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Allure of European football still remains

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Tim Vickery | 09:33 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

A year ago, I spoke to Brazilian midfielder Sandro a few minutes after he had made his debut for Tottenham. I caught up with him again a few days ago as, recovering from injury, he watched his international team-mates train for last Monday's international against Ghana at Craven Cottage in London.

He was, he said, thoroughly delighted with his first season in the Premier League. Despite a few problems adaptating, the whole experience had more than matched his expectations. Twelve months on, he was in no doubt that he was a much better and more complete player, emphasising in particular that he had learned to play at a higher tempo.

Tottenham's Sandro grapples with AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Midfielder Sandro cost Spurs £8m from Brazilian club side Internacional. Photo: Getty

This is not a perspective likely to please the nationalists back home. Brazil, like Argentina, has a proud footballing culture. It rankles with many that the bulk of the national team play for foreign clubs. Especially when results are poor, there are frequently calls for more home-based players to be called up.

Two myths underpin this way of thinking.

The first is that those who play with domestic clubs are more committed to the cause. The reality usually is that they might still be waiting for an offer to Europe. And the idea that living abroad automatically makes a person less patriotic is palpable nonsense - the reverse is often true.

The second myth is that the move to Europe inevitably means that the South American will have his natural flair coached out of him. Of course, it may apply in some cases. But again, the opposite is as likely to be true. When Dunga was in charge of Brazil, for example, he used to complain that many Brazilians abroad were excused defensive duties in order to exploit their attacking strengths. They would go as full-backs and be transformed into wingers.

The nationalist lobby will then point to the World Cups won by Brazil and Argentina. They will say that the successful teams of the past were culled from domestic clubs. Therefore, today's teams should be as well.

It is an argument that ignores the huge changes that have taken place in the game over the last 30 years. The World Cups of 1958, 1970 or 1978 came before the global market in footballers opened for business. The best Brazilians and Argentines were playing at home. Also, their national teams were able to spend months together in preparation for the World Cup, which is unthinkable today. With their accumulation of top talent and their time spent together, the national teams could set the standards in terms of quality of play.

Nowadays, these same advantages are only enjoyed by the major European clubs. They vacuum up talent from all over the world and then work with it week after week, grudgingly releasing their players for the odd international fixture.

It is little wonder, then, that nowadays it is Europe's Champions League that sets the standards in a game - and even less of a surprise that the best South Americans want to be a part of it. Quite apart from any financial considerations, shining in the Champions League is essential for any player to be considered truly great. Sandro's eyes light up as he recalls the tussles with Milan last season.

Leonardo Damiao (left) and Neymar playing for Brazil

Leandro Damiao (left) and Neymar are Brazil stars who have stayed in the domestic game. Photo: Getty

True, this is a dynamic process. The possibility of a shift exists, with Brazil's economic boom coupled with Europe's problems. The terms of trade have already altered, with Brazilian clubs able to hang on to youngsters for longer and bring back established stars sooner. Against Ghana, Brazil were able to field a front four entirely made up of home-based players, centre-forward Leandro Damiao backed up by Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso and Ronaldinho.

But the general trend remains - and will do so for the next few years at least. Sooner or later, the younger three of the quartet will be on their way to Europe, where they will look to spend their peak years. If they had any doubts, they only had to observe the performance of their veteran colleague.

On his recall to the national team, Ronaldinho hit some splendid free-kicks and found the space to supply a couple of dangerous crosses as Ghana, down to 10 men, wilted in the closing stages. But for most of the game, he was a peripheral figure, unable to reproduce his form with Flamengo, where he has been so decisive on the edge of the opposing area.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes commented afterwards that the rhythm of international football is much quicker than that of the domestic Brazilian game and that Ronaldinho had not found it easy to make the adjustment.

It might be dangerous, then, to draw too many conclusions from this month's two friendlies between Brazil and Argentina, the first on Brazilian soil this Wednesday. Both sides are restricted to home-based players. Among them are some very interesting prospects. For Brazil, for example, Vasco da Gama's Dede is a centre-back of formidable strength and quality.

But the games are put into context by Sergio Batista, recently deposed as coach of Argentina. In the first interview he gave following his sacking, he mentioned the headaches that he had been given by having, alongside the first team, a squad of home-based players. "Some of the directors," he said, "still don't understand that the first-team players will always be based abroad. The point of having a group of domestic players is that when they go abroad they know what it is to represent the national team."

And their chances of success will be improved still further once they have picked up the kind of experience that Sandro is so pleased to have acquired in the first year of his European adventure.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) You often comment on players' prospective moves to Europe saying that they are not yet ready to make the transition to European football. Are there any players who you are surprised haven't been signed by a European club despite, in your opinion, being ready?
George Heron

Not many, because there have so many forces pushing players across the Atlantic - agents, often the clubs wanting the sale, pressure from their families to cash in. There are a few, though, usually from outside Brazil and Argentina. Victor Caceres of Paraguay, Michael Arroyo of Ecuador (now Mexico-based). Another Mexican based Ecuadorian is Cristian Benitez, who had that year with Birmingham. I'm very surprised no-one else in Europe picked him up afterwards.

