Olimpia forever in Almeida's debt

Copa Libertadores finalists Olimpia owe their Paraguayan manager Ever Almeida far more than just tactical expertise.

    Olimpia forever in Almeida's debt
    Almeida is being linked to Paraguay - who look set to miss Brazil 2014 World Cup [Reuters]

    Ever Almeida's love affair with Olimpia knows no bounds as the coach rescued a sinking squad and steered them to their seventh Libertadores Cup final while using his own money to settle their debts.

    The 65-year-old will be looking to crown his achievement when the Paraguayan side meet Atletico Mineiro of Brazil in the second leg of the final in South America's elite club competition on Wednesday.

    Almeida filled the role of coach but also director, father, medic and even the club's financier. He did much more than was his remit because there was no money

    Alcides Baez, Sports coordinator of broadcaster Caritas

    If Olimpia, who won the first leg 2-0 in Asuncion last week, stay ahead, Almeida will lift the trophy for the third time having done so as an Olimpia player in 1979 and 1990.

    The Uruguayan-born former goalkeeper, a naturalised Paraguayan, returned to Olimpia in January to find a club in crisis without a president, the departed Marcelo Recanate, and debts of $15 million.

    Many of the players were owed salaries but continued playing and are now being paid through match takings and television revenue thanks to the team's progress in the competition.

    "Almeida filled the role of coach but also director, father, medic and even the club's financier. He did much more than was his remit because there was no money," said Alcides Baez, sports coordinator of broadcaster Caritas.

    On the pitch, Almeida improved the form of experienced defenders like Julio Manzur and Herminio Miranda to put them on a level with top performers like goalkeeper Martin Silva and forwards Juan Manuel Salgueiro and Fredy Bareiro.

    Route one 

    "He put in place tactics based on pressuring opponents, solid defence and route one attack, getting the better of teams with a better game and more possession," said Gabriel Cazenave, head of sport at the Asuncion daily ABC.

    Discipline and order have always been important to Almeida, a serious and reserved man whose assistant is his son Ivan, also a former goalkeeper.

    Almeida came to Olimpia in 1974 after a short spell with another Paraguayan club Guarani and after starting his career at Cerro in Montevideo.

    He holds the record for playing the most Libertadores Cup matches in a long career that ended at the age of 42. He is also the first goalkeeper to have scored a goal in the competition in 1984.

    Almeida has coached and won league titles with clubs in Paraguay, Ecuador and Guatemala and also been in charge of the national teams of Paraguay in 1999 and Guatemala, his most recent job before returning to Olimpia.

    His current success has led to reports that he might be offered a second chance to manage the Paraguay team, who, after reaching the last four World Cups, are virtually out of the running for next year's finals in Brazil.

    In Paraguay they see him as capable of lifting a demoralised national team out of their slump and making them one of South America's strongest again.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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