Brazil giants Cruzeiro turn to Scolari to avoid shock third-division relegation

Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to a World Cup in 2002, has taken a one-year deal to coach struggling giants Cruzeiro as the two-time Copa Libertadores champions battle to avoid relegation to Brazil's third division.

Until last December, Cruzeiro were one of just four Brazilian clubs to never have been relegated to the second division.

The Belo Horizonte club are one of the most storied in the league with 20 titles, including two from the Copa Libertadores, four from the Brazilian First Division Championship and six from the Copa do Brasil.

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The former coach of Brazil and Portugal's national teams, who turns 72 next month, has agreed to a contract that runs through December 2022.

Scolari had initially rejected the proposal because he wanted a four-year deal, but finally acceded to two seasons after a sponsor committed to paying his salary.

It will be Scolari's second spell as Cruzeiro manager, having also led the club in 2000 and 2001.

"I did not want to coach the team for just one year. I wanted to have this year that is ending and to continue in 2021, 2022 and 2023," Scolari said on the club's social media. "I will give this everything I can and contribute with my knowledge to give back everything that Cruzeiro also gave me."

Scolari has not worked since he was sacked last year by Palmeiras. He coached Cruzeiro for 75 games in 2000 and 2001 with a balance of 40 wins, 23 draws and 12 losses, but with just one title: the Copa Sul -Minas in 2001.

Scolari replaces Ney Franco, who was fired last Sunday after Cruzeiro drew 0-0 against Oeste, who are last place in the second-division standings.

The loss left Cruzeiro in the penultimate spot in the standings, with just 12 points in 16 games played. Scolari will be Cruzeiro's fourth coach this year after Franco, Adilson Batista and Enderson Moreira.

Scolari has previously coached Guangzhou Evergrande, Chelsea,, Palmeiras and Gremio, among other clubs.