Despite being sacked at Chelsea, the man charged with winning next year's World Cup on home soil says he is still 'hurting' from not becoming England coach in 2006
Welcome back, then, Luiz Felipe Scolari. With Brazil's elite footballing diaspora fully assembled on English soil before Wednesday's glamour-friendly, there was perhaps a sense of added piquancy in the sight of Scolari making his first working appearance as Brazil's newly reappointed manager – a final crunch of gears on the road to next year's World Cup – at Wembley.
Scolari was appointed at the end of November in place of Mano Menezes. If he is here in the role of troubleshooter it is a role that suits him: a little more gaunt, a little greyer about the moustache than the muscular figure who oversaw England's ejection from back-to-back tournaments a decade ago. In Scolari Brazil have plumped for a man who unarguably knows how to win a World Cup. Never mind leaving Palmeiras in relegation trouble, or the financially perilous misadventures in Kazakhstan. It is this familiar A-list quality that once made Scolari the Football Association's prime choice to become the first manager to lead out England at this same revamped Wembley in 2007.
Not that Scolari, reduced by Monday's transatlantic flight to a gravelly whisper, appears to bear any scars from his near-miss. So much so that he even raised the notion of an improbable second shot at the England job some day. "When I was invited to be [England] coach I still had a contract with Portugal national team," he recalled. "It hurt a lot. I would have loved to be manager of the England national team. Who wouldn't? It's a wonderful national team and tomorrow I'm sure I will talk to Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole and I wish all the best for the English players and their manager on their path of innovation. And who knows, you never know what might happen."
Similarly there were no hard feelings over those bleak seven months at Chelsea. In the ongoing tale of the six permanent managers of Roman Abramovich – not so much divorced, beheaded and died as fired, fired and interim-hired – Scolari is perhaps Stamford Bridge's Anne of Cleves, an exotic catch cast aside with humiliating haste.
"What I remember about Chelsea is simply marvellous," he said. "I had a great time here. I loved my time when I lived here, when I trained with this spectacular club. What is happening now, I can't answer that."
And why should he? The fact is this occasion is really all about Brazil, as was clear from the first glimpse of an unusually flush and excitable press theatre in the bowels of Wembley. It is not often the English press gets muscled aside in its own backyard but then it is not often you get a visit from a continental-scale nation on the verge of hosting a World Cup. Even up on the managerial plinth the usual advertisements for Vauxhall and Mars had been screened out of sight by a hoarding splurged with Guaraná, Seara and Itaú, the rising mega-brands of the green and yellow tiger economy.
Beneath them the man charged with perhaps the most high-pressure international managerial appointment of all time spoke with some optimism about "getting the people behind us" and said that despite having had only one day to work with his players, not only does he have a clear idea of how he wants them to play, he is also quietly confident of victory. In between confirming that he would not "take a risk with David Luiz" – a reference to David Luiz's fitness, rather than his simple existence on a football pitch – there where some kind words for England ("very fit") and a show of flinty support for his two most notable players, Ronaldinho and Neymar.
At the mere mention of Neymar, who was 21 on Tuesday, Scolari lit up a little. With Cristiano Ronaldo turning 28 the same day it was, he said, "the birthday of two of the three best players in the world". Who could forget the three Rs of 2002? Scolari loves his attacking players.
Beyond this Scolari dealt manfully with questions about how much of a threat England – yes England, with one semi-final appearance in the past 47 years – may be at next year's World Cup ("first of all you have to do the first step, that is qualification," Big Phil pointed out).
And before long it was time to clear the stage for the arrival of none other than Ronaldinho himself, who after a slight delay came mooching in wrapped up in double training kit, brightening enough to do a weary little "hang 10" gesture for the scrabbling photographers. "My style remains the same. I play the same way as before," he shrugged, after some prodding. Not just Scolari but all four sides of Wembley will hope this is indeed the case.