Fri, 28 Jan 2022

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa has described his decision to join Flamengo as an "opportunity I couldn't miss", as he officially begins his tenure in charge of the Rio de Janeiro club.

Sousa faced the media on Monday for the first time since leaving Poland's national team to accept a two-year contract with Flamengo.

"It's an opportunity that does not always appear in the life of a coach, to lead a club as great as Flamengo," said the 51-year-old. "I want to see the team well connected with the fans ... and for us to feel more united than ever. I appreciate the affection shown in several ways."

Sousa replaces Renato Portaluppi, who was sacked following the team's loss to Palmeiras in the Copa Libertadores final last November.

While Sousa's move drew a positive reaction in Brazil, it was harshly criticized in Poland. Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza described the manager's resignation as "extremely irresponsible" ahead of the team's participation in the 2022 World Cup playoffs in March.

It was reported that senior players in Poland's squad, including striker Robert Lewandowski, were disappointed by Sousa's choice to leave.

"My decision was based on the enthusiasm, the greatness of the club, the possibility of winning titles and continuing to write other pages to be marked in the history of Flamengo. This is an opportunity I couldn't miss," Sousa said.

He added that Flamengo's run of two Serie A titles and a Copa Libertadores crown in the past three years showed the club has one of the strongest squads in South America. But he warned that his players could ill afford to bask in past glories.

"It's not enough to win titles and games," he said. "We're going to have to work harder than everyone else and, for that, individual and collective commitment is essential. That's the message I've already sent to the players."

Sousa's appointment comes as Portuguese managers find themselves in high demand in Brazil.

The last three Copa Libertadores titles have been won by Brazilian clubs with Portuguese head coaches. Jorge Jesus led Flamengo to South American football's top club trophy in 2019, while Abel Ferreira repeated the feat with Palmeiras in 2020 and 2021.

"Our school is very demanding and with few resources we have to be creative to evolve," Sousa said of Portuguese managers. "I think our [coaching development programs] are strong, with good human resource management skills. We have to value them, enrich them and take advantage of them, in addition to developing their capabilities," he added.

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