This is going to become a fascinating question in many Brazilian careers, I believe, because clubs in the country are now paying such high wages that there is no longer an automatic financial advantage in coming over. Players will have to judge what is best for their career. Hernanes of Lazio is one, I think, who should probably have made the move earlier than he did. In the future, there will probably be more players who might be regretting that they came across too late, rather than too early.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    is the Ronaldinho example that good? He looks to me like a firely. Always blinking.


    the argument used is that Ronaldinho did not shone in the Seleção as he is doing in Flamengo right now.

    Right now? Maybe better say "one month ago".

    Flamengo completed its 8th (or 7th?) straight match without winning in the league and are already in 6th and will soon drop even more in the ranking tables.

    Ronaldinho had an horrible start, both in the weak Rio de Janeiro state league, as then in the Brazilian league. Then all that fuss about the "Call Ronadinho" and the booing started, and he got better.

    But now he is falling back to his usual self.

    And his performance on the brazilian team is not an indicative that the brazilian league is weak. Its an indicative that Ronaldinho´s good moments do not last, and by the time he was called, both he and Flamengo were already in freefall.


    And as always, if we should compare the strenght of the leagues based on player performance against Ghana, then lets remember the name of the match (Leandro Damião) and also Daniel Alves, again a VERY POOR player for Brazil, but a constant member of the most heralded side in Europe: Barça.

  • Comment number 2.

    btw, yes, the TOP european leagues are stronger than the brazilian league, I just dont think Ronaldinho´s performance can serve to measure anything... just as Dani Alves being horrible at the Seleção, doesnt mean Barcelona is a bad team (obviously).

  • Comment number 3.

    ps: the photo of Leandro Damião and Neymar has subtitles saying "Leonardo Damião".

  • Comment number 4.

    Good Article --- regarding South American flair, me personally, I believe that very few players from South America play with any type of continental "flair" --- I mean Cristiano Ronaldo has proven that the European player can modernize, and this to me is due to the effects of Futsal on the modern game and the usage of 5-a-side ball in training sessions. Even Wenger has admitted to using 5-a-side tactics during practice, which explains sort of the whole Tiki-Taka Aresenal short-passing approach, and La Masia is Barcelona's philosophical approach to having to avoid buying Brazilian Players who end up becoming Prima donnas (Romario is the one example that best illustrates this) --- occasionally they'll fork big bucks to get a Brazilian like Dani Alves, for positional purposes. But Barcelona is no longer bringin in Brazilians who get distracted too easily, Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho, Robinho... why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

    Of the players who you could argue possess some type of South American flair, I would say Carlos Tevez, Luis Suarez & Ronaldinho... to me someone like Neymar is a poor Brazilian facsimile-copy of Cristiano Ronaldo --- In a way Barcelona has anticipated Brazil's decline, in that Brazil has become too "European" --- Even the whole Messi biography is Barcelona's way of not having to dip into Argentina either, he was scooped up as a kid and home-schooled into the "European/Cruyff" approach very early.

  • Comment number 5.

    Its a shame. Im a ranagers fan who gets peeved at the lieks of fulham stealing our best players, a club who we are far bigger than. It must be gut wrenching for the lieks of corinthains and Boca who have millions upon millions of fans to lose players to uber heavyweights like wigan.

    I long for the day south america can hold onto its best players.

  • Comment number 6.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 7.

    Europeans Europeans….. Always with an Eurocentric view of everything. Really El Presidente? Spain and Barcelona is the future of football? It didn't seem the case in the friendly match between Chile and Spain. The Tiki taka was outplayed by… guess who!? South American players! Yes I know what you think: Spain won… but did they convinced you? Did they showed the dominance of the best of the world? I don't think so…. Maybe the only European side that really scares South Americans is Germany. Forget about Spain, Italy, England, France
    Having said that, we have to admit that European clubs play a better football than SA, but the only reason for this situation is money, infrastructure, the way in which teams manage resourses.That's the only difference…

  • Comment number 8.

    BTW... Cristiano Ronaldo is possibly one of the most overrated players in the world, as half of the Premier league.

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't see this as a uniquely South American issue. Aside from the big European leagues (I would say England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands), where most (but not all) home-grown players like to stay and indeed don't usually need to move to find big football and big money, it is the dream of any footballer to want to hit the big time. Look at Eastern Europe or Africa. The superstars of Ghana, who was mentioned in the article, are all based in Europe, far from home, and yet this doesn't seem to be impeding their meteoric rise to being Africa's team to beat. I think Argentina and Brazil are always looking to blame outside forces for their international misfortunes rather than look inwardly at structural and institutional issues.

  • Comment number 10.

    #7

    Having said that, we have to admit that European clubs play a better football than SA, but the only reason for this situation is money, infrastructure, the way in which teams manage resourses.That's the only difference…


    Right well isnt that a big part of football all the things you mention? The reality is that as Tim has pointed out, traditional south american football died with the dutch of the early 70s. Europe had to evolve to cope with it or die. South america were simply killed by it.

