The best manager in the world to share a name with one of the Seven Dwarfs is out of work again.
Dunga (‘Dopey’ in Portuguese) was dismissed by Internacional last week, just 10 months after taking over at the Porto Alegre club. His stewardship yielded 26 wins in 53 games, but a winless streak in September proved too difficult for the club’s hierarchy to ignore.
It had all started so well. Clearly motivated by the chance to prove a few doubters wrong following his ho-hum spell in charge of Brazil, Dunga guided the Colorado to the Rio Grande do Sul state championship, beating bitter rivals Grêmio twice in the process. Rather than indulge in the usual rotation for smaller matches, he consistently sent out strong sides – and reaped the rewards.
One player certainly took to his new boss. Nomadic playmaker Andrés D’Alessandro has long been guaranteed a place in Inter folklore, but had been producing diminishing returns for some time, prompting some to speculate that he would be tempted to sling his hook and hit the road once more. But Dunga’s arrival rejuvenated the Argentinean, who has returned to his effervescent best in recent months.
The bond between the two (the coach likened D’Ale’s importance to the side to that of Lionel Messi to Barcelona) also brought some the club’s traditional values back to the fore. Inter are defiantly gaúcho – a term that is primarily geographic but that also denotes a perceived cultural distance from the rest of Brazil. With their bristling, steely personas, Dunga and D’Alessandro embodied the kind of garra (literally 'hook' – a metaphor for fighting spirit) that is more traditionally associated with the football of Argentina and Uruguay.
But that kind of passion can be a double-edged sword – one upon which Dunga was perhaps destined to fall. His famed persecution complex began to come to the fore as the months rolled by. One memorable incident earlier in the year saw him ranting and raving at match officials during a fairly low-wattage game against Esportivo. “They had a meeting and decided to f*** me over!” he eventually bellowed into a pitch-side microphone before being sent to the stands.
This behaviour was initially laughed off but Inter’s inconsistent Série A form eventually told. This is a club of impressive resources yet Dunga – like fan favourites Paulo Roberto Falcão and Fernandão before him – simply couldn’t drag his charges into contention for the Brazilian title. The axe was being sharpened for weeks before it fell.
Dunga isn’t the only former Seleção coach to be heading to the job centre this month either. Mano Menezes, the man who replaced him in the wake of World Cup 2010, walked out on Flamengo after a three-month stint in charge. “I couldn’t get my thoughts about football across to the group,” he said cryptically. It was the first time he had failed to see out a contract with a club.
Brazil is not the easiest place to be a football manager. Short-termism – both on the terraces and in the boardroom – is the order of the day, meaning coaches are only rarely granted time to build a project worthy of the name. The recent success of Tite and Cuca – at Corithians and Atlético Mineiro respectively – shows what can be achieved with a little patience but these cases are few and far between.
As Dunga have Menezes have discovered, even the prestige associated with managing one of the world’s most storied national sides doesn’t offer much protection when a sequence of poor results comes around.
Jack Lang writes about Brazilian football for the Guardian, ESPN FC, When Saturday Comes and WhoScored, among others.
Follow him on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop