Ken Sasaki is building a legacy with Colo-Colo. He is now into his fourth full season and is chasing his fifth league title with the club. He will be looking to add to his managerial cv by progressing much further in the Copa Libertadores this season. Sasaki has already developed a plan for how he can help his side progress continentally – this post will reveal the fruits of his labour!
VivaGlobetrotting | 2026 Season Review
An invincible season is an event that is remembered among fans of local football for generations. Preston North End became the first English side to go a whole season unbeaten in the top flight in 1889, winning 18 and drawing 4 of their 22 league games. They also won the 1888-89 FA Cup and have since been known as ‘The Invincibles’. More recently, Arsenal completed a 38-game season without losing a match, winning the Premier League title in 2004. Other major teams to have gone unbeaten for an entire league season in recent years are Porto and Juventus.
In South America, unbeaten seasons are less common. As such, when one does come around it is an event to savour and cherish. Ken Sasaki and his Colo-Colo side have achieved this feat, going unbeaten for the entire 2026 season, winning 25 games and drawing 5. This achievement has debatably taken the current Colo-Colo crop ahead of the famous 1991 side that won three consecutive titles alongside the Copa Libertadores. The only question mark over Sasaki’s side is their success – or lack of it – in continental football.
Colo-Colo cantered to league victory, finishing 19 points ahead of Palestino in second place. The ease at which Sasaki’s side won the title is perhaps slightly worrying in terms of the overall competitiveness of Chilean clubs – after all it is one of Sasaki’s goals to see the Chilean league rise to overtake both Brazil and Argentina in strength. But it is also a sign of Sasaki’s greatness in how effective his managerial style has been at Colo-Colo.
One of the standout players from this season was Ignacio Pichulman. The young striker came through the Colo-Colo academy in 2023 and was sent out on loan to Deportes Puerto Montt for two seasons, proving his quality by scoring 29 goals in 45 appearances. In his second season out on loan, he led Puerto Montt to promotion – their first appearance in the top-flight since 2007.
This season, Pichulman has led the goalscoring charts, scoring 36 goals in 42 games. He has proved an integral part of the deadly front three alongside Alvaro Morales (31 goals) and Fernando Castro (22 goals).
A big moment during the 2026 season came when several high reputation clubs started to come in for Colo-Colo’s top players. Nestor Cantero, Maicon Favera, Fernando Castro, Vicente Pizarro and Alvaro Morales all attracted bids in the summer. One of the most surprising stories that came out from these bids was the loyalty shown by the Colo-Colo players. The majority of incoming clubs were disappointed to hear of the lack of interest from their targets in moving away from Colo-Colo. FC Porto, one of Portugal’s most reputable clubs, failed to attract any of Colo-Colo’s star players despite several lucrative bids. Maicon Favera was subject to a £20M bid from Porto – which was accepted – but Favera decided to remain in Chile.
One player who was sold was Nestor Cantero. He was sold to Flamengo for a club – and national – record fee of £10M. He wasn’t the only star player to leave Colo-Colo as Alvaro Morales left the club at the end of the season. English club Wolves signed the striker for £8.75M.
The 2026 season provided no surprise in terms of league standings. Colo-Colo have continued their domestic dominance.
After years of waiting, Colo-Colo finally won the Copa Chile under Ken Sasaki last season. This year, they were hoping to repeat the feat.
The run to the final for Sasaki’s side was comfortable.
The final was played over two legs against Everton de Vina. This is the side that beat Colo-Colo two seasons ago in an embarrassing collapse for Sasaki’s squad, losing 4-0 in the second leg to let Everton overturn a 2-0 deficit. This year, no such event was to occur for Colo-Colo. A first leg victory of 2-1 was far closer than Sasaki would have liked, but a 5-0 thrashing in the second leg ensured Colo-Colo triumphed.
Two trophies from two for Colo-Colo. Could they make it a famous treble with the Copa Libertadores?
Colo-Colo were drawn against Flamengo, Santa Fe and Deportivo Cali. The aim was to defeat both Colombian sides and to challenge for victory against Flamengo.
Despite a disappointing group stage where Colo-Colo failed to meet their own high expectations, neither of the Colombian sides mounted a tough enough challenge to secure progression.
- 2nd Round vs Atletico Nacional
Ken Sasaki’s Colo-Colo were drawn to play Colombian side Atletico Nacional in the 2nd Round of the Copa Libertadores. This was a tie that would test Colo-Colo but ultimately it was one in which they should progress past.
A 5-1 victory in the opening leg pretty much ended the tie with the opening goal score after just four minutes – Fernando Castro netted the penalty. From there, goals from Pizarro, Morales and Puchulman settled the first leg.
The second leg was a training exercise for Colo-Colo. A 1-1 draw flattered Atletico and it was enough to secure Colo-Colo’s passage through to the Quarter Final.
- Quarter-Final vs Palmeiras
Palmeiras were the side to stand in Colo-Colo’s way as they were drawn to meet in the Quarter Final. Colo-Colo have yet to beat a Brazilian side under Sasaki, playing 10 matches, drawing three and losing seven. This statistic clearly had no effect on the Colo-Colo players as they outplayed Palmeiras in all areas. A 4-0 victory will go down as one of the best performances from a Colo-Colo side in their history.
Using the more defensive tactic developed in pre-season, Colo-Colo were able to hold off Palmeiras until late in the second-half, despite the much-increased pressure faced in this second leg. Right-back Jose Gonzalez was sent off and this triggered a comeback opportunity for Palmeiras. They scored two late goals to win the leg, but thanks to the incredible first leg performance Colo-Colo progressed.
- Semi-Final vs Flamengo
The Semi-Final of the Copa Libertadores was overshadowed by several key events in the build-up to the first leg. Colo-Colo’s relatively small squad was decimated by injury. First-choice strikers Fernando Castro and Ignacio Pichulman were both ruled out with injury, meaning Sasaki would have to adopt the more defensive tactic which used just the one striker. Castro was ruled out of the first leg and Pichulman would only be fit enough for the bench.
Managers can often be given praise for their changes in matches when things are not quite going their way. This could be a small tactical tweak or a substitution. For Ken Sasaki, it was both. Ignacio Pichulman was not fit for the first leg against Flamengo. The twisted ankle he suffered in a match against Deportes Iquique was not fully recovered and so he should not really have played at all. Colo-Colo and Flamengo were even at 0-0 in the first leg, played in Chile, and this was not quite good enough for Sasaki. He knew that going to Brazil on even terms would prove difficult to overcome. So, in the 75th minute, Sasaki brought on Pichulman and changed to the more attacking tactic.
Pichulman scored a brace and Colo-Colo won 2-0. Sasaki’s managerial masterstroke.
The second leg saw the return of first-team regulars Castro, Pichulman and suspended Gonzales. Nevertheless, Colo-Colo were still expected to struggle away to Flamengo. A 2-0 was not something that was ever expected to be achievable. Pichulman again scored, taking his Copa Libertadores tally to five (all scored in the knockout rounds), and left-winger Mauricio Lopez scored the second.
Colo-Colo had reached the Copa Libertadores final.
Copa Libertadores 2026 | Final | Colo-Colo vs Gremio
Gremio were the side to meet Colo-Colo in the final. Back in 1991, the last time Colo-Colo reached the Copa Libertadores final, Olimpia of Paraguay stood in their way. Colo-Colo won 3-0 on aggregate. Gremio would certainly present a sterner test.
Sasaki had his full-strength side available to him and opted to play the more attacking tactic, despite Gremio’s strength. Attacking football had taken Colo-Colo so far and Sasaki was not going to go against his natural instinct here. If he was to lose, he’d lose his way.
Gremio netted the game’s first goal. A long ball over the top released Andrezinho who scored past Martin Celedon.
Alvaro Morales scored the equaliser just minutes later. He was released by an inch-perfect through ball by Vicente Pizarro and the finish was exquisite, placing the ball into the corner of the goal to see the score level at 1-1.
Colo-Colo and Gremio both had chances, albeit only half-chances. This was until the 114th minute when Andrezinho scored his second of the game. 2-1 to Gremio. Sasaki and Colo-Colo were distraught. Five minutes to turn the game around.
Despite piling huge pressure upon Gremio, the Brazilian’s held on. Gremio win the Copa Libertadores.
The End of an Era with Colo-Colo
Coming so close to a famous treble was agonising for Ken Sasaki. On the one hand, the achievement was an incredible feat and would be a season to remember for years to come for Colo-Colo fans. On the other hand, it was a season where everything aligned in such a way that it seemed like fate that Colo-Colo would go on to win the Copa Libertadores. Despite Cantero’s departure, despite the striker injury crisis and despite Brazil’s strength, Colo-Colo still reached the Copa Libertadores final and perhaps should have taken home the title. Sasaki felt like time was up on his Colo-Colo fairytale.
Sasaki’s loyalty to Colo-Colo could not come under scrutiny. Midway through the 2026 season, before any thoughts of continental success could be deemed any more than wishful thinking, Brazilian Serie A side Corinthians invited Sasaki to attend an interview for their vacant managerial position. Sasaki declined. But this was a sign that his reputation had improved dramatically in his time in Chile. And it was a sign that perhaps Sasaki himself has outgrown Colo-Colo.
Now at the end of the 2026 season, Sasaki’s fourth full season with the club, it does feel right for Sasaki to move on. And so it was time for the Japanese manager to be more open-minded to opportunities to leave Colo-Colo. He decided that he would not resign, after all Colo-Colo have been very good to him. But he would keep an eye open for clubs that present an interesting opportunity to manage.
One of the jobs that came up was the Santos job. The club were champions of Serie A in 2025 but fell down to 6th in 2026 and as a result they sacked their manager. This season was pretty much an anomaly as the Brazilian giants have not finished below third in seven seasons prior to 2026, winning the title four times. Since 2019 they have also won the Copa Libertadores twice in 2020 and 2021. It appears very harsh that club legend Jorge Sampaoli was sacked after one poor season.
Sasaki attended the interview and was offered the job. His mind was made up that he would leave Colo-Colo for the right job and Santos certainly seemed like the right job. Sasaki’s time at Colo-Colo is over.
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