    Dont get too hung up on Europes feeling of superiority. Many of the top players are south americans who play in European teams

  • Comment number 11.

    Love the articles Tim, keep up the awesome job! Just wondering if you could tell me anything about Lucas Piazon who is coming to Chelsea in January? Has he shown the potential to be a top player or is he just another overrated Brazilian teenager?

  • Comment number 12.

    @11 Dhughes:

    he was not overated. Maybe it was Chelsea itself who overated him.

    NO BRAZILIAN understood why Chelsea paid so much money for a player who had NEVER played professionally in Brazil.

    If anything, I would say Chelsea was amateurish and confused Lucas Piazon with the much better player, already playing professionally, Lucas Moura.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great read!

    Is it just pace, though? Are European leagues just quicker than the Brazilian league or teams there play more physically too? Like Tim mentions often, the refereeing in Brazil is very poor and contact isn't allowed.

    I personally find it incredible that Ronaldinho is being called up and ppl expect him to do now what he was never been able to do for Brazil. Do they really expect Ronaldinho to play at 34 years old?! He can barely run now at 30.

    I'm not a big fan of D. Alves. Good player for Barca, but not the style I like in a fullback. As a Gremio supporter, I've been following Mario Fernandes closely and think he's the real deal: tall like a defender, strong in defense and go go forward like the other attacking fullbacks.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sure the South American leagues are nowhere as competitive as the top European leagues but as long as Brazil do well on the international stage they will be happy. After all the biggest stage is the World Cup where Brazil have a superior record. Id take having the best national team over having the best league anyday.

    "The World Cups of 1958, 1970 or 1978 came before the global market in footballers opened for business. The best Brazilians and Argentines were playing at home. "

    Just wanted to point out that this is a statement that is often overlooked. Especially from those select few people who say Pele never never played in Europe. They forget that the Brazilian league was probably the best league in the world at that time and that very few foreigners were actually playing in the top European leagues.

  • Comment number 15.

    define "having the best league".

    to me, having the best league is having a league where the team YOU support has a chance of winning.

    I would hate the spanish league if I was a fan of any team not Real Madrid or Barcelona.

    in fact, even as a brazilian, I stoped watching La Liga in the last years, because Real Madrid and Barça are so above the rest (including in the money they get) that the Spanish league just SUCKS in my opinion, no matter how much quality other people think there is in it.

  • Comment number 16.

    15. there you said it. Its all about opinions. Quite frankly i don't care which league is the best but personally i stay away from the "so and so league is rubbish or sucks as you put it" as i think its highly disrespectful and arrogant. I enjoy the la liga, premier league and even the seria-a no matter what anyone says. I do not feel the need to dish out anyone.

  • Comment number 17.

    well, I feel the need to dish La Liga. And I guess the other spanish clubs even agree with me, no wonder they are even considering breaking away and leave Barcelona and Real Madrid to have their own little league of two teams (which it basically La Liga already is).

  • Comment number 18.

    Everything you said has been said a gazillion times already. People are not idiots, they know the tv revenue deal is not fair in Spain. They know pretty much only Barcelona and Real Madrid have a realistic chance of winning the title bar a miracle. Every football discussion boils down to PL vs La Liga and how la liga is rubbish. Every player discussion boils down to Messi vs Ronaldo. Its getting boring.

  • Comment number 19.

    #14 that's Tim's point, I believe. Is it realistic to expect the likes of Ganso, Neymar, and Damiao to deliver at the highest stage when they are not used to the level of pace and physical contact which is common to those matches.
    Note that I'm not even going into the obvious difference in the opponents' quality; while there indeed good (and excellent) players playing in Brazil, there are some who wouldn't be able to play anywhere else.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ganso, Neymar and Leandro Damiao will all develop quickly and be ready to move to European football if they are given one or two more seasons in Brazil to further their promise. The abuse given to Ganso by the Brazil fans is so unjustified for a player that, given time and played in the proper role (behind the strikers) can develop into a fantastic playmaker worth of replacing Kaka.

    Look at Pato, a player with great talent, but his growth has stunted at AC Milan because of the expectations put on him by their supporters and even the Brazil supporters as their answer to David Villa.

    In spite of all this, I still find Mano Menezes a manager lacking of delivering when he should. His use of Robinho and Pato as wing forwards behind Neymar is an incredibly strange one, when both are suited to differing roles. Having Leandro Damiao up front with Neymar gives both of them support from each other and another dimension to their game. In addition, the use of Andre Santos in recent games instead of Marcelo is to me, completely wrong. Andre Santos is a good full back, but the runs of Marcelo are invaluable to club and country alike. Brazilian fullbacks are meant to storm the flanks, just like Maicon does, not simply provide an outball that then goes back to Lucio/Thiago Silva.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ #8 venelondoner

    That is the most rediculous comment I have ever seen anyone write regarding any subject. And to think you would go off topic simply with the aim to post a bad opinion shows your posts are not worth reading. Now that is out of the way, let's get back on topic shall we?

