Palmeiras hires Kleina to replace Scolari
Eight-time Brazilian champion Palmeiras has hired relatively unknown coach Gilson Kleina to replace World Cup-winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who left the team in the relegation zone of the Brazilian league.
Club directors said Wednesday that Kleina reached a deal to coach Palmeiras until the end of 2013. He was coaching Ponte Preta and his contract with that club would end in December. It will be the first time he will coach a top club in Brazil.
Palmeiras and Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, mutually terminated their contract after the coach failed to get the team out of the relegation zone. The team is second-to-last in the 20-team standings with only 20 points from 25 matches.
Scolari led Palmeiras to the 2012 Brazilian Cup title - the team's first major trophy since it won the 1999 Copa Libertadores title - but it has won only five league matches and is eight points from safety with 13 rounds left.
Kleina leaves Ponte Preta in 11th place and with 33 points. He coached the club in the second division last year, when it was promoted with the third-best campaign. He also coached the Campinas city team to the semifinals of the traditional Sao Paulo state championship earlier this year.
Kleina previously commanded minnow clubs in Rio de Janeiro and in southern Brazil. In the first division, he coached Criciuma to a 14th place finish in the 2003 Brazilian league, and Parana to a 15th position in 2004. He also was with Parana in 2007, when he left the club when it was in 15th place, before it was eventually demoted.
The 44-year-old Kleina had rejected a job offer from Fluminense last year because the club did not guarantee a long-term contract.
Palmeiras had already tried hiring former player and coach Jorginho, who was not released by Bahia, as well as former Brazil player and coach Paulo Roberto Falcao, who reportedly asked for a salary that was too high.
The Brazilian club with the most national titles, Palmeiras has lost six of its last eight matches, the latest being a 2-0 defeat to rival Corinthians at home on Sunday. It has 20 points, 33 less than leader Fluminense and the same as last-place Atletico Goianiense, but it is ahead on number of victories. The bottom four clubs will be relegated to the second division, something that has already happened to Palmeiras in 2002.
Focused on the Brazilian Cup, Palmeiras rested most regular starters in the beginning of the Brazilian league and its first win came only in the seventh round.
Scolari's contract with Palmeiras was due to finish at the end of the year and the 63-year-old coach had already said he didn't plan to extend it. He has said his goal is to coach a national team at the 2014 World Cup that Brazil will host.
Palmeiras has a key match against 18th-place Figueirense on Saturday in Florianopolis. Figueirense is two points ahead in the standings.
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