Sports News

Beaten but unbowed, Flamengo eager to build on promising run

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A day after narrowly losing the Club World Cup final to Liverpool, Flamengo are hoping to keep hold of cult figures Jorge Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa so that they can build on their most successful season in almost 40 years.

Coach Jesus said their performance in Doha, which ended with the 1-0 extra-time loss, showed that Brazil’s best can now compete at the highest level, a bold statement given the financial gulf between Europe and South America.

The next few weeks will be key in deciding whether this year was a one-off or the beginning of a tropical dynasty.

“All the conditions are there for Flamengo to continue their hegemony in Brazilian football,” Jesus said after Saturday’s defeat.

“They are on the right track, but it is not up to me, it’s up to the directors to know what steps they are going to take. They’re all set.”

Two of the biggest question marks surround the future of Jesus and talismanic striker Barbosa.

Jesus has turned Flamengo’s fortunes around since arriving in June, leading the team to a 29-game unbeaten run on their way to the Serie A and Libertadores titles.

The former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon coach told reporters he would only leave Rio if he got an offer from “one of five teams” he considers to be among the top in Europe.

He did not name the teams but his future remains undecided and Flamengo will aim to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

The same goes for Barbosa, whose loan from Inter Milan ends on Dec. 31.

The striker, whose clinical finishing earned him the nickname Gabigol, may opt to return to Europe and try to prove himself after disappointing spells at Inter and Benfica.

The encouraging news for Flamengo is they have the resources to ensure they remain dominant.

Flamengo get more money from TV rights and their own members’ schemes than any other Brazilian club and are second only behind Palmeiras in overall revenues, according to Sports Value, a Brazilian consultancy firm.

The spending spree that led to the arrival of top names from both European clubs and domestic rivals looks set to continue, with Santos’s highly rated defender Gustavo Henrique agreeing to join Flamengo early next year.

Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Pritha Sarkar