    South America is an awakening giant and Brazil in particular is a nation poised for a rich future, it does afterall have an almost unbelievable massive abundance of raw materials and this will eventually filter down to the population. It will be a steady but slow process because the country does have a high population and that will increase as more South Americans start emigrating there instead of the USA.

    But if you look at nations like China (whose growth is actually down to exporting resources more than the cheap labour) the Purchasing Power increases relatively quickly. Brazils average wage on the streets could simularly see a three-fold growth in the space of the next 10 years and that would still mean it lags way behind Europe, however that could mean that people there can afford to pay three times as much to attend a football match and so on and the TV Broadcasting deals could simularly be worth alot more.

    Will that be enough to stop the best players leaving for Europe? Well that is unlikely in the next 10 years even with Europe's problems but in 20 years time you could very well say that Brazil will finally have the financial muscle to stop the youngs ones heads being turned so easily to look over the Atlantic. Argentina is also experience a bit of a finance boom as well, I think it averages about 6% annually and well really, all the South American nations are experiencing booms which is in most part driven by China and Brazil as they are hungry for the few resources they don't have easy access to.

    All this will filter down to the small man and in that country, the small man loves his football and if he has the money spare he will pay to watch it. Be it in first person or through the television. But my biggest concern is with the increased revenue usually comes a change in the dymanic of the game, at least from what we have seen in Europe. Would South American leagues lose the passion we assosciate with it? What I mean is, with less poverty will less people try to play their way out of a poor life and so the talent pool shrinks?

    That was the major driving force behind the amazing Brazil teams in my opinion, it was either play good or face a life of crime. For the last 10 years already people there have had a smaller chance of facing a life of crime if they didn't make it in football and coincidentally Brazil is off the canter in the International game.

  • Comment number 22.

    Maybe the decline of Serie A in Italy is also partly responsible for the poor performances of the Brazil national side recently, particularly in this years Copa America, as so many of the first 11 played for Milan or Inter, neither of whom look particularly competitive in the CL at the moment, (Inter since Mourinho left). Maybe it is the likes of Pato, Robinho, Maicon & co who are not playing domestic football on a par with the PL and La Liga. Also you can't tell me that there is not a better central midfielder in the Brazilian league than Lucas Leiva.

    Lucio has been a world class centre half for years but is Mano Menezes really expecting him to lead Brazil into the World Cup by which time he will be 36? He looks to be slowing down a little to me and also plays for Inter.

    Maybe the Brasilerao is not as fast or technically good as the top Euro leagues but it is extremely competitive. It many, many big clubs with passionate supporters who create great atmospheres which long since left most PL grounds (unfortunately). Almost every game in Brazil has an important feel to it and creates interest whereas, most English football fans i know turn their nose up at games like Wigan v Blackburn, Stoke v Sunderland, Wolves v Fulham etc. Basically games not involving the top 4 or 5. The situation in La Liga appears to be even worse with the Barca and Real situation.

    I agree that Ronaldinho is a poor example by which to judge the Brazilian league as a whole, but to be fair to him his performances have been better than i expected for Flamengo this season, he just can't run these days. The situation in general in Brazil seems to be improving with top players staying at home longer and a few of the older ones returning, still with something to offer.

  • Comment number 23.

    It's really easy to twist up facts to make you sound so bloody correct.

    I really hate sports media sometimes, Brazilian and non-Brazilian. First Ronaldinho plays absolutely horrid football, in the first half of the year, and the Brazilian media says he is still adjusting to Brazilian football, now that he is playing good (not THAT good) the media says he can't adapt to European style football..

    Anyways, I can say that Hernanes had a larger impact @ Serie A than at the Brasileirao of 2009 can't I? He was a major factor for Lazio to almost get a UCL spot, in contrast to their previous season where they almost were relegated. Can I use that example to say that Brazilian football rules the world? No..

    Wasn't it Deivid that said that he was struggling real hard with Brazilian league's pace compared to Europe's? Well, since you stated Mano's phrase, I'll state another one of his when he first took charge, saying that Brasileirao was one of the speediest leagues in the world.. Has he changed his mind? Or is he just a flip-flop (as his tactics and team picking suggests.)

    Is the Brasileirao really that slow like some say, or is it really pacey like Deivid and Mano once said? Is the level of game here so bad that Ronaldinho is good, or is it so hard that Hernanes, Dias, and others make larger impacts on Serie A, Bundesliga etc?

    I really think its a middle-term, stop being so black or white, please. I think you should really single out Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga, Turkish League, PL, instead of always saying "EUROPE". It's so different between each country.

    In my honest opinion the Serie A is not really that far away from Brasileirao, in fact the level of the matches here is quite better IMHO. Bundesliga is slightly better, but the level of the teams im afraid is not really that much better over there also. La Liga and PL are ahead, but with that much money its not that hard..

  • Comment number 24.

    @aceshigh

    "to me, having the best league is having a league where the team YOU support has a chance of winning."

    Surely there is more to it than that. Otherwise you could point to any average league where there is a different winner each year. I'm sure every team in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League starts the season thinking they're in with a shout. Doesn't make it a great league.

  • Comment number 25.

