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Benfica's Brazilian import-export connection

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Tim Vickery | 11:11 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

If they were unable to do it in front of their own fans, can Benfica manage to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this Wednesday?

Some might make the point that they were hardly at home last week.

The Lisbon giants kicked off without a single Portuguese player - and with an extraordinary complement of nine South Americans in their starting line-up, plus another on the bench (alongside a Brazilian-born Spaniard), and one more ruled out by injury.

And that is not even the half of it. Benfica have a further 17 South American players out on loan with other teams.

Of the four big clubs here in my adopted city of Rio, three have a midfielder who is on the books of Benfica: Airton at Flamengo, Felipe Menezes at Botafogo and Fellipe Bastos at Vasco da Gama - who also have right-sided striker Eder Luis.

Nicolas Gaitan

Nicolas Gaitan has been on fine form for Benfica in the Champions League and may be persuaded to move to one of the more successful clubs in Europe. Photo: Getty

Old colonial and linguistic ties explain why Brazil is Benfica’s favourite shopping venue - five of last week’s first team are from South America’s giant, plus another 10 who are out on loan.

But they are also on the lookout for talent all over the continent, snapping up players from Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.

Benfica come back from the South American sales with more players than they can ever use. Many will simply not get an opportunity. This can happen to big name players.

Enzo Perez is a full Argentine international, a versatile right-sided midfielder who was fundamental to the campaign of Estudiantes when they won the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League, in 2009.

Frustrated at not getting a look in at Benfica, after a few short months he has already been loaned back to La Plata, lining up once more with Estudiantes.

Benfica will not be too concerned if he and a few others in a similar situation spend their entire contracts out on loan, after which time they become free agents. Perez may yet return to triumph in the red shirt.

But if not, if Benfica get nothing from him, then he can be written off as an acceptable business cost. If so many South Americans are signed up, then some of them will inevitably prove surplus to requirements.

But there are another two groups that are extremely useful.

One consists of the type of player who gives long term, solid service. All-action Uruguayan right back Maxi Pereira is one example, but perhaps the best is Brazilian club captain Luisao.

The gangling centre back has rarely been first choice for Brazil. But one after another, national team coaches queue up to name him in their squads. He has been to the last two World Cups, and at the age of 31, is even in consideration to be one of the over-age players in Brazil’s Olympic squad.

All of this is evidence of the type of man he is - one happy to put team before self, an ideal team captain. Luisao has been at Benfica for the long haul.

For the more glamorous players, though, it is often a case of two or three years and out. Benfica buy enough South American lottery tickets to hit the jackpot now and again, and sell someone on at a huge profit.

This, of course, needs good scouting. David Luiz, for example, was picked up as a raw youngster, and Ramires was acquired just as he was on the verge of breaking into the Brazil squad. Both, of course, were subsequently big money signings for Chelsea, Wednesday’s opponents.

It is this third group of South Americans, the potential stars, who finance the whole project. In the short term they tip the balance on the field. In the long term they boost the club’s finances.

The next one along the line is surely Nicolas Gaitan of Argentina, signed from Boca Juniors in 2010, and a likely target for a giant from a bigger league in the next transfer window.

Gaitan was originally groomed as a playmaker, a consequence of the Argentine obsession with the old fashioned number 10. A similar thing happened with Carlos Tevez at Boca a few years earlier.

When Juan Roman Riquelme was sold to Barcelona, attempts were made to force the young Tevez into a Riquelme-shaped hole, until the 2003 Libertadores campaign made it clear that he did his best work close to the opposing goal.

Riquelme was back at Boca by the time Gaitan was breaking through, and the youngster was originally seen either as his replacement or as his partner, operating on the left of midfield.

But it was clear that Gaitan was at his most effective when he broke into the forward line.
Veteran coach Alfio Basile transformed him into a support striker.

He played his best football for Boca on the right side of the attack, from where his booming left-footed crosses had an ideal trajectory for big centre forward Martin Palermo to attack at the far post.

At Benfica he is free to roam, and can cause havoc with his crossing from either flank. But he is much more than a winger.

He retains the number 10’s vision for a defence splitting pass, and also has the capacity to dart inside to find goalscoring positions.

All of this was on show last Saturday when he set up Bruno Cesar’s injury time winner against Braga.
It is the versatility of his attacking talent that makes Gaitan so interesting.

If Benfica are to stage a second leg comeback against Chelsea, then he is likely to be behind it. But whatever happens on Wednesday, Gaitan’s time with Benfica could well be drawing to a close.

