Sao Paulo's Fernando Diniz is Brazil's next great coaching hope

Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds) and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino are high profile Argentine coaches with a history, and surely a future, in top class European football; Manuel Pellegrini, from Chile, has been in charge of some of the continent's biggest clubs (Real Madrid, Man City, now Real Betis); and Uruguayan Gus Poyet has had some chances (Betis and Bordeaux).

There is no closed door to South American coaches in Europe, but where are the Brazilians? Former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Sylvinho had the briefest of spells with Lyon at the start of last season, yet before that, you have to go back to the undoubted failures of Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea and Vanderlei Luxemburgo with Real Madrid.

Brazilian coaches are not being offered glamorous jobs abroad and they are losing market share at home. Under Portugal's Jorge Jesus, Flamengo won the domestic and South American titles in a swashbuckling manner which has influenced other Brazilian clubs to look beyond the border. When Jesus resigned, he was replaced by former Pep Guardiola assistant Domenec Torrent, from Spain. Palmeiras, who regard themselves as Flamengo's leading competitors, have just gone with Abel Ferreira, from Portugal. Near the top of the league table are Internacional and Atletico Mineiro, both under Argentine management (Eduardo Coudet and Jorge Sampaoli respectively).

In comparison with the foreign competition, Brazilian coaches are coming across as dull pragmatists and survivors who are content to eke out results. This is not entirely their fault. Job security is non-existent and an over-crowded calendar leaves little time for training, but there is also a general attitude of "we won the World Cup five times, so the others should be learning from us."

This, of course, is foolish. Firstly, because there were many foreign coaches who helped pave the way for Brazilian football to achieve greatness. Second, because the game is in constant evolution.

The Brazilian game stopped in time. It convinced itself to depend on the counter attack, on the grounds that the physical evolution of the game meant that a possession-based style was obsolete. More than a decade has gone by since this was comprehensively disproved by Guardiola. It is astonishing how little the Brazilian game has reacted.

But there is an exception. A great Brazilian hope exists. His name is Fernando Diniz, and Sunday could have been a very important day in his life.

Diniz favours a passing game. It is expansive and potentially attractive, but it brings risks, especially -- as Torrent is discovering at Flamengo -- domestic Brazilian football has very few centre-backs quick and versatile enough to operate in a high line.

Diniz is now at his third club in the first division. He left Athletico Paranaense in the relegation zone; he left Fluminense in the relegation zone; and his reward was to be handed a bigger club, Sao Paulo. For all the talk of extra privileges being given to foreign coaches, it is inconceivable that a non-Brazilian would have been able to fail his way upwards in this manner.

Nevertheless, the hope remains; Diniz is learning and evolving. With his earlier clubs he could fall into the trap of having all of his attacking players in a static line across the field, with little movement and no angles for passing. With Sao Paulo he has been working away at the architecture of his team -- and he has been operating under considerable pressure.

Results have not always lived up to expectations. When football returned after the shutdown, his teams were bundled in embarrassing fashion out of the local state championship. Seven Brazilian teams went into the group phase of the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League. Sao Paulo were the only one to fail to make it to the knockout phase. Twice they were outplayed by River Plate of Argentina, who were playing their first matches after months of inactivity while Sao Paulo were in full competitive rhythm.

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There have been calls in the media for Diniz to be sacked and less than a month ago there was speculation that he was 90 minutes away from leaving. Quietly, though, league form has improved. Diniz tried to add more speed to the heart of his defence. Then, when Daniel Alves returned from injury, the former Barcelona right-back was deployed in a deeper midfield role, from where he can initiate the passing moves.

On Sunday, Sao Paulo visited Flamengo and quickly found themselves a goal down. But with goalkeeper Thiago Volpi saving two penalties, they played their best game of the year. Daniel Alves orchestrated well, Flamengo's defensive weaknesses were exposed and Sao Paulo won 4-1. Flamengo would have gone top of the table with a draw. Instead, with the competition at the halfway stage, Sao Paulo are only five points off the lead, and they have three games in hand. Sunday's match ensures that Sao Paulo are in the fight for the domestic title.

Now Wednesday's game will define whether or not they have a future in continental competition. With their exit from the Libertadores they moved into the Copa Sudamericana, the Europa League equivalent, where they were drawn against Lanus of Argentina.

Last week they lost 3-2 away from home. The scoreline is not disastrous, but bearing in mind that Lanus were playing their first game since the middle of March, the lack of defensive solidity is a concern. Sao Paulo fell foul of Lanus centre forward Jose Sand, well into his 41st year, who at the weekend became the oldest player to score a goal in the history of the Argentine top flight.

Overturning that first leg defeat is important. The club is desperate to win something -- a Copa Sudamericana triumph in 2012 is the only title in over a decade. It will almost certainly be easier to win this year's Sudamericana than the Brazilian league and a major trophy will do wonders for the prestige of Diniz, consolidating his career and further establishing him as the great hope of Brazilian coaches.