    @8
    Anyone who doesn't think that Ronaldo and Messi are the 2 best footballers in the world, is blind.

    @24 True.

    Anyway, good blog Tim. I am curious about what Dunga said about European clubs transforming wing-backs into wingers.
    Surely there isn't really alot of difference between a 'Brazilian wing-back' and a european winger anyway? In terms of Attacking and Defensive mentality :-P

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm not sure why so many cringe if some of us think that Cristiano in particular, and some EPL players in general are overrated. Results in Europeans tournaments and WC shows this is the case. I've read ridiculous posts (#8 for example….) relating the way in which south americans play football with the per capita income…. If we take that very simplistic analysis as true, we should start looking for the new Messi in Hati. Dear The Realist, all posts are worth reading, even yours with such a poor analysis an reductionist approach. Look in the evidence to support your opinion (As I'm doing)

  • Comment number 27.

    We in South Africa still support either Brazil or Argentina if we not supporting our own country. At last year's WC, we supported SA plus either Brazil or Argentina en mass.
    Why? because over the years we have witnessed that South America produced the best players and in our view still does. Brazill is going through a phase and Argentina had 1 problem, too many good players to choose from that even Maradonna was confused.

    For me currently the not only the best, but the most exciting and
    promising players are South American:
    Messi, Suarez, Forlan, Di Maria, Tevez, Aguerro, Pastore, Neymar, Sanchez, Higuain.
    No matter if they played in Europe or South America, they would still be the best.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great stuff again Tim, interesting times for the big 2. A lack of competitive fixtures won't do Brazil any good in the run-up to 2014, they need to find a settled 11 and soon.

    I don't think playing Neymar, Ganso and Damiao in the same side is the way forward, it's asking too much too soon (I appreciate the recent friendly was for home-based players). I wish Kaka would get out of Madrid and back playing again as for me he is the man that can turn them around - maybe with Hernanes in the side too. These guys know how to unlock European defences and are I think more mature on the pitch (hopefully Ganso will come to the fore but surely needs more time).

    Seems to be fashionable to slate Serie A for some, but I don't agree. The top 5 or 6 sides are making that a very interesting and top quality league IMO. I'm glad so many big names are back in Brazil, though I do wonder just how high the overall standard is at times (I only watch WC qualifiers and Copa games).

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim an interesting piece as ever - I recently interviewed a 19-year-old Paraguayan striker who, unsurprisingly, says Europe is the ultimate goal for any young player here. He says, and I agree, that it is much easier for him to go to Europe now than move to a big Paraguayan club because the big clubs just bring in foreign players (there are no restrictions) but I also think Paraguayan players suffer because both Brazil and Argentina have foreign-player limits so very few can use it as a stepping stone.

    I feel Brazil is a great middle ground from Paraguay to Europe and Ivan Piris is the perfect exponent of this, excellent for Cerro Porteño he his having a good season with São Paulo and has found his place in the national team, by the time he goes to Europe (probably this time next year) he will have Copa Libertadores, Copa America and World Cup Qualifying experience and have played in a competitive domestic league.

    Should Brazil (and also Argentina) look to open their borders to become a Premier League of South America bringing in talent from all over the continent - as you've said above it won't damage their national side as all those players are already in Europe?

  • Comment number 30.

    Most commentators here have forgotten the period when Maracana, Pacaembu, Morumbi, Mineirao, Olimpico, Villa Belmiro, Monumental, Estádio Beira-Rio etc. were filled to capacity, week after week, and witnessed the most orgasmic football played on this planet. The likes of Assis, Washington, Dinamite, Eder, Junior, Leandro, Zico, Rivelino, Tostao, Gerson, Socrates, Falcao, Careca, Junior, Branco, Edinho, Julio Cesar etc. were all produced in this environment within a small window from 1965 - 1980. Those days will come again. Football is cyclical just like life in general.

    Flair is an expression of a national way of life. It is intrinsically woven into the DNA of members of any society where artistic expression is highly valued. If you doubt me, go to London Regents park or any central park in Europe on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Observe how the different nationalities in the same team express themselves. The South Americans tend to caress the ball, make love to it, and try all sorts of tricks. Winning is not their foremost priority. USA players head straight for the goal. The English run around like headless chickens, huffing, puffing and shouting instructions. The Africans (I am one) try to copy everyone and end up nowhere. Northern Europeans give 110%, do the basics well, but no more. Southern Europeans try hard to be like South Americans.

    This is in no way scientific, but I am of the opinion that a Brazillian player with flair will always have flair whether in Europe or elsewhere. They may add other skills to their repertoire but you cannot coach flair out of them.

    The best league in the world is whichever one that gives you the most pleasure. It's a short life. Enjoy it!

  • Comment number 31.

    #30 Falcaocerezo I totally agree with you in the descriptions according to goegrafic origen.... as you said: No scientific but very very true!

  • Comment number 32.

    I really don't know why some people are getting so upset here. This article is simply pointing out that competition in Europe is of a much higher quality than in South America. It's not saying that South American players aren't as good as everyone knows they are generally technically superior to most Europeans, especially the English.