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) With Brazil’s economy recently overtaking the UK’s, can you foresee an increase of foreign investment in Brazilian clubs like there has been in other aspects of Brazilian businesses? If so, will you expect to see more Brazilian exports returning to their homeland rather than prolong a career in Europe as well as other gems such as Neymar and Ganso staying?
Sean Brown

A) There has been a significant change in the conditions of trade, with big name players coming back earlier than before and young prospects staying longer. But one thing remains the same - players are still aiming to spend their peak years in the Champions League. Regardless of any financial considerations, in purely professional terms domestic Brazilian football cannot currently offer a similar challenge.
Investing in clubs is problematic because of the difficulty of establishing control. Brazil’s clubs are not businesses. They are social membership clubs. You cannot buy up the shares and then own the club.

 Q) What are the prospects of getting a global champions league in place? Or at least one that includes South American clubs? I live in The USA and am an avid fan of the game. I would very much enjoy a tournament that included teams from more than just Europe. Is this feasible?
Patrick Klasen

A) I’d love to throw this one open for debate. There is, of course, a tournament that includes the champions of all the continents - the World Club Cup, something I would like to see receive more attention, especially in Europe.
The Europeans can argue that the current superiority of their teams does not make for an attractive tournament - but that superiority is not permanent.
A combination of economic and football development could level the playing field. Might an improved World Club Cup one day pave the way for a global Champions League? What do people think?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Tim,

    I was watching highlights of the 3-3 Copa Libertadores tie between Flamengo and Olimpia from a couple of weeks ago and Pablo Zeballos from Olimpia stood out.

    I looked into him a little more and he has a great goalscoring record and his youtube clips are pretty outstanding.

    Is this the classic case of wiki and youtube making a player look good? Or is he the real deal?

  • Comment number 2.

    in my opinion, a global champions league is impossible, due to current technological constraints.

    what we can have is exactly the Club World Cup. Maybe add a few more clubs only, but anything more than that becomes impossible.

    we NEED to have the Club World Cup happening in a single place. You either have a FEW teams from all over the world playing a small tournament in a single place, or you have home/away matches including only the champions of Europe vs South America, as it happenened in the beginnings of the Club World Cup, in the 60s.

    Airplanes still travel at 800-900 km per hour... its the same speed since the 60s. And we still dont have a global calendar that would allow, in any shape or form, the time for a global champions league, with the long travel times involved.

    We should remember that the European Champions League, the most successful, happens in a continent the size of Brazil. The Libertadores, in geographical terms, is much bigger than the Champions League for example.

    If the Concorde was not so expensive nor had such a loud supersonic boom (making it impossible for it to travel supersonic over continents), maybe it would had been more successful, allowing a global champions league.

    But that did not happen.

    There are other projects for space planes, and mach 6 and over airplanes. IF and WHEN (in the mid 2020s or 2030s) they become a reality, THEN a global Champions League may become a reality.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maybe both finalists of the Champions League, Copa Libertadores etc...should qualify for the Club World Cup...or Europa League winners as well as Champs League winners (and eqivilent in each continent)...

  • Comment number 5.

    @1. I'm glad you watched this game. I hope you saw the return game that Olimpia won also, in which Zeballos scored another good goal.

    In answer to your question, yes he is a good player, and has had some highlights. He hasn't played much for Paraguay due to a long queue of decent strikers ahead of him. This has become less the case since Salvador Cabañas was shot, but he still has Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo and Oscar Cardozo ahead of him in the pecking order.

    He did start the Copa America final, but wasn't able to make an impact.

    I would argue that, although he gives it his all, he is very light-weight for a striker. This means that his effectiveness can be diminished.

    Also, I'm not too sure about his consistency - as demonstrated by his ineffectual performance in the final of the Copa America.

    Having said that, what a great free-kick he scored in that game you watched. It was a great come-back from 3-0 down, and well worth the late night.

  • Comment number 6.

    I would love to see a World Champions League - imagine Barcelona playing away to Boca Juniors or Real Madrid at the Azteca playing Club America? It would be fascinating. If it was structured in a similar format to current continental club tournaments, clubs would only face approx 6 away games (presuming a club goes all the way to the final). Doesnt sound like much to me. It all comes down to money no doubt - footballs best friend.

    For the moment i have will have to live out this dream on my ps3.

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    In terms of Benfica fielding a full non portuguese team, it's pretty poor in terms of development of portuguese players.

