An Eternal Champion

12 years. A long period since the last time that Fortaleza Esporte Clube has played in the Brazilian first division. Too much time for one of the biggest teams in the state of Ceará from the Northeast Brazil. A few weeks ago, this period has finally came to an end with their promotion from Serie B. Many people were the reason for that, but one of them deserves a special attention: Manager Rogério Ceni.

 Rogério Ceni, led Fortaleza back to the first division after 12 years of absence (Juscelinho Filho)

Rogério Ceni, led Fortaleza back to the first division after 12 years of absence (Juscelinho Filho)

Rogério Ceni is one of the greatest goalkeepers in Brazilian and international football. He won every possible title with São Paulo and played over 1000 matches for his club. When he retired, he decided that he wouldn't stop being part of the game. At the end of 2016, he was appointed as the new São Paulo coach. Eventually, he was fired after 37 matches. Even being an idol is not enough when you don’t meet expectations. However, he didn't give up on his dream to be a manager.

At the beginning of this year, he was called to manage Fortaleza. The club returned to the Serie B after 8 years in the third division and was full of expectations in its centennial year. Ceni had an important mission: lead the team back to the first division. Their rivals, Ceará, played for a while at the top tier and he wanted to put the two clubs in the same level. At the end of the season, he managed to do it and promoted from the first place, ensuring him his first title as a manager.

 Rogerio Ceni with the fans and the mascot of Fortaleza (Juscelino Filho)

Rogerio Ceni with the fans and the mascot of Fortaleza (Juscelino Filho)

One of Rogério Ceni's inspirations as a coach is Juan Carlos Osório. The current manager of the Paraguayan national team has spent four months in São Paulo and worked with Ceni as a player. Ceni likes that his teams play beautiful football, with short touches of the ball and much intensity. His team plays with full control of the match, exchanging many passes and being purposeful when attacking. He believes that his motivating way and the respect he brought could lead the team to success.

Ceni managed to set up a very disciplined team. They won the title in the 36th round, two matches before the end of the season. They lost just 8 games and their win percentage is 64%. It was thanks to the confidence that he got from his players. Fortaleza squad was not wide, but they all played together for their goal. He got their confidence not only because he is an idol, but also because he had innovative ideas. He managed to lead the team to be disciplined not only by tactics, but also by their mentality. He taught the players from his long experience as a player.

Under his guidance, one of his key players was Gustavo, Fortaleza's top scorer with 14 goals. He is a player that always seeks to create space for other players. He even points out that Ceni helped him a lot with his free kick. Ceni was a free kick and penalty kick specialist himself, as no goalkeeper in the world has ever scored more goals than him.

 Ceni celebrating with his players, teaching them from his experience (Thiago Gadelha/Jogada)

Ceni celebrating with his players, teaching them from his experience (Thiago Gadelha/Jogada)

In a year full of celebrations, Rogério Ceni had another interesting name in his squad. One of the club's legends, Clodoaldo, returned to the club for the first time since he left in 2005. He is the second all-time best scorer of Fortaleza and he made his comeback at the age of 39. His appreciation to Ceni could be seen while he was asked about a goal he scored against Ceni in 2005. "It was a special moment for me to score against him", said Clodoaldo, "I wouldn't speak about it in front of him, otherwise he will be mad".

Even though Ceni promoted Fortaleza and got the support of the players and the fans, his future at the club is uncertain. There are rumors that he might get some offers from bigger clubs that will trust his ability to lead them. Yet, try to imagine what will happen if Ceni will decide to continue his journey with Fortaleza. Imagine the crowd of Fortaleza supporting him in every match, especially when the derby against Ceara will come.

The story of Ceni's managerial career will have another episode at the next season, but who know where it will be?