    The Brazilian league is definitely improving. I catch a couple of games here every week and there are some really exciting matches. But the pace IS slower than either The EPL or la liga Espanola. I'd also argue that the quality is far lower as well, likening is to the Spanish or English 2nd leagues.

    The Champions League is a world apart from La Copa Libertadores so of course any great player would want to move to Europe. Just like any great Rugby player will want to move to France at the moment.

    Why get so nationalistic about it? This isn't Europe v South America, this simply is how it is.

  • Comment number 33.

    30. I love playing with other nationalities for this reason! Good points.

  • Comment number 34.

    #30, sorry, but I will take a win playing ugly counter over all that art, any day of the week and twice on Sundays!

    #32 couldn't agree more. The differences are there to be spotted, but only to those who want to see them.
    There are certainly facts that are indisputable, such as: refereeing in Brazil is amateurish (in fact the referees are not professional and have 2nd and 3rd jobs). To protect themselves, to hide their inadequacies, they slow down the game by giving fouls on every bump and minimal physical contact. This effectively slows down the matches and reduces the amount of physical contact, which in turn lowers the importance of strength in the Brazilian league (in general).

    It comes to no surprise that, regardless of quality (see Sandro for example), most Brazilian players moving abroad struggle in the beginning.

    I do agree that the likes of Neymar and Ganso will eventually go to Europe, but what if the move takes place too late? What if Santos can hold on to Neymar until 2013 or 2014? Is it really difficult to see the difference in performances when these players play locally versus internationally?

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 if you can tell me one counter/ugly team that is remembered and admired by global football fans, including yourself, I will concede that football arte is of no use. The primary pleasures we derive from football, either as a player or spectator, all involve unexpected movements and trajectories. Feints, bicycle kicks, drag backs, nutmegs, pedalados, back heels, juggling, two footed tap tap, cartwheels, spinning etc. are what fans remember.

    Having grown up on a diet of of verve and joyful excellence in all sports (Pele & Brazil 70, Best, Charlton, Spitz, Ali, Connors, McEnroe, Ash, Jackie Stewart, Ajax/Holland mid 70's, Carl Lewis, Abdul Jabaar, Magic Johnson, AC Milan, Brazil 82, Keegan's Newcastle, etc.) I stopped watching football after wasting money and time to watch Greece beat Portugal with anti-football in Lisbon (Euro Final 2004) and, Italy v France snoozefest in Berlin (WC Final 2006). That period '04 - '07 represented the nadir of a much beloved game. Barcelona and Arsenal (in spurts) give us purists some hope for the future.

    Goodluck with your anti-football philosophy. You will live long ... but with no joy and no memories.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes the allure of Europe remains, but the South American players while still young need to develop in South America first before plying their trade in Europe. The likes of Neymar and Ganso are overrated. They have not impressed yet for Brazil.
    As regards the friendlies between Brazil and Argentina, its good that only homebased players will be used. To date the players from Europe that Mano Menezes has used have not impressed. Also he refuses to use Kaka, Hernanes and Juan and other more experienced and talented players. I don't think that either Brazil or Argentina are in the class of Germany or Holland and Spain at the moment. There is a long road ahead for these 2 teams if they are to challenge the top European countries for international honours.

  • Comment number 37.

    Interesting to follow some of the debates that develop here...venelondoner at 26 slams TheRealist for correlating increasing income with improvement in quality of footballers. What you are failing to grasp venelondoner, and probably because you did not properly read what Realist had to say, is that growing wealth in the Brazilian markets will result in more financial muscle for the local league to retain talent - thus making it more comparable to the top European leagues. To me that makes perfect sense (though I have to say IMO TheRealist sounds way too optimistic - ironic given his nickname he?).

  • Comment number 38.

    venelondoner, you also say that the PL is overrated and presents as evidence the English performance in WC and European tournaments. To me that argument is baffling because the WC is a contest of nations - and of course much of the PL's quality comes from foreign players so no strong correlation there - second it seems to me PL's sides return in the CL has been pretty good thus proving its quality, not the contrary. Maybe in the Europa league they should fare better but knowingly PL teams see that tournament more as a hindrance which probably explains the overall underachievement. Finally the question about Cristiano Ronaldo is more a matter of opinion, however he has performed really well for many years in two top clubs, scores bags of goals and despite all cockiness seems to me a pretty driven and serious professional. Overpriced he may be, and to mention two examples amidst many, I would rather have Ronaldo for 100m than Torres for 50m or Andy Carroll for 35m.

  • Comment number 39.

    at 32 SlovakIron, totally agree. I am Brazilian but not for a minute do I get offended by the suggestion the Brazilian League is poorer than the top European ones. I live in the UK but have (unwisely I am starting to think) paid up Premier Sports to watch the Brasileirao, so week in week out can compare the level with the EPL which I also get on Sky. The difference is abysmal I have to say - not only pace, but quality of passing, organization, depth of squads and of course also external factors such as pitches, venues, refereeing. I don't mean that as a disrespect for my own country's football but I honestly believe that to improve you need to open your eyes to all that is still missing. Increased wealth for Brazilian teams, I hope, will help sort out this gradually but we are still way behind.

