A cold November night in East Yorkshire and a glove wearing player sporting the number 10 shirt goes about the business of trying to preserve Hull City’s top flight status, along with his team-mates.
Admittedly the KC Stadium in Hull isn’t the first place that you would imagine a Brazilian of stereotypical skill to be plying his trade, but Geovanni is one an increasing number of Brazilian footballers playing in the English league.
In April 2007, there was just five Brazilian representatives playing in the English Premier League, yet now in January 2010 there are upwards of 20, a number set to increase even more as English clubs continue to be linked with the finest South American talents.
Former Tottenham Hotspur player Gilberto had his theory on why more Brazilians are arriving in England:
“The Premier League has been improving for the past few years and with more Brazilians coming here. There are more openings for others.
“Before people used to think Brazilians wouldn’t be too good with the English style of play, they wouldn’t adapt for it or it would be difficult for them in the climate. Now some of them have come here and been doing well, adapting well and this will open doors for more players to come here.”
The first Brazilian to land on English shores was a diminutive attacker named Mirandinha, brought to Newcastle’s St James’ Park back in 1987. After an impressive first season which saw him net 20 goals in 53 league appearances, the contribution of Mirandinha decreased and after a poor second season that saw the club relegated, he returned to his native Brazil.
It wasn’t until 1995 that the next Brazilian to have a significant impact on the English game arrived. Juninho, at the time was one of the hottest youngsters in world football and it was regarded as somewhat of a surprise when Middlesbrough beat off stiff competition for his signature. Many doubted that his slight frame would be able to hack the physical demands of the Premier League, yet Juninho’s performances captivated Premier League fans. Unfortunately despite his heroics Boro were relegated and Juninho left for Atletico Madrid, although he did return for further spells in 2002 and 2004.
However it seems the general rule about Brazilians in England is that for every Juninho who comes and embraces the culture and proves a success in this league, there is a player who struggles to adapt to the harsh British climate and hastily departs with his tail between his legs.
A contemporary example is that of Robinho at Manchester City. Robinho arrived as the most expensive footballer in Britain as he was unveiled at Eastlands for no less than 32 million pounds. Robinho’s undoubted talent led many to tip him to take the Premier League by storm with his flair and raw talent. Unfortunately in reality Robinho has cut a despondent figure during the majority of his time on our shores. Despite the odd glimpse of his ability, in large Robinho has spent more of his time in England flirting with other clubs in an attempt to secure a hasty departure, than he has terrorising defences. If Robinho returns to City remains to be seen but unless he knuckles down and produces more focussed and consistent performances upon his return, few will consider him a sound investment.
Jo, bought by Manchester City and then shipped out on loan to Everton, has produced a number of solid performances for the Toffee’s, however while his performances haven’t been an issue, adaptability has and the striker has recently been suspended by his club after going AWOL and returning to Brazil without consent, proving that not every Brazilian is capable of adapting into such a contrasting climate and lifestyle.
Further examples of established players unable to transfer their reputation to the English game is the stories of two members of the 2002 World Cup squad. Kleberson arrived on the back of a series of impressive performances for Brazil, that had convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to shell out £6.5 million to secure his services. His time at Old Trafford was hampered by injuries and with only 30 appearances in two seasons, Kleberson was shipped out to Besiktas of Turkey for just a third of what United had orginally paid for him.
Perhaps even more disastrous, was the spell of centre back Roque Junior over the Pennines at Leeds United. Although only a loan spell, Roque Junior was sent off on his home debut and in his seven games at Leeds, the club conceded 24 goals as they tumbled out of the Premier League.
However despite Robinho’s current struggles and the ill-fated stays of Kleberson and Roque Junior, there are a growing number of Brazilians performing consistently in England.
Fabio Aurellio is a regular fixture in Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool outfit, and after initial struggles Lucas looks to be a useful player in that same side. Manchester United are another side dancing to the Samba beat, with Anderson, Rodrigo Possebon and the Da Silva twins, Rafael and Fabio all having enjoyed first team action at Old Trafford. And who can forget Gilberto Silva who despite not falling into the stereotype of a Brazilian footballer, was an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal between 2002 and 2008.
With more and more Brazilians arriving in England and the Premier League constantly becoming a more cosmopolitan competition, the number of Brazilians will surely continue to increase.
Both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have agreements in place with Brazilian clubs enabling them to have first choice in securing the signatures of players such as Rafael and Fabio Da Silva who joined United from Fluminense. Tottenham are affiliated to Internacional and rumoured to be close to signing the promising Sandro from the club.
While not every Brazilian who washes up on our shores adapts to their harsh new climactic surroundings and proves to be a resounding success, the floodgates have well and truly been opened as our resident Brazilians welcome their compatriots with open arms. As a league The Premier League can only benefit from having more representatives from the worlds most talented footballing nation and it is clear that young Brazilians now see England as an exciting career option.