Brazil is known as, perhaps somewhat stereotypically, the home of the beautiful game. Some of the world’s most exciting players have represented the nation across the decades and have wowed crowds across the globe. However, at the domestic and national level their football has taken a more pragmatic approach in recent years. There has thus been an evolution in the style of players being produced, and coupled with the alterations in the English game this millennium it has made the Premier League a more suitable home.
The norm in Brazil has is to operate with two, sometimes even three, defensive-midfielders, or volantes as they are known locally. There is no shortage of players to occupy this position and having been raised to play in this position, the quality in the domestic league is strong. It is now commonplace to see such two deeper lying midfielders across Europe too. They are used to offer greater freedom to a group of four forwards, allowing them to play higher up the pitch whilst not compromising the defence.
Typically in Brazil the forwards currently play at a far narrower degree to their transatlantic coutnerparts. The wing-backs are used to provide the width while the volantes separate the duties of defending and linking the play. In Europe it tends to be a less energetic position, but the shift from one holding player to two in the English game has enabled players like Sandro and Ramires to flourish. The Chelsea midfielder proved a revelation as he surged forward with lightening pace that led to an impressive 12 goals this season. This surprising source of goals has put a spin on the traditional English view of a defensive-midfielder as someone who has to police the game without departing his own half.
The evolution of the Premier League means that the formations are now more suitable to Brazilian players. Not too long ago, a player such as Lucas Moura would only have been able to fit in on either side of a midfield four or as a forward in a 4-4-2. He would then have been expected to contribute to defending at a far greater level. That is now eased by the two defensive-midfielders, but some tracking of opposing full-backs is still required.
Under Roberto Di Matteo Chelsea used Ramires wide on the right. This offered his full-back a greater deal of cover due to his defensive capabilities whilst also exposing the opposing defender with his electric pace. Such a role was displayed perfectly when he scored against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final at Camp Nou.
The convergence of formations has allowed for greater expression and has therefore made the transition from Brazilian to European football a smoother one. Whereas a Brazilian player may have previously been more keen on a move to Spain or Italy the adaptation of the English game to less rigid tactics, as well as remaining the best ranked league in the world, has made it a far more attractive destination.
Many people are of the opinion that players of a smaller frame such as Neymar, Lucas, or Arsenal target Wellingon Nem would find the Premier League far too physical. However, they are no strangers to on-pitch brutality. Following his rapid rise to stardom, Neymar is watched like a hawk with defenders desperate to stop him. Indeed Velez Sarsfield defender Gino Peruzzi said of the Santos attacker: “If he tries his tricks on me I will break him in half.”
The coalescing of certain tactical ideals across the Atlantic means that now, more than ever, the Premier League can offer a more than suitable home for players from the Samba nation. Brazilian footballers are able to flourish in a more flexible approach that has been adopted by many of the top English clubs meaning that now, possibly more than ever, they are able to find a suitable home in England’s top flight.