Manchester United Target Dede And Five Other South Americans Worth A Look
The buying and selling of Brazilian footballing talent has undergone a sea change in the last couple of years. While European currencies totter, the local economy booms, tempting the youngsters (Neymar, Ganso, Lucas, Damião) to tarry a while longer, and plenty of elder statesmen (including Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano, Adriano and Fred) to spend more than just their retirements back home. A boatload of just-shy-of-Balzaquiano*, mid-level talent has also traipsed back across the Atlantic, boosting the Brasileirão’s quality quotient further.
Stricter work permit restrictions and cultural factors mean the Premier League has traditionally been on the outside looking in when it comes to cherry picking the best of the Brazilians. A well-worn trail, a common language, and a slightly gentler playing pace make Portugal a logical first stop on any Brasileiro’s European tour, and Spanish clubs, particularly those lurking just below the Madrilona power axis, have had their binoculars trained on Brazil for a number of years (Valencia are a good example, picking up goalkeeper Diego Alves (ex-Atlético Mineiro) and striker Jonas (ex-Grêmio) for a song).
The allure of Italy’s Serie A, where Zico among others first blazed a trail, remains strong. But the most dramatic transformation has come further east, where the black gold rush in Russian and Ukrainian football means that this is now most frequently the first port of call for young Brazilian footballers (who usually have their eyes on a move to a major European league soon after). Dudu, ex-Cruzeiro meia and one of the standouts of this year’s U-20 World Cup in Colombia, who signed for Dynamo Kyiv in August, is just one who’s currently enjoying building his first snowman.
The harvesting of young Brazilian footballers is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. While there is a greater middle class presence in Brazilian football today than in the past, the majority of young players are from working class backgrounds, have little formal education, and are closely tied to their family and community. Transplanting such players into an entirely alien, not always especially friendly, environment, can be a tricky business. Rattling around his chilly Cheshire mansion during that unhappy spell at Man. City, it was all too easy to imagine Robinho gloomily asking the wife about their Saturday night plans: what do you fancy doing tonight, love? Shall we ask that nice Mr and Mrs Neville if they’re up for a pint? It is hoped that sharp objects were removed from the De Souza home at an early stage.
On a serious note, it should be remembered that for every quick settler such as Thiago Silva or Kaká, there is a troubled Breno (the young Bayern Munich defender rumoured to be suffering from severe depression), or Adriano. The character and maturity of a player is as important as the talent in his boots, and the provision of a solid support network in his new home is essential.
But let’s imagine, for a moment, a different world. That nice Mrs May has waived all UK work permit restrictions for South American footballers. The reign of the BRICS has turned out to be short lived, and Angela Merkel and pals have led Europe back to economic preponderance. Global warming has given the UK an extra two months of sunshine a year. Are there bargains to be had for the go-ahead English or Scottish football manager or director, weary of the usual home-grown toilers and the depressingly familiar mid-level European re-treads, and with a couple of dozen million reais burning a hole in his pocket? Almost certainly, though, as always, caveat emptor applies.
1) The Take My Watch, Take My Car, Take My Wife: Dedé (zagueiro, Vasco, 23).
Manchester United Target Dede And Five Other South Americans Fergie Should Look At
Manchester United have today been linked to the player nicknamed Dedéckenbauer for his commanding performances and assurance in defence, here's what they need to know...
In the interests of not sounding like any old tuppenny ha’penny review of young Brazilian footballing talent, transfer no-brainers such as Messrs Neymar, Ganso, Lucas and Damião have been excluded from this piece. But to ignore Dedéckenbauer is asking just too much. A few reasons why: leader of Vasco’s epic 2011 campaign (Copa Do Brasil winners, Brasileirão runners up, Copa Sul-Americana semi-finalists). Taller than Cristo Redentor and more powerful in the air. Generally elegant when bringing the ball forward and a possessor of good positional sense, though his size and leggy gait means he can, very occasionally, look coltishly clumsy. Decent distribution and dangerous from corners. Bags of leadership potential. In the Fantasy Island world of this article, should sign for Manchester United, as is basically Vidic and Ferdinand in one terrifying juggernaut of a body. Faster than Terry Phelan, too. If remains in Brazil, will surely become the country’s first black president one day.
