Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on ESPN.com.br. Find the original story here.
SOCHI, Russia — Balance. This is Tite’s most-used word, no doubt about it. The coach promoted a revolution in Brazil, where the national side now plays like a European team with Brazilian talent.
Before the World Cup, Brazil had played only 25 times with Tite, suffering just one defeat and conceding a mere six goals. In Russia, they’ve played four matches, with a single goal against and seven goals scored. There’s much more to their success than stars Neymar and Philippe Coutinho. The defense also merits attention — Alisson has faced only four shots against his goal, and this impressive number helps to understand who Tite is.
Born in Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, 57 years ago, Adenor Leonardo Bachi is part of the gaucha school of coaches. In his home state, soccer is played in a more physical way, and the local championship is considered one of the most difficult and balanced of the country. Tite’s professional profile began to be shape there.
A young Adenor was a soccer player. For Caxias, he showed talent as a defensive midfielder and became a professional in 1978. He played for Esportivo, also in Rio Grande do Sul, and in 1985 signed to Portuguesa. He played there for a brief period, and joined Guarani the following year. Tite was part of the runner-up team in the 1986 Brazilian championship. His career ended prematurely at the age of 28 because of knee injuries. But his medical issues sped up his transformation into a coach.
Tite worked in some clubs of Rio Grande do Sul for a decade until returning to Caxias. He was state champion in 2000, beating Ronaldinho’s Gremio in the final. The title increased his profile and he was soon snapped up by Gremio. It was at that club that his ascent began. In 2001, he was Copa do Brasil champion and won more than a title — he also earned the status of a top coach in Brazil.
Tite won a lot of trophies throughout his career, including at Gremio’s rivals, Internacional, in the 2009 Copa Sudamericana. At Corinthians, Tite’s life changed definitively. He managed the most popular club in Sao Paulo on three separate occasions, and had become the most important coach in the team’s history. They were twice Brazilian champion (2011 and 2015) under his leadership, and he led Corinthians to their first Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup in 2012. All the wins had the same hallmarks: tactical balance with an amazing defensive system.
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After Brazil’s 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup on home soil, Tite was sure that he would be hired as the next Selecao manager. He was on sabbatical, travelling around the world to study soccer. The federation instead chose to go back in time and appoint Dunga, who led the country from 2006 to 2010. The mistake was fixed after the disastrous 2016 Copa America, when Brazil were eliminated in the group stage.
Finally, the Corinthians coach was tasked with rebuilding the prestige of a team that feared, for the first time, missing out on qualification for the World Cup.
In September 2016, in World Cup qualifying against Ecuador, Tite began his revolution. He called in young players who were gold medalists at the 2016 Olympics, he started to use Gabriel Jesus, he started to play his stars in the same ways they’re used with their clubs. In a magical touch, Tite turned a gang of great players who underperformed for Dunga into a victorious team. That debut in Quito, a 3-0 win, showed Brazilians that it was possible to play well and not suffer. It was Brazil’s first win in the elevation of the Ecuadorian capital in 25 years.
After that match, he cried.
“When I called my wife, it was tears of joy and satisfaction, because it’s our emotional characteristic. I cried of pleasure, of pride to make a great moment in a moment of so much pressure,” the coach remembered in Russia, when he was defending Neymar from his critics.
Besides the tactics, he is a father figure too. Tite hugs his players and unites the roster for a common goal. These are outstanding traits of someone very connected to his family.
In Caxias do Sul, the phone of Ivone Bachi, 82, rings before every Brazil match. Tite’s mom is the biggest fan of Adenor. She still feels emotional when she talks about her son and the pride that his father, Genor — who died in 2009 — had in the Brazil coach.
“I say all the time that it would be a beautiful thing if he was here and watching his son. But one is here, the other is there. Everybody said to me that he is watching his son.” In 2007, “Dona” Ivone received a personalised rosary with the Brazil flag from the federation. She cried and blessed her son and all who were there.