    I mean there were cries and howls when arsenal & chelsea fielded a team full of non english players. Why should Benfica be lauded. What are they doing for the development of youth and football in Portugal? When was the last time their academy produced anybody good?

    As for the World Club Championship, it's unfortunate it doesn't receive the type of attention it deserves. And I think a worlwide CL is unlikely primarily for practicality and logistics. I mean you can't fly to Uruguay for a game on Wed, and then fly back for a crunch game in Stoke on sunday.

    What could be a better situation is to turn it into the world cup. So Run it every 4 years (on odd years so it doesn't interfere with world cup or euros) and include the winners of the last 4 continental CL's, so that's 24 teams. Whether you want to include hosts league winners or previous winners as well. But then you could split into groups or straight knock out if you get to 32 teams. Would provide good viewing over the summer. THoughts?

  • Comment number 9.

    respondendo ao josh ;
    Pablo zaballos é um jogador de ligação entre o meio campo e o ataque paraguaio, muito rapido e abilidoso que alem de ser um grande armador tambem chega muito forte ao ataque, aqui na america do sul esse tipo de jogador é despresado por causa da paixão louca que os brasileiros e argentinos tem por um dez a antiga ala rivaldo e riquelme ,que jogam mais cadenciado,porem não é facil desenvolver um grande jogador com essas caracteristicas, um exemplo de grande jogador sul americano com as caracteristicas do zaballos subestimado sem motivos é um cara chamado walter montillo, que joga atualmente no cruzeiro do brasil, ele é argentino e tem caracteristicas fisica subdesenvolvidas como zaballos e faz a ligação do meio campo ao ataque com tanta velocidade e habilidade e um qualidade incrivel no passe, porem por não ser muito grande sempre foi subestimado em seu pais e os torcedores não o conhecem, na seleção argentina os tecnicos dão preferencia a lavezzi atleta do napoli da italia ,um jogador que corre tanto como montillo e não sabe pensar porem joga na europa um erro argentino muito grave atualmente dar preferencia a fam ado que o talento, montillo e zaballos são de uma classe de jogadores que era comum na america do sul e que eu sinto saudades jogadores de ligação lisos e escorregadios como sabonete, infelismente a urgencia por jogador grandes que suportem as pancadas maldosas da libertadores e que possam se desenvolver fisicamente mais rapido para serem vendidos para a europa, fazem esses garotos não passarem em testes quando são jovens, se algum time europeu estiver interassado em zaballos, ele pode ser adaptado para a ponta esquerda ou pode jogar como segundo atacante ja que a sua posição original não é usada na maior parte da europa, meio armador , porem como ele é pequeno e não se usa muitos jogadores como ele na europa ,ele pode ter dificuldades, mas uma luz a esse problema , é que obarcelona usa messi e iniesta que tem caracteristicas de jogo e principalmente fisicas semelhante, e detalhe o messi é o melhor jogador do mundo!!
    Digite um texto ou endereço de um site ou traduza um documento.
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    responding to josh;
    pablo zaballos is a player link between the midfield and attack Paraguayan abilidoso very fast and that, besides being a great owner also gets very strong attack here in south america that type of player is despresado because of infatuation that Brazilians and Argentines is a former ward ten to Rivaldo and riquelme, playing more rhythmic, but not easy to develop a great player with these features, a great example of South American player with the characteristics of zaballos underestimated is no reason a guy Montillo named walter, who currently plays on the cruise of Brazil, Argentina and has it's physical characteristics as underdeveloped zaballos and connects the midfield to the attack with such speed and skill and an amazing quality in the pass, but not be very large when was underestimated in his country and the fans do not know, in the Argentina squad technicians give preference to Lavezzi of Napoli Italian athlete, a player who runs well and does not know how Montillo thinking plays in Europe put a very serious error Argentina currently give preference the fam ed that talent, and Montillo zaballos are a class of players that was common in the South American and I miss players connecting smooth and slippery as soap, unfortunately the urgency for large players that support the blows of evil liberators and that they can develop physically faster to be sold to Europe, these kids do not pass a test when they are young, if any European team is in interassado zaballos, it can be adapted to the far left or you can play as second striker ja that its original position is not used in most of europe, middle guard, but as it is small and does not use many players like him in Europe, it may be difficult, but a light on this problem, is that messi wears obarcelona and iniesta game that has characteristics similar and mainly physical, and detail the messi is the best player in the world!

