Founded on 25 January 1930, São Paulo has grown to become one of the giants of both Brazilian and South American football. The side is one of only five clubs never to have been relegated from the national top flight.
The first of six Série A title was secured in 1977, but São Paulo have often endured long waits between trophies, with a nine year delay until their second league success in 1986. 2005 was a brilliant campaign for the club in all other competitions – they won the FIFA Club World Cup, Copa Libertadores and Campeonato Paulista – but Série A dominance was hard to come by. However, a first league title for 15 years in 2006 sparked a trophy glut – the club went on to successfully defend their title in 2007 and again topped the league in 2008.
In the last five years, on the other hand, the club has struggled to emulate this form. 2011 saw the Tricolor Paulista struggle to a sixth-placed finish in a season that saw them sack two managers, with the second of these, Adilson Batista, lasting just three months. At least it was an improvement on the previous season: mid-table mediocrity in 2010 followed a respectable third-placed finish in 2009. Similarities could be drawn with Liverpool – both have slumped in recent years with the emergence of richer and better-equipped clubs.
However, São Paulo’s squad still contains some famous veterans and emerging talent. Their most famous current squad member is Luis Fabiano, the former Porto and Sevilla forward, who has a record of a goal every 1.5 games at international level for Brazil. Other familiar names include Denilson, who has returned to the club on loan from Arsenal, and one of Brazil’s brightest young stars, Lucas. The 19-year-old has already won 11 senior caps for his country and was named on FIFA’s list of “Players to Watch” in 2011.
Captain Rogério Ceni will go down in history as the first goalkeeper to reach 100 goals in their career – a phenomenal milestone achieved through being his club’s regular penalty and free-kick taker since becoming first-choice goalkeeper in 1997. São Paulo’s squad is admirably focused on Brazilians – the only two foreigners in the side are full-back Ivan Piris, from Paraguay, and Argentinean midfielder Marcelo Cañete.
The club plays its home games at the Estadio do Morumbi, which was built in 1960 and most recently renovated in 2009. The capacity of 67,428 makes the ground the forty-second largest in the world and the fourth-biggest in Brazil. With an original capacity of 120,000, the stadium’s record attendance is a staggering 146,082 in 1977 – twice Old Trafford’s maximum.
São Paulo may have slid from national and international prominence in recent years, but with talent such as Lucas on the club’s books, the future looks bright for Émerson Leão’s men. Considering this is the former Brazil goalkeeper’s twenty-eighth managerial stint, his experience could be key in engineering an upturn in fortunes for the country’s sleeping giants.