Tite is as religious as his mom.
Rosmari, or just Rose, his wife, is his counselor. In hard times, she is the one who listens to Adenor. Mother of Gabriele and Matheus, she’s also seen her son start in the soccer world. He played college soccer in the U.S. His father chose him to join his technical staff at Corinthians, and now Matheus is one of the Brazilian national team’s performance analysts. Tite was heavily criticised for hiring his son, but he always defended his capacity and never hid the fraternal element of having him by his side.
Tite’s familial relationships extend to teammates and colleagues, and now with Brazil. His top assistant with the national team, Cleber Xavier, has worked with him for 18 years. Clebinho, as he’s known, is the primary strategist and opposition scout. In news conferences, when Tite needs to discuss the next match, it’s Clebe who explains, in detail, the characteristics of the upcoming opponents.
It’s not only Cleber and Matheus who followed Tite from Corinthians. He brought former Arsenal and Valencia player Edu Gaspar; trainer Fabio Mahseredjian; physical trainer, scout and performance analyst Fernando Lazaro; physio Bruno Mazziotti; and many more to the Selecao.
But to think Tite is unanimously adored would be wrong. Many journalists and fans have criticised him because of the way he speaks to the media. His speech is calm, slow, with few gestures, and it causes many to consider his answers fake, a product of media training. The term Titebilidade was created to explain that. He is also accused of naming players he’s relied on in the past, especially those who played for him at Corinthians.
Tite has said he’s not perfect, that he has enemies. He accepts the criticism, but he doesn’t appreciate the persecution. The part of the media that likes him was identified by former Sao Paulo and Uruguay captain Diego Lugano. In an interview with ESPN, the defender said that Tite is a “snake charmer,” in reference of the way that he treats the media.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, coach of the 2002 World Cup winners and also in charge of Brazil in the 7-1 defeat to Germany, is one of his critics. Felipao discovered Tite as a player and was his first coach at Caxias. Scolari said that he “opened the doors” to the young coach at the beginning of his career. The nickname “Tite” stemmed from Scolari, who confused the young player with a friend called “Titi.”
In a 2016 biography, Tite’s brother Miro said that the relationship between the two coaches ended in 2010 when Scolari’s Palmeiras lost to Tite’s Corinthians. After the match, the coaches engaged in what became a very famous touchline argument in Brazil, and Tite was captured on camera gesturing to his opposite number that he complains too much.
Since becoming Brazil coach, Tite has consulted all his predecessors to seek advice and hear opinions. Felipao didn’t answer.
After the reigns of Scolari and Dunga, there’s been a revolution in Brazil. There’s no tactical innovation that shocked the world, as Hungary did in 1954, or the Netherlands 20 years later, or 2010 Spain. There’s no bright and sunny soccer like 1970 and 1982 Brazil. And there’s no other side of the coin, like 2006 Italy.
There’s only the basics, and the Brazilians are not used to it.
The culture of analysing work just by results and not by methods is prevailing in Brazil. It’s created a fan base that want Tite to remain in charge of the national team … but only if they win the World Cup. But it’s clear that Brazil need the continuity of Tite and his staff.
In a Brazilian federation marred by corruption scandals, with the past three presidents all under investigation, the Selecao became an island of excellence. Because of that, Tite was conveyed to a general public accustomed to corruption as the next “saviour of the motherland.”
In March 2017, a research institute released a survey that revealed 15 percent of Brazilians would vote for Tite for president. The coach, with his customary Titebilidade, provided another lesson: “It’s a joke with something very serious. I don’t know how to play with it, it’s a huge responsibility. I ask everyone to not play with it. I don’t speak [with] false modesty. It doesn’t fit, it’s a very serious thing and with too much responsibility.”
On Friday, Tite will be the leader of Brazil. It’ll just be the national team in Kazan against Belgium in the World Cup quarterfinals.