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Former Liverpool coach blazes trail in Brazil

Reuters
NEWS

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Just minutes before he flew off for a job interview in Sao Paulo in November, the coach of Liverpool's Under-23s got a tweet that said: On this day in 1894, Charles Miller arrived in Brazil with the first football and rulebook.

Michael Beale took it as a sign. Less than a week later he had left Liverpool and was planning his new life as assistant coach at Sao Paulo.

His arrival at one of Brazil's biggest clubs, after more than a decade training youngsters at Chelsea then at Anfield, was more than just a new start for the south Londoner. It was a gamble โ€“ and one he hopes more of his colleagues will take.

"You can sit in England and moan about our coaches not being given opportunities or you can go out there and try and educate yourself differently," Beale said in an exclusive interview with Reuters, four days before his Brazilian season formally kicks off.

"I just felt that at Liverpool, the job was not a push for me. My life was easy and at 36 that is very dangerous. I felt that all the time things were within my range of capabilities and I need to keep stretching myself. I thought coming here would really put me outside the comfort zone."

Beale's new life starts in earnest on Sunday, when Sao Paulo begin their Paulista state championship campaign away at Audax.

They have prepared well, lifting the pre-season Florida Cup, a tournament they won by overcoming River Plate and city rivals Corinthians, both on penalties.

But it's a whole new level of pressure for the former Charlton midfielder. Off the field he has thrown himself into learning Portuguese and is already feeling the passion of fans who stop him on the street for selfies and autographs.

Things are done very differently in the struggling Serie A, compared with the super-rich Premier League.

Sao Paulo sold one of their hottest prospects days after Beale arrived, with 19-year-old winger David Neres going to Ajax for a fee of more than 10 million euros. He had made only eight first-team appearances for the club but they needed the money.

Beale has been welcomed with open arms but he joins a club with a mixed record when it comes to foreign coaches.

Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio, now managing Mexico, and Argentine Edgardo Bauza, who is currently in charge of Argentina, both suffered through short and unsuccessful recent spells at the club.

As No. 2, Beale won't be in the spotlight like they were, and he has the advantage of working under beloved former goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni.

Ceni, who hung up his gloves in 2015, is one of football's last one-club men and a legend at Sao Paulo, a club he represented 1,238 times, scoring an incredible 132 goals from penalties and free kicks.

"I am not coming to work for a normal coach or a normal person," Beale said. "This is like Gerrard getting the Liverpool job or Ryan Giggs getting the job at Manchester Utd. That was a big factor as well."

The lure of sitting in the dugout at the Maracana, visiting the Vila Belmiro where Pele started out, and watching 60,000 fans fill the Morumbi, was too much for Beale to turn down.

"Brazil is Brazil and football is football and there's the romance and everything that comes with it," he said.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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