• Renato Gaucho is one of Gremio’s all-time idols
  • Brazilian is aiming to become eighth person to win Libertadores as a player and coach
  • "This team has a lot going for it," he said before the final against Lanus

Renato Gaucho describes his three main virtues as follows: “Friend, man manager and analyst.” Born Renato Portaluppi but nicknamed “Gaucho” since his playing days, the Brazilian is about to contest his second Copa Libertadores final as a coach. The occasion is made all the more special by the fact that he will do so in charge of his beloved Gremio, the club where he is nothing short of a legend.

Now 55, Renato has a reputation for excellence in South America’s biggest club competition. He was 21 when he starred in the Gremio side that won the continental crown in 1983, and went on to score both his side’s goals in the 2-1 defeat of Hamburg in the Intercontinental Cup final. The following year he was a runner-up with the Brazilian club as Argentina’s Independiente won the trophy for a record seventh time.

“I deserve a statue at the stadium,” said a euphoric Renato after winning the Brazilian Cup last year. He struck a more measured tone in conversation with FIFA.com, despite being just two games away from becoming the eighth person to win the Libertadores as a coach and a player: “I feel I have a special place in Gremio hearts, which is great.”

Should Gremio overcome Lanus in this year’s final, they will win the Libertadores for a third time, the second title having come in 1995, when Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge. Speaking ahead of Wednesday evening’s first leg at the Arena do Gremio, Renato had nothing but praise for his team.

“This team has a lot going for it,” he said. “It’s disciplined, has a lot of skill and a real desire to win. But the biggest thing it’s got going for it is the friendship between all the players. They really love each other and that’s vital to the success of any team.”

Gremio have lost just twice en route to the final, though one of those defeats came in their last match: a 1-0 reverse at home to Barcelona of Ecuador in the semis. Fortunately for the Brazilian side, they had won the first leg 3-0.

Renato’s philosophy, which he has been applying since his return to the club in the middle of 2013, is unequivocal: “Every experience is an example for what should be done and what shouldn’t be done.”

Part of his job, then, involves passing on all the know-how he acquired during his successful career to his players: “There’s a limit to everything in life, but obviously my story is an example and I try to show that to them. I try to get it through to them how great it is to win a title and write your name in the history of the club.”

Libertadores winners as players and coaches

  • Humberto Maschio (Racing Club, 1967/Independiente, 1973)
  • Roberto Ferreiro (Independiente, 1964 and 1965/Independiente, 1974)
  • Luis Cubilla (Penarol, 1960 and 1961; Nacional, 1971/Olimpia, 1979 and 1990)
  • Juan Martin Mujica (Nacional, 1971/Nacional, 1980)
  • Jose Pastoriza (Independiente, 1972/Independiente, 1984)
  • Nery Pumpido (River Plate, 1986/Olimpia, 2002)
  • Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate, 1996/River Plate, 2015)

Renato came close to joining that select club as the coach of Fluminense in 2008, only for Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito to beat his then employers in the final. “I wouldn’t do anything differently. We reached the final and we lost on penalties,” he said on being asked if that setback has influenced his thinking ahead of the meeting with Lanus.

Although he believes the Libertadores has changed a lot since his playing days, he sees it as just as hard to win now as it ever was. Emphasising the point, he had this to say of Lanus: “We’re coming up against a high-quality team that likes to keep the ball.”  

Though Gremio lost both their previous finals against Argentinian opposition (in 1984 and 2007, both times against Boca Juniors), they believe the charisma and wisdom of the iconic Renato can help them break that little curse.