Brazilian footballers don’t always light up football.
With Alexandre Pato having joined Chelsea on the basis of how he used to play, I though it was worth a look at the impact from our Brazilian friends upon our hallowed leagues.
From the shores of the sun-kissed Copacabana beach, where the temperatures regularly hit over 30 degrees, the women are sun-tanned and life is pretty sweet, it does make you wonder why England represents such an inspiring destination.
It certainly isn’t the weather, but since the very first Brazilian to try his luck here in 1995, over 60 of his compatriots have followed, to varying degrees of success. We all remember Isaias at Coventry don’t we? No?
Try the North East of England then and recall the samba rhythms and the carnivals in Middlesbrough as Juninho, then World Cup winner, Branco and then Emerson descended on the unmistakable part of the British Isles that is reminiscent of Brazil. That’s a tongue in cheek comment, of course. Juninho was exciting, could play, had flair and got fans off their seats and became a big hit, but sadly Branco is best remembered for allegedly saying at half-time “Pass pass pass, goal! Lager, lager, lager, nightclub!” and midfielder Emerson couldn’t wait for a move to Spain “because of the weather”. Bless.
After the World Cup in 2006, where mediocrity and Brazil were closely entwined, another chapter in Brazilians in English football materialised. No fanfares, no salsa and no party nights, as we watched with resigned anticipation as Fabio Rochemback, Julio Baptista and Afonso Alves ambled along to the Premier League… and ambled out again. So Brazilians in English football was going well.
The English League didn’t hold it’s breath when others tagged along to try their luck. You would think that at the mere mention of the words Brazilian footballer, your average fan would salivate expectantly at the possible moments of magic that would unfold before their very eyes. Most fans understand disappointment and that’s what we got.
After Robinho’s Manchester City career flopped within 18 months, Gilberto Silva arrived at Arsenal – a success at last as part of Arsenal’s unbeaten side of 2003/04. A World Cup winner, Silva developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe.
Lucas joined Liverpool as a highly rated, but untested, 20-year-old and appears to be a part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans – at least for now. Chelsea paid £17m for Ramires, who has risen to prominence in the Premier League and just lately, after a miserable stream of mediocrity in past years, the tide appears to be turning.
Chelsea have the highly prized Willian, signed for £30m from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013, who has been their best player consistently all season. Oscar joined Chelsea for £25m from Internacional in 2012 following an impressive set of displays for club and country. At Liverpool, the club have added a further two top notch Brazilians with Philippe Coutinho’s importance at the heart of the Liverpool attack and £29m man Roberto Firmino.
Fernandinho spent time at Shakhtar Donetsk before arriving in the Premier League in 2013 for a fee of £34m. The defensive midfielder has become a mainstay at the Etihad. David Luiz was a winner at Chelsea, but could occasionally have you hiding your eyes with some eccentric defensive play.
In 2014, ahead of the World Cup Finals, national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, kept faith with most of the players who triumphed at the previous year’s FIFA Confederations Cup as Brazil looked to win the trophy for a sixth time – the first on home soil.
Chelsea provided four players – David Luiz, Oscar, Willian and Ramires – with Manchester City’s Fernandinho and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho also called up. It showed that the Brazilian’s were making a difference and playing a huge part in title winning teams.
But with success comes failure and without seeing what Pato has to offer, most Chelsea fans will not feel enthused by his first appearance in the blue shirt. Most Brazilians, appear in the Portuguese leagues (same language – good start), Spain and even appear in the Russian Leagues – and they thought it was cold in the UK.
Some nearly made it in the UK and you could consider that the high expectations of Sandro, Denilson and Eduardo da Silva were too much, as the impact they made was minimal to say the least. Some would argue that they were never given a chance and two of West Ham’s Brazilian’s, Wellington and Nene, moaned all the way back to Rio.
However, as good as some are, the majority were just awful. Do you recall Jo at Manchester City? Signed for £19m. No, thought not. The forward managed just one goal in 20 appearances in Manchester, and unsuccessful loan spells at Everton followed before he was sold back to his native Brazil in 2001. Alfonso Alves played at Middlesbrough, but only managed to score 10 times in 42 Premier League appearances and was part of the side that was relegated in the 2008/09 season. The striker was quickly offloaded to Qatar in 2009. Andre Santos at Arsenal came and went quicker than most after 13 non-illustrious appearances. Obviously worth every penny of the £6.2m fee.
There are others that could be named, but we’ll spare the rest from the ignominy of being chastised online – for now. However, the chance to play abroad is what every Brazilian professional wants. The football in their homeland is a shambles. Stadia largely, apart from major clubs, are ramshackle and about to collapse, money is extremely tight and on top of that attendances are woeful. Outside of the top clubs, players don’t get paid on time and struggle to survive. Players play to be seen and to be catapulted to the European leagues where fame and fortune becomes their focus. It’s not all glamorous in the land that gave us the likes of Pele. It’s tough.
It’s also unfortunate when it doesn’t work out and they head back to football in Brazil. Dream over.