Nautico — Where the cracks are beginning to show

Guest author Chris Johnson is back with his latest post. Chris can be found on Twitter here @randomfilming. You can also check out more about the film that Chris has just finished, by following this link

In our third and final expose on Clube Nautico Capibaribe we find ourselves one on one with the manager, Chris Johnson. It has been an incredible three and a half years since he first walked through the door at Aflitos and maybe for the first time during that period, we finally get to learn a little bit more about the Englishman.

Johnson, a name nobody had heard of upon his arrival has seen his CV go from looking like the first page in a crisp new notebook, to one that clubs from around the world have shown an interest in.

Since Johnsons arrival three and a half years ago

A quick look at the last twelve months would see a third Pernambuco State Title and a side defy the odds in their first year back in the top flight.

An eleventh placed finish also incredibly gained the club Copa Sudamericana qualification, putting the finishing touches on a miraculous return to the big time.

Final Serie A Table 2021 Season

Johnson’s opening remarks begin to tell a different story. His thoughts are clearly of betrayal and distrust and his story is one that will more than likely see the European leave Brazil, when his contract comes to an end in December this year.

“How much money do you think there was in the club when I arrived?” Johnson began. 

“I’ll tell you” he says without even giving me a chance to reply. “£191,000. That’s it. A squad with no saleable assets and barely enough cash to make the annual salaries.”

“And now?” I ask, knowing all too well that’s where he wants me to take this line of questioning.

“Just over six million pounds. A squad filled with players who would command seven-figure sums and the tv revenue from three major cup competitions still to arrive.”

Incredible growth from Day One has Nautico on sound financial footing

He stopped and looked out of the window. The office we were in was basic to say the least, the chair he sat in was on its last legs and the sofa in the corner looked like it was used more like a bed than for anything else.

“Eighteen months I’ve worked like this…nobody knows what it’s been like.”

He paused then looked straight at me.

“Do you know how many foreign players we can name in a matchday squad?”

I nod. “Five. . . no?”

“It is.” He smiles “And how many foreign lads did we have last season?”

I begin to add them up, Concha, Poyet…

“Eight!” He startles me. “Eight players! He signed five of them after I told him the league rules. I ask you, why would a club spend good money knowing full well three of them would have to miss out each and every week. Something stinks, it’s wrong.”

He is going somewhere with this so I remain quiet and let the silence eat into his anger.

“Paixao!” His voice goes up a level, then in broken Portuguese he mumbles “Os Presidentes Colo Cao” — The Presidents lapdog!
“He wants this chair, this job. He basically does part of it already.” Johnson gets up and kicks the corner of the desk before visibly getting hold of himself.

“I haven’t been involved with any permanent deal since we won promotion a year and a half ago. Since then we have sold, sold, sold. The President is happy to be making money but it is my players that they are selling and what do they replace them with? Loan signings from Argentina, his homeland. No club can continue to operate like this.”

There have been rumours for some time that since James Rodrigues De Silva became President that things hadn’t been right but nobody knew it was on this scale.

Stepping away from the interview a moment we can show you the dealings that went on since the new Director of Football arrived. Seven of the mentioned players are from other South American countries, albeit two of them in Poyet and Parrales were in Johnson’s own words, his signings from the previous year.

Player arrivals in 2020 did break through the league’s foreign player cap.

Outgoings were like he said where the club made their money by selling three players for over £3,000,000, all of them making a huge profit on their original transfer fees.

Players Paixao moved, allegedly behind the managers back.

I probe a little further. “So let me get this right as the fans will want to know, Paixao signs all the players?”

“And sells them”. Johnson snaps.

“Lucas, Vitor, Pato and Campaz. All players who make this side stronger, all sold against my wishes. What we have achieved here, all of it has been against the odds and been done with one hand tied behind my back.”

Consciences about time I decided to take the conversation full circle and press him on his contract.

“Earlier you mentioned that you have just six months left on your deal and yet it was only six months since the club announced an extension to your contract?”

“Extension?” He laughs. “I’m the only manager in the history of this game to take a 30% pay cut upon achieving promotion and then staying up. Not many people know this but I had two options in Europe, good solid moves that I could have taken. Espanyol and Italian side Genoa both made me lucrative offers.”

And yet you stayed? My question startles him, like I should accept everything he says as gospel.

“You don’t believe me? Here, look at this, proof.”

He returns to his seat and lights a cigarette before reaching into his drawer. He flings a clipped group of papers over.

The agreed contract offer from Serie A side Genoa

“I stay for two reasons.” Again his voice creeps up a level.“Firstly, I want to take the lads and selfishly myself into the Copa Sudamericana. Secondly, Rodrigues wanted me to leave. He wants to give the role to his man, Paixao. His contract offer to me was laughable and he did it to make me walk away — so he wouldn’t look like the bad guy. Well it didn’t work and I’m still here and we are still winning things.”

2021 Preseason has been one the club will never forget

With just a week till the 2021 Serie A season begins, Johnson has once again secured the Pernambuco State title and made the final of the Regionalla — which is to be played in a few weeks time. Domestically they have dominated the local competitions and although thoughts of a larger trophy are a mere pipe dream, Johnson never says never.

His final remark was another of self-celebration. “Five trophies in three and a half years, improved training facilities, youth facilities, larger scouting network and a first-team side that has the potential to do magical things in Brazil’s top flight. We can do so much more and yet we are getting strong armed out the door. Some of the footballers we have brought through here are only just beginning their adventure.”

Concalo and Cascao are two players beginning to make a first team breakthrough under Johnson

“Let the fans know the truth, let them decide when it comes to election time and we will get on with winning football matches.”

With that, he nods toward the door. Eerily without being beckoned a short dumpy looking woman appears and gestures that I have to leave.

As I sit in my car listening back to this extraordinary interview I do feel a little bit played, as in this was all a show for me. Johnson doesn’t seem to want to leave but with the club turning good profits will the fans/shareholders vote out the current President, We will just have to wait and see.

Six months is a long time in football so never say never but it would appear that this is the final push for the ‘Timbu’ boss.

Whichever way this journey ends, the supporters of Nautico have been on one hell of a ride.

One thought on “Nautico — Where the cracks are beginning to show”

  1. What a story. Thank to bring that into this blog. I was delighted to read it. Because this team is my hometown team and I am a Timbu (The name whose supporter are named).

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