SAO PAULO — Not long ago, Luiz Felipe Scolari was seen as an indisputable hero in Brazil. Most agreed he was the perfect coach to lead the national team at the home World Cup.
But almost a year after the “catastrophic” loss to Germany on what he called the “worst day” of his career, Scolari still hasn’t regained the trust of local fans.
He failed in his first job after the World Cup debacle — a stint with Gremio that ended with his resignation this week after only two Brazilian league matches.
The experienced coach, one of the most successful ever in Brazil, left the club jeered by fans and criticized by commentators.
Now his future remains unclear.
Gremio seemed the perfect fit to give Scolari a chance to rebound from the World Cup embarrassment and put his career back on track. He had a successful history with the club and was beloved by its fans. After being hired, he thanked the team “for being there” for him when he “needed a hug” following the World Cup.
But nearly 10 months after Gremio took a chance on him despite the World Cup disappointment, Scolari left saying he was in “debt” and couldn’t continue coaching knowing that he didn’t have the full backing of club directors. It was clear the support for Scolari was not unanimous anymore.
Under his command, Gremio finished seventh in last year’s Brazilian league and lost the Rio Grande do Sul state championship to rival Internacional this year. Gremio opened the 2015 Brazilian league with a disappointing 3-3 home draw against recently promoted Ponte Preta and a 2-0 loss at Coritiba, results that proved to be the final straw for Scolari.
“There was a debt,” Scolari said. “And because of this debt, I thought it was best to talk to the president and turn in my resignation.”
His tenure was marked by an unusual episode in which he left to the changing rooms several minutes before the final whistle of a match in the state championship, saying he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance and “couldn’t do anything else” from the bench.
Scolari was heavily criticized after Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals of last year’s World Cup, when the hosts collapsed tactically and psychologically in front of the home fans. He was largely blamed for the loss, and it didn’t take long before critics started calling him obsolete.
The 66-year-old Scolari, who gained the fans’ admiration after leading Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, hasn’t publicly talked about his future. He had said in the past that he would be happy to end his career after coaching Brazil at the home World Cup.
If he wants to extend his career, it may be easier to do it outside of Brazil. Traditional Brazilian clubs Sao Paulo and Fluminense have been searching for a coach recently but already decided to pass on Scolari.
His best options could be in Portugal, where he remains well liked after a successful stint with the Portuguese national team from 2002-08. He led Portugal to the final of the European Championship at home in 2004, a fourth-place finish at the World Cup in Germany in 2006, and a quarterfinal appearance at the European Championship in Switzerland and Austria in 2008.
Scolari, who also won the 2013 Confederations Cup with Brazil, had a lacklustre stint with Chelsea before returning home to coach Palmeiras in 2010. When he left in 2012, the club was already en route to being relegated in the Brazilian league.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press