable position to do so after an exceptional start to the season.
The Mengão has been by far the most dynamic team of the Brasileirão so far, and despite its overall depth, it will have to learn to deal with sudden changes in its squad as the season progresses. Its reputation depends on it.