  • Comment number 10.

    a lot of errors when you use google translate!

  • Comment number 11.

    I think the problems with the current World Club Cup format are as follows:
    1) It's in the middle of a crucial period of the European season, so Europe sees it more of a hindrance than an honour.
    2) Because the European clubs are so strong in comparison to the Asian, African and usually the South Americans, nobody tunes in.
    3) It's only a week long tournament, so with the all the European games to watch, people may not even be aware of it.

    Maybe extending it into regional group stages could be a way of making the tournament bigger and longer. It would still be difficult to do, but maybe you could put teams from Japan, China, Korea etc, in with teams from Oceana. Teams from Africa could maybe go in with team from either Europe or the Middle East. It would mean creating a draw based on Location rather than merit, but as someone has already mentioned, transport hasn't really advanced that much in the past 30-40 years, so what other choice is there?

  • Comment number 12.

    re Benfica: So basically they plunder South America and then discard those that are not good enough into football's dustbin? They don't have a cantera of their own, so they play a bunch of foreigners? Yeah, they sound great...

  • Comment number 13.

    @8 - I think his is why Portuguese football is struggling at the moment. You look at Porto as well. They only have three Portuguese players in their regular setup. All of which were bought rather than produced in the academies.

    In the Europa League final last year there was SEVEN Portuguese players who started the game. 14 South Americans and one Romanian. The u21 side have failed to qualify for the past two u21 European Championships and looking very much likely they won't qualify for 2013 either. However the u17 and u20 sides are rather good, which leads me to believe that the talent they have is being stifled when they reach a more senior level. Perhaps in part due to these South Americans at Portuguese league clubs?

    Anyways this article is all well and good Tim, but who exactly is going to win at Augusta this year?

  • Comment number 14.

    @#8 eduard_streltsov's_ghost:

    What do you with that format when Barcelona win the Champions' League three times in four years? Are they allowed to field three teams? Do we let the runners-up in instead? Maybe you could hold it every two years and make it half the size, which would also lessen the chance of one team having to enter more than once.

    I love the idea of a proper global club tournament, but as has been stated there are practical and logistical concerns that would be difficult to address. Which is a crying shame. It's extremely difficult to follow South American football over here in England, much as I'd like to, and a global Champions' League would give us the chance to see some of the rising stars of South America.

  • Comment number 15.

    My word! Football AND golf - Mr Vickery is expanding!;)
    With regards to a 'world CL', I believe many fans would love to see it (though, of course, in such tight economical times, I suspect that away support would be minimal, other than locally-based supporters). In many ways, it follows on from last week's blog, about Mr Havelange's global vision. Sadly, however, I feel it would be stillborn due to Mr Blatter's vision of football as a game played for the enrichment of the pocket, rather than the soul.
    (Mind you, there's a whole new sponsorship area here...and maybe the games could be played in the white elephant stadia of Qatar)

  • Comment number 16.

    @1 Josh

    I think Paraguayan Ox makes a great point about PZ10 (yes he's earned a number after his initials here) being inconsistent and a bit on the light side. He has dominated scoring charts in Paraguay with both Olimpia and before that Cerro Porteño and did very well in Bolivia but before all that (admittedly he was still young) he went North to Mexico and struggled with Cruz Azul.

    My fear is that he has left it too late to go to Europe (he's 26 now) and unfortunately his asking price is slightly exagerrated, the Olimpia club president Recanate talks about 6-8 million US dollars which is the kind of money has never been paid by a European club to a Paraguayan club except for one Roque Santa Cruz.

    If you want updates on Zeballos and players who I think are more likely to be in Europe, maybe Benfica, in the next few months you can check my blog: https://paraguayfootball.wordpress.com/category/paraguay-talent/

    P.s. Paraguayan Ox where are you? I live in Asunción.

  • Comment number 17.

    13.
    At 19:06 2nd Apr 2012, Aarfy_Aardvark - bring back 606 wrote:
    ______________
    Exactly my point, it looks like Benfica plunder south america.

    I remember the quality young players Sporting had coming through, ronaldo, nani, veloso etc

    There should be another line / generation of talented youngsters. maybe they will all come from the likes of braga?

  • Comment number 18.

    Tim, one player you didn't mention at Benfica is Paraguayan Lorenzo Melgarejo who was snapped up last year and has been doing very well for Paços de Ferreira this year on loan - that was a real jump in the dark for Benfica as the player was at newly promoted Independiente and hadn't been around the national team much since the U20s World Cup in 2009.

