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Patient Tite has brought swagger and pragmatism back to Brazil | John Cotterill | Football


When Brazil emerge from the Wembley tunnel to face England on Tuesday evening most eyes will be on Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and the array of dazzling talent wrapped in canary yellow. Back in Brazil, the focus will be elsewhere. Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, better known as Tite – pronounced “Cheechee” – is revered in his homeland. The 56-year-old has restored the country’s pride in its national side and that counts for a lot in image‑conscious Brazil.

“Tite is a great coach, one of the best in the world. He just doesn’t have the status of [Pep] Guardiola and [José] Mourinho because he’s not in Europe. But he’s as good as these guys,” says the former Brazil international Neto, a pundit for the broadcaster Bandeirantes.

Tite took charge in June last year after Brazil went out of the Copa América and were floundering in sixth place in the South America qualifiers. He engineered a remarkable turnaround: in March, Brazil became the first team to qualify for Russia. The Seleção’s old swagger is back, but now it is underpinned by a sizable chunk of pragmatism.

Brazil are still in the process of reinventing themselves after their 7-1 humiliation against Germany at the 2014 World Cup was followed by two years of torpor under Dunga. Tite once said: “A coach has to know his machine … how much it can take, the way it works, know which parts you can be harder on.” Brazil are changing and, in Tite, have a man who has morphed from mechanic to magus.

In the space of 18 months, Tite has restored the spirit that had evaporated under Dunga; now he is working on bringing back some of the old magic. “What fascinates me most is the Brazil of 1982. They played almost without thinking,” he says. “That side was so impressive. Falcao, Socrates, Cerezo and Zico. I look at that team and I think what a beautiful thing it is to play football.”

Fine words, but make no mistake, Tite is cut from the same cloth as his predecessors Dunga and, Tite’s mentor, Luiz Felipe Scolari. Today’s Brazil are a far cry from the futebol arte of the 80s.

Tite is from Caxias do Sul in the south of Brazil. Down to earth and conservative, his critics argue that his pronouncements on football – and life – are somewhat preachy, but he makes light of the puritanical image he has helped create. The overall impression is that Tite is a good man, someone you can trust, a man you would want to play for. He is loyal to his players, but a lack of ruthlessness cost him in the past and could do so again in Russia.

His playing career was cut short due to injury and the former defensive midfielder started his first coaching position in 1990 for Guarany de Garibaldi. Eleven years later, he got a crack at the big time with Grêmio and won the Copa do Brasil. There followed a series of jobs patching up struggling teams, saving them from the drop, before inevitably getting the sack. His Mr Fix It image changed after he won the Copa Sudamericana with Internacional in 2008. However, the real turning point came two years later when he joined Corinthians for a second time.

Tite rebuilt the side from the back and they went on to win the league, conceding just 36 goals in 38 games. Seven months later they beat Boca Juniors in the Libertadores final, and in the same year saw off Chelsea in the Fifa Club World Cup.

But in 2013, Corinthians stagnated and clocked up a staggering 13 goalless draws over the season. In November, the club told the coach he was out. The problem, according to Neto, was clear. “One of his weaknesses is making difficult changes, like dropping players he trusts. He struggled with this after winning the Club World Cup. It needed [his successor] Mano Menezes to do a clear-out.”

Philippe Coutinho, left, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus give Brazil formidable options in attack.



Philippe Coutinho, left, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus give Brazil formidable options in attack. Photograph: Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

While Menezes was spring cleaning, Tite went on a sabbatical. The coach had always been a student of the game, now he had time to pay a few calls. One of Brazil’s top football analysts, Paulo Vinícius Coelho, better known as PVC, believes this period was crucial to Tite’s development as a coach. “Tite has studied the best training methods around the world for more than a decade and applied what he learned. But he didn’t copy, he adapted. This happened especially after he left Corinthians and spent time with Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.”

Midway through his year out, Brazil suffered the ignominy of being thrashed by Germany at a World Cup they were hosting. Tite was favourite to take over from Scolari. Instead, Dunga got the call and was back in charge.

By the end of the season, Tite had returned to Corinthians and picked up another league title in 2015. He finally got the Brazil job in June last year and his record has been impressive: 12 wins, two draws, and one defeat, in a friendly against Argentina.

The results have come though the changes have not been radical. Tite has made full use of the experience in his squad and exploited the pace and flair going forward. The Liverpool coach Michael Beale worked in Brazil and believes Tite’s side have a balanced look. “Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho are a formidable attacking force. The team has strength and mobility in midfield and the natural Brazilian style of full-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo gives them attacking versatility in wide areas. The one big question for me is that because they’ve used a very settled group of players, the team could be short of ideas if things go wrong or they get hit by injuries or suspensions.”

Tite admits dropping players distresses him. “It makes me uncomfortable. I want to be as fair as possible. There can be only 23 players. I’m going to do an injustice to someone. I know players think: ‘I deserve to be in’. It’s the human side [of the job] that bothers me most.”

Dealing with his emotions will be a challenge. With Argentina struggling in the qualifiers, there is a sense that Brazil had it relatively easy in reaching Russia. Bigger tests will come from the top European sides that move the ball quickly in midfield. That could prove difficult for Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho, solid players but not the fastest. Tite thrives on getting the best out of the talent available to him. “The essence of a great coach is someone who can make the most of his team,” he says. “It’s the coach who has to adapt his style to fit the side, not the other way round.”

With so many stars, it is arguable the Brazil job is more about man-management than tactics. Coelho agrees. “Tite doesn’t speak English but uses Edu Gaspar [once of Arsenal] to understand coaches such as Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp, who work with Brazilians.

“Tite talks to his players every day and sends videos and analysis on WhatsApp. He’s very different from previous Brazil coaches. He spends 10 hours a day at the Brazilian Football Confederation analysing his players. Tite runs the Seleção as if it were a club side. In just over a year, the relationship with the players and the system has changed. And, the results have come from this.”



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