  • Comment number 40.

    and of course some people here (AcesHigh anyone?) praise the competitiveness of the Brazilian League. I consider this to be lazy thinking first because as some other commentator wisely wrote, in that case the Welsh League would be a sure hit, second the Brazilian League, in reality, is not as competitive as people seem to be believe - the top contenders are unstable and get their fair share of bumps during the campaign but, more often than not, in the end the sides fighting for the title are the same three or four candidates fancied at the start (I accept though that due to perennial instability the teams in that small group vary year on year).

  • Comment number 41.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 42.

    #35, happens all the time... last one I remember was Inter beating Barca even though the ref helped out Barca by giving a very controversial red to Mota.

    I clearly remember Italy and especially Paolo Rossi destroying Brazil in counters. I clearly remember Brazil struggling in that game with Cerezo making, well, the same mistakes he used to make in Brazil. V. Perez along with the terrible backline conceding goals after goals.

    What style did Brazil 2002 play?! That was counter for sure and Felipe Scolari always plays counter.

    Quite frankly, football is more than just how elegantly a player prances around the pitch, it's got to be more. Football is also competition, marking, defense, heading... There are many ways to play football and many have been proven effective by different schools. You may have your personal preference and I may have mine.

    BTW, I'm quite content and love watching the modern game, thank you.

  • Comment number 43.

    well, I agree with SlovakIron that the brazilian league is lower standart than top european leagues, but I also disagree that it equals 2nd Division of England and Spain.

    I am pretty sure if you made a superleague of Spain and Brazil first divisions, Barça and Real Madrid would probably end on top. Below that, you would have a mix of brazilian and spanish clubs.

    Probably same thing with the english league, but with more english clubs in the top and more brazilian clubs in the bottom (but probably one or two brazilian clubs near the top)



    but what I really wanted to see is european clubs playing a Libertadores, at La Paz, or in those stadiums where players must be protected by cops with shields, everytime they take a corner kick lol

  • Comment number 44.

    Great blog as per usual Tim.

    The blog has already slightly raised the question, but who out of Ganso, Leandro Damiao and Neymar do you think will move to Europe soonest? I was at the Brazil vs Ghana match so obviously had little chance to watch Ganso in action but I felt that out of the other two Damiao was the one who would thrive the most in European football. While not as necessarily as good a technical player as Neymar, he seemed to have a great deal of pace, power and poise on the ball while also lacking the aforementioned's indulgent streak. Was this a one match wonder or am I right in thinking that he could make a valuable forward for a Champions League side?

  • Comment number 45.

    @Gosborn: I think Leandro Damião will be the first. Not only he will adapt easier to European football, because he plays in Rio Grande do Sul state, as he is also big, strong, and does not falls easily (maybe he learned to keep balance after playing at Rio Grande do Sul state championship, which has the fame of being hmmm... a bit on the violent side)

    But most importantly, Inter´s financial model consists of selling players... and they are having some financial problems, so they really want to sell Leandro Damião for a few dozen million bucks, although they wont admit to the fans until they sell him.

    ps: yes, Rafael Scheid is the biggest exception to the rule of RS players adapting on Europe... or is he? I never really understood what happened to him at Scotland. According to Wikipedia, he didnt even play a single whole match...

  • Comment number 46.

    as for the comments of European leagues being faster...

    whats the size of the pitches in most european stadiums? I tell you... almost ALL of them are 105x68 meters... several of them in England are even smaller (Stamford Bridge is 103x67, Anfield is 101x68)


    In the Brazil, pitches with 105x68 are a MINORITY. Most of them are larger... Maracanã is 110x75
    Morumbi is 108x72
    Pacaembu is 104x70
    Vila Belmiro is 105x80

    etc

    You just need to watch a transmission, to notice how players look much smaller when playing in Brazil than in England, compared to the pitch. Its OBVIOUS the games are slower and LOOK slower, at such bigger pitches.

    Also, there is the question of different physical training styles. Brazilian players love training in Europe. Its just in the morning. Plenty of spare time. No Concentration.

    In Brazil, they usually train morning and afternoons.

  • Comment number 47.

    #42 My reference was counter + ugly football. I am sorry to burst your bubble but Inter did not play ugly football against Barca. Nor did Brazil in 2002. Nor Italy in 1982 v Brazil. Please watch these games again. You will find that Inter and Italy were skilful, organised, and rampaging in attack. There were a lot of elegant and attacking footballers in both sides i.e. Eto, Sneider, Maicon, Milito (Inter) and Antognoni, Conti, Rossi, Cabrini, Graziani (Italy) etc. You really think Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Juninho, Cafu, Roberto Carlos played ugly for Brazil in 2002? Get real. There is an ebb and flow in every game which means that each team will have spells when they are dominant.

    Please see an optician as soon as possible so you can actually appreciate what is going on in football matches.

  • Comment number 48.

    why don't my comments get posted ever? I have tried 11 times, I follow all house rules and still my comment never gets published, why? Because Am not a European or a South American??