  • Comment number 19.

    14.
    At 19:23 2nd Apr 2012, Harry Hotspur wrote:
    ________________
    Yeah I did think about that, but bearing in mind nobody has so far won the CL back to back, it seems ok for now. You could expand it and add a europa league winner as well maybe? or if a team wins it more than once then maybe have the runner up.

    Who knows, it was just an idea or suggestion. I just think it's a shame that europe has monopolised football at a club level and it makes the current world club cups uncompetitive. Before the south american sides were more than a match.

  • Comment number 20.

    Soul_Patch's contempt for England appears to be equally matched by his contempt of correct spelling! Benfica did much better against United probably because United wrongly chose to field their reserves in the group stages- they lack the pace to overrun the aged players and the class to match the upcoming ones (and that's saying something considering the current squad is scarcely 5% as strong as it was a few years ago). Though still three goals better than Valencia who are, apparently, 'at least three notches above Chelsea' eh Soul? lol

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Historically, Porto has been the main magnet for Brazilian expats. Benfica has had a few Brazilians but it's only recently that it has gone all in.

  • Comment number 23.

    #1

    I am a Cruz Azul season ticket holder and watched Pablo Zeballos play quite a bit when he was in Mexico. He was liked quite a lot by the fans but was inconsistent. Far too light weight and he would drift out of games for long periods. Saying that though, Azul would kill for him now and will struggle to get past the second round of the Libertadores.

  • Comment number 24.

    @16 I'm in my original home town Oxford, but will be back living in Asuncion in September. I will read your blog.... I think I read a message of yours before on here but didn't know you had a blog.

  • Comment number 25.

    @16 Good blog, Ralph. Do you make a living out of journalism then or what do you do with yourself out there? hahaha.... I just looked you up on facebook and seen we share some close friends out there......jokes......

  • Comment number 26.

    I hadn't realised that Benfica were that heavily reliant on South American imports. It does appear as if they are employing a sort of collateral damage approach in their acquisition of these players.

    But why was it possible for them to start the game against Chelsea without a single Portuguese player? What happened to the rules on home grown player quotas for the Champions League? Are they managing to circumvent these rules somehow through their colonial past?

  • Comment number 27.

    @24 - ok sweet, do you play cricket? So far got 2 maybe 3 for a team to enter Paraguay into the T20 World Cup qualifiers ha ha

    The blog is relatively new (started February) and has been good fun so far, excellent support from some of the clubs press depts. and local journalists but sadly total indifference from the CPDP (Circulo de Periodistas Deportistas de Paraguay) which makes going to games each weekend a bit expensive and impossible in the case of the big matches.

    I'm also on twitter @paraguayralph if you have it

  • Comment number 28.

    Interesting and thought provoking blog, as usual Tim.
    While Portugal is a nice conduit for second and third level South Americans, who are often as interested in the European visa and subsequent EC residential rights for themselves and their families, the bigger European clubs tend to snap up the cream of the continent. Nevertheless, it is a very useful proving ground for players who Europeans are unsure will 'make the transition'. And Portugal's big four clubs, while no longer among Europe's elite, are still pretty high up the continental ranking. I understand that Sporting is the one with the best academy program - is that true; are Porto and Benfica's weak/non-existent?
    As regards more attention to and competition with S.Am teams, I can't see that happening in the short or even medium term, attractive though that would be. It would be nice if the European media gave more attention, but it has to be earned. The trend you mentioned, of holding onto youngsters longer and repatriating established players sooner will continue, as long as the economies can sustain it, but with exceptions S.Am's best have enough difficulty attracting even local support. This weekend, one of the continent's finest - Santos - played a state championship match (bear in mind the state is the size of the UK and has 4 major teams and a good few useful ones) in front of less than 4,000 fans. Admittedly, Santos fielded their reserve team, saving the 1st team for the midweek Libertadores match, and Portuguesa are a shadow of the great team of 2/3 decades ago, but even so, English 4th Division matches attract more people than that. Even Santos' 1st team, playing in their own stadium (capacity of around 26,000) often fail to get half that number. Infrastructure is one problem - S.Am stadiums do not come close to providing the matchday experience of the best European ones (accessibility, entering and leaving, comfort, facilities, security). This last aspect is deteriorating too, with inter-club violence on the increase again after an all-too-brief lull that saw families frequenting the stadiums again.
    Another factor is organization, which has improved but it's riddled with corruption (not that it's exactly squeaky clean in Europe, but it is far worse and has long been shown to be a MAJOR factor in holding back development, in all areas, not just in football), a problem that the removal of RT has yet to make a dent in - but it's a start. Here again, I raise a question: is the club ownership structure in S.Am so different to that in some European countries? Isn't barcelona owned by its fans, for example - how come it works there, and not here (I suspect the answer involves long/short-term vision and priorities, but would like to hear your opinion Tim; and others).
    Personally, I reckon a European super league is a more likely next step, with national championships providing a feeder system. But there are major hurdles to overcome first - such as demands for national allocations of places (rather than purely on merit), and where would it leave the CL/EL structure? And Brazil, with its continetal proportions should go the same way, maintaining a 2/3 division national championship and scrapping the state championships in favour of regional ones that would be feeders into the national one.
    That's enough from me for now - got work to finish off!