2) The Take My Watch, Take My Car, Take My Wife II (Though Could Do with A Bit of Mrs Manager’s Home Cooking): Oscar (meia, Internacional, 20).
A quick, intelligent, goal-scoring midfielder, not dissimilar to former Internacional great Alex, now back in Brazil with Corinthians after spending a couple of years at Spartak Moscow. Has also, more glamorously, not to say generously, been occasionally compared to a young Kaká, though is nowhere near as powerful. Scored all three of Brazil’s goals in this year’s U-20 World Cup final against Portugal. A warning: stripped of the generous on the ball thinking time allowed in the Brasileirão, pixyish midfield scamps tend to turn rather rabbit-in-the-headlights when forced to sink or swim in the big European leagues (Guiliano, elected best player of the 2010 Libertadores, and one time Manchester United target Carlos Eduardo, both of whom have struggled of late in Russian and Ukrainian football, spring to mind). With this in mind, QPR fans will most probably need the patience of Job when the subject is new loan signing, striker Henrique, who also shone in Colombia but has not featured much for the São Paulo first team.
3) The Might Be Worth A Punt: Wellington Nem (atacante, Fluminense, 19 years old).
Spent 2011 on loan at Figueirense and was one of the stars of the club’s surprising 2011 campaign, when Figueira finished 7th in Serie A and only missed out on a Libertadores spot on the last day. Fast and bustling with a low centre of gravity, cool-headed in front of goal, and occasionally hits a decent free kick. Now back at Fluminense, his first challenge will be earning a first team spot ahead of the likes of Fred and Rafael Sobis.
4) The Could Go Either Way: Casemiro (volante, São Paulo, 19).
A personal favourite. Big and strong. Leggy and elegant and with a swingeing right foot shot. A classy, goalscoring defensive midfielder. What’s not to like? Well, a troublesome (some might say spoilt) personality, for one, and a major drop off in form in the second half of 2011, which led to São Paulo touting the player around at the possibly steep price of €10 million. Has vowed to return to top form in 2012.
5) The Footballer’s Footballer: Rômulo (volante, Vasco, 21).
During what we might, rather unfairly, call The Gilberto Silva Reign of Terror, the Brazilian volante position became the fiefdom of battalions of defensive, sideways passing strongmen. Thankfully, with the emergence of players such as Casemiro and Rômulo, this is beginning to change. The stylish Vasco defensive midfielder can do it all – pass, carry the ball forward, even shoot. A composed, sometimes almost cerebral presence, Romulo is one of those players who instinctively do the right thing, something just as important as athletic ability. A nice chap too, by all accounts.
6) The Shouldn’t Really Count as He’s Not Brazilian, But Is Too Good to Leave Out: Lanzini (meia, Fluminense, 18).
Putting an Argentinian in a best of young Brazil round up is a hanging offence in some circles, but Flu’s midfielder is a rare talent. Only 18, the slight midfielder has integrated himself quickly into the first team, inviting comparisons with fellow hermano Conca (now playing in China), and current teammate Deco. More imaginative than the latter, Lanzini is no head-down-and-run-to-the-corner-flag chugger, but a sparkling, upright-postured dribbler, and the owner of a rasping shot. On loan from River Plate until July, has stated his desire to sign for Flu on a permanent basis.
There are plenty more, of course, from Flamengo’s current crop of impressive seedlings (Negueba, Adryan, Muralha and Thomas), to Grêmio volante Fernando, another who had a fine time in Colombia. Nippy striker Osvaldo, who spent last year at Ceará and is currently fielding offers from most of Brazil’s top clubs, might also be worth keeping tabs on. Anyone with a hankering to be a Brazilian scout of the future should track down footage of the Copa São Paulo de Juniores, in full flow at the moment (young São Paulo striker Ademilson is one to watch), or, of course, continue tuning in to Sabotage Times’ Brazilian football coverage.
* As surely all Sabotage Times readers know, Balzaquiana is a Portuguese term for a thirty year old woman, inspired by Balzac’s novel La Femme De Trente Ans.
You can read more of James's excellent writing on all things Brazil at I See a Darkness
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