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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 14:22 GMT
Luxemburgo's test of character
By Tim Vickery

New Real Madrid coach Wanderley Luxemburgo

Earlier this month Wanderley Luxemburgo coached Santos to the Brazilian title.

He has now won the championship five times with four different clubs.

A nondescript full-back in his playing days, Luxemburgo the coach is a phenomenon of Brazilian football.

The question now, as he takes over at Real Madrid, is can he become a phenomenon of global football?

"The force of his will to win is striking," is the verdict of current Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

He should know. A few weeks ago Parreira helped organise a forum for Brazilian coaches.

Luxemburgo gave a lecture which built up to an extraordinary climax.

At the time, Santos were involved in a two-horse race for the title against Atletico Paranaense. "I want my opponent to die," he yelled. "I want Atletico to die."

It left a nauseating taste in the mouth. Two Brazilian players had just dropped dead on the field.

Luxemburgo's words were monumentally ill-judged.

But that is the man. He throws his whole being into the quest for victory. His total commitment and attention to detail are the reasons behind his success.

But his lack of limits makes him vulnerable for a fall. In his playing days he knocked three years off his age and appeared for a Brazil Under-20 side when he was really 22.

A Congressional Commission of Inquiry revealed that he had more than 20 bank accounts stuffed with millions of dollars the origin of which he could not convincingly explain.

And, of course, there was his chaotic two-year spell in charge of the Brazilian national team.

Luxemburgo took over after France '98 and his first words in charge were: "I come with the certainty that I will be successful."

He talked about his "macro plan". And he gave the impression of an ego on the loose, trying too hard to impress.

Handling the stars of European football is new territory for Luxemburgo. It will be fascinating to see whether he can stand up to the test.

Although he won the 1999 Copa America, he never looked happy in a job that tests the character of the man more than the quality of the coach.

Some of his selections were craven attempts to get the press on his side.

Even at his worst, though, he was usually capable of improving the side with shrewd substitutions.

Luxemburgo claims that he is a calmer, more mature figure these days.

And, in domestic Brazilian football at least, he has a consistent record of producing teams that win in style.

He has got the best out of the likes of Rivaldo and Edmundo (at Palmeiras), Freddy Rincon (Corinthians), Alex at Cruzeiro and Robinho at Santos.

His time with Flamengo and the national team was somewhat overshadowed by his fall out with Romario, but Luxemburgo is far from the only coach who found the little man too hot to handle.

Handling the stars of European football, though, is new territory. Brazilian club sides are not the multilingual, multicultural melting pot of contemporary European football.

Adjustments will have to be made to the methods of motivation and team building that Luxemburgo has used so far.

There will be no lack of effort on his part, and no lack of talent. But it will be fascinating to see whether he can stand up to the test of character.

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