  • Comment number 29.

    A global Champions League would be a fantastic idea for sure, but the prize money would have to be so huge to make it profitable for clubs travelling huge distances to play. Indeed the logistics involved would cause so many problems. How could Barcelona play a league game against Real Madrid on a Sunday before jetting off to play in Japan on Monday morning, then flying back on Thursday morning to play the following Sunday? They'd never get time to train!

    One thing's for sure, the appalling standard of the current "World Club Cup" is the reason Europe couldn't care less about it. European's see it for what it is - A FIFA cash cow set up purely in the interests of making money. I've made this comment before, but how does this format look to create a prestigious tournament, played once every 4 years that everyone would take seriously?:

    European Champions from previous 4 years (Win the European Cup & you're guarenteed 4 years in the World Club Cup basically)
    UEFA Cup winners from previous 4 years
    Asian Cup winners from previous 4 years
    African champions from previous 4 years
    CONCACAF champions from previous 4 years
    South American Libertadores champions from previous 4 years
    Copa Sudamericana champions from previous 4 years

    It would be a huge summer tournament, making infinitely more money than the current World Club Cup does, with far more interesting games, far more challenge and far more meaning for the winners.

  • Comment number 30.

    The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    I could not respond to you in the previous blog about Wolves as it was closed for comments.

    You called me a little Englander as I suggested that British players have picked up diving from the foreign imports that have been plying there trade in the EPL for the last fifteen years.

    If this is not the case please explain to me where the noble art of diving originated in the British game.

    Also you still have not answered my previous question posted in the same blog so here it is again.

    Is it still okay to monkey chant at black players as it is just a bit of banter as described by you?

  • Comment number 31.

    1: Large clubs choosing to field teams composed entirely of non-locals is an indication of the malaise that is affecting "big-time" football, the disconnect between clubs and their fans.
    2: Why do the supporters of these clubs accept this policy? Benfica are not even top of their league.
    3: Do you think that Brazilian football hooligans will cause trouble during the World Cup? They are certainly causing trouble right now, and by "trouble" I mean organised gang violence, shootings, and murders. There have been three incidents, and four deaths, in the past three weeks:
    (A) "Diego Rodrigo Costa de Jesus died after being shot in the back during a confrontation between supporters from Goias and Vila Nova in the central city of Goiania on Saturday March 31st."
    (B) Two Palmeiras fans were killed last week in a fight against rival Corinthians fans in Sao Paulo, March 25th.
    (C) On Sunday 18th March, a 28-year-old fan of Guarani was declared brain dead after a fight involving Ponte Preta supporters in the city of Campinas, 100 kilometres north of Sao Paulo.
    4: Bearing their current poor record in mind, do you think the Brazilian police are up to the job of ensuring safety for supporters who will be travelling to the 2014 World Cup? I do not think they are good enough, and they are unlikely to be better trained in time for the big event.

  • Comment number 32.

    Good blog tim but surprised since u failed to mention even a single word about veteran argentine playmaker pablo aimar and paraguayan hitman oscar cardozo.Even argentine centreback E.Garay who has been one of the best signing of this season(but sadly miss the chelsea game through injury) was unable to get some space on your blog.

  • Comment number 33.

    How is it possible for Benfica to have so many South american players on their books? I thought that there were rules restricting the number of non EU nationals any European team could register.

    Do the Brazilian born players have automatic right to Portuguese nationality or are they and other South Amercian nationals fast tracked to obtain nationality rights, in order to comply with EU law?
    Sounds a bit dodgy to me.

  • Comment number 34.