  • Comment number 49.

    46. I don't have access to these statistics, so I'll trust you! I'm not sure ALL european leagues are faster than Brazil's. The Italian league is so slow that most non-Italians fall asleep watching most games, and from the limited amount I've seen from the German league, I wouldn't call it fast either. The Brazilian league is certainly not the slowest, but I would still say it's slower than either the EPL or La Liga Espanola.

    In regards to pitch sizes; most teams in Europe will make pitch alterations depending on playing style. A bigger pitch usually suits a team with fast full-backs/wingers that like to attack on the break, so this is probably the reason Brazil has larger pitches. That doesn't mean that the game is at a faster pace of course as fast is always relative to who you are playing against.

    As I said. I like the Brazilian league and it's definitely improving fast. The problem in regards to competing with the big European leagues isn't just money though. Unfortunately the Copa libertadores just isn't a prestigious as the Champions League because some other South American leagues don't provide and will never provide quality opposition. If the world Club cup becomes more recognised in Europe though, maybe this will change. As it is, it's just a 2 week period and that is it. If it enlarged it, then it would be different. These are just my opinions of course!

  • Comment number 50.

    48. Aren't you being a little bit paranoid? If your comment was removed, there would be something showing that you commented, but with ''This cooment was removed by the moderator'' or something like that. Maybe your internet connection isn't stable or something.

  • Comment number 51.

    Can any of you give me your opinion about Elias please. Sporting just signed from Atletico Madrid. He was involved in the friendly Brasil versus Ghana. What kind of midfielder is he,more attacking or defensive midfilder? Thank you in advance

  • Comment number 52.

    And the whole irony of this? Look at the scorer's in last night's opening eight Champions League games:
    David Luiz
    Hulk
    Alexandre Pato
    Thiago Silva
    Aílton
    Lucho González

  • Comment number 53.

    #52

    *Luiz Adriano, Kleber.

  • Comment number 54.

    **Manduca

  • Comment number 55.

    Spain has been a flop on the international stage for years... I don't see why they should be used as the new standard. Teams' fortunes fluctuate, and I'd put good money on Brazil being back at the top in a few years, without this nonsense about tikitaka

    I find it so idiotic to throw 50 years of history in the trash just because of the last 3 years that Spain has enjoyed success. They are having success because they are feeding from their golden generation. The U20's already showed what the future will be like. Spain has no competitivity defending and they will continue with their failing history.

    I don't understand how much crap Brazil gets, I'm not talking specifically about this article, but other ones where Brazil has to be like glorious amazing sexy Spain, who only has 1 world cup final to their history. The last 10 years were very successful for Brazil with 3 confederation cups, 1 world cup and 3 copa americas. If any other team won that they would be "A MODEL TO FOLLOW" but since its Brazil its always taken with a grain of salt.

  • Comment number 56.

    I discover it outstanding that Ronaldinho will be called up and also people consider him to do what he never did before for Brazil.
    Do they believe that he will play till his age of 36?
    Sports News

  • Comment number 57.

    #55 completely agree! We've been through this transitional period before and it was actually more difficult than it is today; we did not have Neymar, Ganso, Damiao, or Pato in their early 20's back then. Pato gets a lot of flack but he does love the big matches and rises to the occasion time and time again.

    There is something that benefitted Spain tremendously (perhaps more so than quality), teamwork. The fact that most if not all of their starters came from two teams and play either with or against each other all year long certainly helps them. Especially when you consider that other National teams' players only play along each other a couple/few times a year and mostly in friendlies against lesser opposition.

  • Comment number 58.

    #57 when exactly did Brazil not have players of such calibre? Even in transitional phases Brazil had talent equivalent to the ones you mentioned. The fact Neymar is listed as such a star to me is further proof of the current absence of quality. Robinho in 2002/03 performed arguably better than Neymar currently yet there are way too many Brazilian fans and journalists that insist in naming Neymar in the same breath with established top footballers. Not saying he is not good, only that he still has a lot, a lot really to prove - and also that we have consistently had young players as good as him - with some not living up to the promise.

  • Comment number 59.

    55. Where does this article mention Spain as a model to be or the Brazil's national team are rubbish? It's really talking about club football, so I don't know where you're comments come from.
    However, since you mentioned it, I'll tell you why people think this.

    1) Brazil have produced so many amazing teams that are a joy to watch that when a neutral watches Dunga's Brazil or the current Menezes' team, it's just sad. People actually WANT to see a great Brazil team again.

    2) Spain deserve all the credit they get because they play beautiful football and win! You can complain that they are nursing a golden generation (this could be true, but I still think their excellent youth set-up will keep them as challengers for some time), but so what? It's still great to watch and I'd rather watch the Spanish team than Brazil or even my own country (England) any time.

    If you insist on feeling bad about Brazil's reputation, at least view it with perspective. This isn't about hating Brazil, it's the opposite.

  • Comment number 60.

    55. And one more thing, do you really want to just live on your history? I know a lot of teams that have down that... as they say in football, ''you are only as good as your next game''.

 

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