From the slap in the face to the final: Felipe Melo returns to Uruguay at the end of his contract and as leader of Palmeiras | palm trees

It was in Felipe Melo’s personality and football that Palmeiras began to build its victorious identity in the last editions of Libertadores.

This Saturday, in Montevideo, the defensive midfielder will be one of Abel Ferreira’s options for the final against Flamengo, in a game that could be marked as another important chapter in the 38-year-old athlete’s career. And that may be his last as captain of Verdão.

Hired in 2017, Felipe Melo arrived at the club as one of the board’s bets to give more competition power to the squad, who came from two national achievements (the 2015 Brazil Cup and the 2016 Brasileirão), but had failed in the southern tournament -American – dropped out of the group stage in the first of his six consecutive matches in the competition.

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Felipe Melo, from Palmeiras, in an official photo of the Libertadores final — Photo: Divulgação/Conmebol

With the steering wheel, Palmeiras began to create a base with more experience. The opening speech made an impact, when he promised to “slap a Uruguayan in the face” if necessary. The “promise” even turned into a prophecy, as the athlete was involved in a general fight in Uruguay and was punished by Conmebol.

The Public Ministry asked for the detention of the Palmeirense to provide clarifications, as it did with Peñarol players, but the midfielder had his case filed in the Uruguayan Court this month.

The following years consolidated Felipe Melo as a reference in the field. Brazilian champion in 2018, he became team captain at the start of the 2020 season. A broken ankle prevented him from participating in part of the campaign, but it did not take him away from the final minutes of the decision against Santos at Maracanã. At the title party, he shared with Gustavo Gómez the responsibility of raising the latest edition of Libertadores.

Cast leader, the steering wheel has already been praised by Abel Ferreira in press conferences. The promotion of youngsters like Danilo and Patrick de Paula increased competition in midfield, but the captain regained space and started a new sequence of good performances precisely in the semifinals against Atlético-MG.

Felipe Melo punches Matias Mier in the Peñarol vs. Palmeiras fight, in 2017 — Photo: REUTERS/Andres Stapff

At the club, there is an understanding that it is necessary to know how to take advantage of the experience of important parts of the current squad, such as Weverton, Marcos Rocha, Gustavo Gómez and Felipe Melo, in more decisive moments. Against Galo, for example, Abel bet on a team with the highest average age to get the classification. It worked out.

For the decision, the technical committee must keep doubts about the formation of its starting midfield until Saturday. Felipe Melo and Danilo are the main marking options, and the choice will depend on the strategy to be used by the Palmeiras team against Flamengo. The shirt 30 returned to training with the ball after recovering from knee pain and should be available to Abel Ferreira for Saturday.

Between ups and downs in the relationship with part of the crowd, whether for his performance on the field or his personality off the pitch, the defensive midfielder became one of the main symbols of a club that got used to playing for and winning important titles in recent years. The athlete’s trajectory, however, may be close to being over.

Felipe Melo lives the last days of his current contract. The current link with Verdão ends at the end of December, and a decision about the future will only be taken after the final on Saturday, with Leila Pereira managing responsibility.

In the sights of Internacional, the steering wheel has already manifested in favor of permanence and even retirement wearing the shirt from Palma. The president-elect of Verdão praised the player, but said that the decision about the future will be technical and will be taken from next week.

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