    @33 I beleive it's very easy to get Portuguese Nationality via Portuguese grand- or even great-grandparents, which a lot of Brazilians have. Look at the UK. Didn't Robbie Savage qualify to represent Wales because his Grandmother once visited Wrexham?

    As for the Club World Cup, part of the lack of interest is due to it beng in Japan. The finalists are always from Europe and SA, it needs to be held somewhere (West Africa? East USA?) that is one a closer time zone to Europe and SA.

    The problem is, there isn't time in the calandar for more matches so introducing another international tournament won't happen. A global super league where winners of the strongest leagues in Europe, SA and some represenatation from the other continents somehow leave their leagues and play in that. If you took the top two teams from each league the lower placed of any country gets 'relegated' back into their national league preplaced with the winner.

    Example, Man City, Man Utd, Barça, Madrid, Milan etc etc qualify. Barça win the league, Utd finish higher than City, City go back to the prem being replaced with that years winner, Madrid go back to La liga being replaced by their winner.

  • Comment number 35.

    @30.At 03:50 3rd Apr 2012, Robbie wrote:

    Note: that is not the real soul_patch, but yet another imposter who seem to latch on to his posts in an attempt to gain popularity.

    "If this is not the case please explain to me where the noble art of diving originated in the British game."

    There had been diving in the British game over the last forty to fifty years, there was no "one person" who was the first to dive and then taught "the art" to everyone else. That is a ridiculous notion.

    The frequency of occurrence has increased recently but the British players are just as guilty (but not necessarily more so) as the Johnny Foreigner you seem so keen to blame this phenomenon on.

  • Comment number 36.

    I dont get the chance to watch much SA football, but when i do im always impressed, the talent that has come through to the portugese and spanish clubs from SA has been top class, with a few duds i may add. watching Gaitan i can see his qualitys, he will fit nicely into the prem, especailly an attacking minded club like united. Lucas and Ganso are still stand outs for me

  • Comment number 37.

    31.At 04:18 3rd Apr 2012, KickItLikeValcke wrote:

    Good points, i was reading a bit about that subject, and believe me banning drink is not going to help, theres a hugh drug problem as well as the alcohol, my opinion is that if there is no drink then more drugs will be consumed....... enter Tony Montana

  • Comment number 38.

    @35

    Thanks for the infor but I believe that this was the guy who made the offensive remark as I have saved part of the blog.

    Well as my parents are Jonny Forieigners as you put it I am not keen to blame this phenomenon on them but this is what I believe to be the truth.

    I do not recall diving in the sixties, seventies are early eighties.

    Please could you enlighten me to who were the most prolific British players diving in these eras?

  • Comment number 39.

    38.At 09:28 3rd Apr 2012, Robbie wrote:

    Stevie gerrard has won quite a few pen's and free kicks from diving, as has Andy Carroll.......... no wait, actually Andy Carroll cant even dive right!

  • Comment number 40.

    Franny Lee was quite famous for going down easily.

    Agree that it's not the real soul patch though, the roiginal seems to have disappeared.

  • Comment number 41.

    40.At 09:52 3rd Apr 2012, Thrashball wrote:
    Franny Lee was quite famous for going down easily.

    Agree that it's not the real soul patch though, the roiginal seems to have disappeared.
    _________________

    Maybe he's found a new blog to go on.........

    I've noticed that "the Trawler" and "Londoner in exile" have also both disappeared from the community.

    Given that Benfica have fielded vrtually zero portuguese players in Europe I am wondering how they have managed to get around the home grown rule that UEFA recently began enforcing. I know it's fairly lax about the number of academy players etc, but surely there's a requirement to have some homegrown players?

    Isn't it something like 4 graduates + 4 players "trained" in the country but not necessarily graduates.

  • Comment number 42.

    #41 eduard_strelstov_ghost

    I did ask the same question earlier. I think the answer may lie to some extent in the first few lines of BLRBrazils's post at #28

  • Comment number 43.

    @29 Now that is a tournament I would watch. It will unfortunately never happen though.

  • Comment number 44.

    42.At 10:06 3rd Apr 2012, cashforhonours wrote:
    _________________

    Yeah thanks for pointing me, I skip read it to begin with just because of the length of the text (it wasn't in paragraphs so my low concentration span struggled to bother to read it all!!) but having read it again I don't think he answers my question.

    Most of the talk is around the infrastructure of the leagues & stadiums, and there is mention of the SPorting Academy, however it doesn't answer the question with regards to UEFA homegrown player rules. I am assuming they have passed them (Benfica) but those players must all be bench warmers surely?

