Americas

Club of the Month: Athletico Paranaense – like a Hurricane

THE 2019 Brazilian Série A season has just got underway and one of the dark horses for the title is the club known as Athletico-PR, the team from Curitiba in the state of Paraná.

Athletico-PR was founded in 1924 through a merger of two existing clubs. Curitiba is a city of two million people and has a subtropical highland climate. The city is notable for having the highest rate of literacy among Brazilian state capitals.

Athletico-PR won the Copa Sunsamericana in 2018, CONMEBOL’s equivalent of the Europa League. They’ve only ever won the Brazilian league once, in 2001, but they’re an ambitious club and have their eye on domestic and Libertadores Cup success this season.

Last season they finished seventh but with regards to the Brazilian football hierarchy, they are considered to be the 13thmost valuable club in Brazil with a value of BRL 148.8 million. That was where the consultancy BDO ranked them in a study of Brazilian football brands.

Athletico-PR have signalled their intention to move up a gear with a bold rebranding of the club, which includes a new kit and logo. Tradtionally, they played in black and red vertical stripes, but this was similar to other Brazilian clubs. “We are changing our colours, our shield, we are changing everything,” said Mário Celso Petraglia, president of the Deliberative Council of the club. “We want an identity of our own, we no longer want to be a shadow, imitation or look like another institution.”

Petraglia added: “Believe me, it will be fine and well done. We have hired the largest and best Brazilian company to develop the entire brand. There will be nothing like it in the world.”

Athletico-PR changed their kit to four alternating red and black diagonal stripes, which we are told resembles a hurricane, the nickname of the club. The name also reverted to its original, using the Portuguese orthography. It is widely believed this is to differentiate the club from Atlético Mineiro.

The club knows, however, that in order to attain “big club” status, Athletico-PR has to win Série A or the Libertadores. They are so focused that they don’t usually play their first team in the State championships, but they still managed to win the competition on April 21 when they beat Toledo in the final in front of 25,000 people at the Estádio Joaquim Américo Guimarães. Usually, the club draws around 10,000 to its home games.

Since winning promotion in 2012, Athletico-PR have established themselves as a consistent outfit, never finishing below 11thin the league. Last season, they won the Sudamericana by beating Colombia’s Junior on penalties after two 1-1 draws in the final. On route, they overcome some big names – Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina, Uruguay’s Peñarol and Fluminense of Brazil, as well as Venezuelans Caracas and another Brazilian team, Bahia.

The Libertadores Cup is a different challenge for Thiago Nunes’ side, but Athletico-PR have performed well in the group stage and have qualified for the next stage, but they still face last season’s runners-up, Boca Juniors on matchday six in Buenos Aires. Boca were beaten in Brazil at the beginning of April by 3-0, with 32 year-old Argentinian Marco Ruben scoring a hat-trick. Ruben is on loan from Rosario Central.

Success in the Libertadores will generate valuable income for the club, but they may have to do it without one of their shining stars. Bruno Guimarães, a 21 year-old midfielder, is being courted by Chelsea, Benfica, Napoli and AC Milan. A box-to-box player, he has a € 40 million release clause in his contract, which may deter one or two suitors. Media reports claim that Chelsea are favourites given they have a good relationship with one of the player’s agents, Giuliano Bertolucci. The Londoners may find it difficult, though, given they are banned from making signings in the next two transfer windows.

According to football database, Athletico-PR are among the top 50 clubs in the world and number seven in South America. They are aiming higher, but at present, they are a considerable distance behind Brazil’s top clubs – just a glance at the revenues confirms that the Furacão (hurricane) have work to do – Flamengo, for example, generate BRL 648 million versus Athletico-PR’s BRL 161 million (€ 36 m).

Photo: PA

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