Sandro, the 22 year-old Brazilian midfielder, scored his first goal in England last weekend, a 30-yard belter at Stamford Bridge, the opener in Tottenham’s eventual 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. His manager, Harry Redknapp, reserved praise for his young talent until Spurs’ disappointment was completed, having remonstrated with the goal-scorer immediately after he had given his side the lead. Redknapp was frustrated that Sandro was allowing Frank Lampard too much freedom in the middle of the park, but the Brazilian neglected Lampard to foray forward and lash an unstoppable shot past Petr Cech, an incident that Redknapp was unable to appreciate at the time.
“It was a fantastic goal, a great strike,” Redknapp told the club’s official website following the game. “He really covered some ground at Chelsea, he worked his socks off for us in there.” Sandro, whose protracted transfer to White Hart Lane was eventually completed last August, was purchased as a defensive midfielder with a commanding presence and robust approach, rather than for his goal scoring proficiency. He has was selected as one of 7 reserves for Dunga’s World Cup squad last summer, and follows Brazil’s former manager in a long line of Brazilian defensive midfielders who break the common perception of South American flair.
Gilberto Silva announced himself on a universal stage some nine years ago at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan and forged a successful career in the Premier League with Arsenal, winning the league once and the FA Cup twice. The World Cup winner is no longer available for his country, and Felipe Melo and Ramires have failed to perform anywhere near the standard set by Gilberto, so Sandro may provide the defensive cover Brazil have required in every recent team. This role is not necessarily a new phenomenon but the South American country appear to value its worth highly, and have exported a number of players in this mould, particularly to the Premiership, in recent seasons.
Although Lucas Leiva failed to fulfil his early promise, having signed for Liverpool as Brazil under-20s captain, he has proved a dependable member of the Reds first team and developed effectively over the past 18 months. Ramires similarly found it difficult adapting to life at the summit of the Premier League having signed for Chelsea last summer, but this is his first season in England, and he has shown flashes of quality which will encourage Carlo Ancelotti moving in to the next campaign. Denilson was branded with similar expectations when he signed for Arsenal in 2006 and has also struggled to break in to the Gunners’ first team regularly, but has performed acceptably over the course of his 151 games in English football.
The perception of Brazilian football on the continent is changing, and the five-time World Cup winning nation are producing more defensive-minded players in order to maintain pace with the changing nature of the sport. David Luiz has proved an inspired signing at Stamford Bridge having joined from Benfica in January and epitomises both a solid physical presence and technical ability on the ball. Sandro is beginning to acclimatise to the rigours of the Premiership well, and if he forces his way in to Harry Redknapp’s first-team thoughts for next season, we may be witnessing a Gilberto pretender that can actually deliver.
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