  • Comment number 45.

    44.At 10:28 3rd Apr 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    "South Americans, who are often as interested in the European visa and subsequent EC residential rights for themselves and their families"

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This line I mean by BLRBrazil, it would suggest that Portugeuese clubs are indeed using their colonial past in order to naturalise players in order to get round the player quotas.

  • Comment number 46.

    26.
    At 23:38 2nd Apr 2012, cashforhonours wrote:

    I hadn't realised that Benfica were that heavily reliant on South American imports.
    ____________________________________________________

    They have been for the last 15 years !
    Historically Benfica fielded only the best Local players, in fact they did not have a good academy system they just invited youngsters from other clubs to join them.

    But with the domination of Porto in the last 3 decades they have looked to South America for quality players. ( by the way up until the last year or two Porto have exploited the South American market with more success than Benfica which Vickery did not mention ) Last year Benfica played with 1 Portuguese player and up to 7 Argentinian players in their starting 11.

    They also use the 3rd party contract only buying a % of the player which saves money.

  • Comment number 47.

    @29 Roberto_Mexicano:

    You are forgetting the OFC! So this would add 4 more champions from the OFC Champions League. This would make it 32 teams, a perfect number for a tournament.

    However, I can't see how this tournament could happen every four years, what with the Copa América, the Euros, and other continental championships taking place in different years, filling up the gaps between each World Cup... maybe a solution would be to force all continental championships to happen on the same year, thus freeing one year (since the Confederations Cup fills up another one). This would make the Club World Cup happen every 4 years on the year after the World Cup and before the continental championships.

    I think that could work. The tournament should happen in June in a single venue and have a knock-out format so as not to extend its length too much. Therefore, with 32 teams, we would have 4 rounds (round of 16, quarter finals, semifinals and final). The tournament could thus be played in 2 weeks and everybody is happy.

    I am sure all confederations except UEFA would absolutely love this tournament. Sadly, UEFA has too much power and lack a global vision of the game, which is understandable to some extent because they do possess the best leagues and players in the world. However, this idea is not half bad and it would be such a huge success among worldwide fans, especially if every tournament is held in different continents on a rotation basis.

    Just making up a calendar between 2018 and 2022 (let's face it, if it ever happens, it won't happen earlier than this), it would look like this:

    June 2018: World Cup in Russia
    June 2019: Club World Cup in Peru (I'm from Peru that's why I'm deciding the first tournament to be there :p)
    June 2020: Copa América (CONMEBOL), Gold Cup (CONCACAF), Euros (UEFA), Asian Cup (AFC), Cup of Nations (CAF), Nations Cup (OFC)
    June 2021: Confederations Cup
    June 2022: World Cup in Qatar

    Copyright: Carlos Ortega, 2012 :D

  • Comment number 48.

    45.At 10:41 3rd Apr 2012, cashforhonours wrote:
    ____________________

    Ah I see what you mean now. Yeah I can see that, I suppose it all depends on what the actual UEFA rules stipulate. Would they count as academy players? I know brazilian players are not allowed to be transferred until they are 18 yo.

  • Comment number 49.

    48.At 11:15 3rd Apr 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    -----------------------------------------

    They are obviously fast tracking them for Portuguese citizenship. I am not actually condemning the policy in case anyone thinks I am, but it would be interesting to know whether the Portuguese authorities are as accommodating in the case of economic migrants.

  • Comment number 50.

    I'd love to hear from Tim with regards to how Benifica and other Portuguese teams can sign all these Brazilians without them being of age and fielding enough national players..

    In the mean time however, is this system merely in place because Benifica (and Porto to a lesser extent) see themselves as feeder clubs to the Elite teams of Europe?

    Would they run this way if they where more competitive?

  • Comment number 51.

    @50 I know in the case of Derlis Gonzalez (another Paraguayan signed by Benfica) they signed him when he was 16 but he has continued to play here and recently turned 18 last month so he should be in Lisbon for next season. I'd imagine over those 2 years his agent has got hold of an EU passport for him.

    I'd guess it isn't particularly hard to get EU passports for South Americans, the countries are relatively young so it is fairly easy to claim European ancestry.

  • Comment number 52.

    #51

    Thanks, that would make sense in explaining why they are not breaking any rules.
    But it does show a lack of respect to the players that prove surplus to requirements.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think the Club World Cup has one of the best formats possible, given the circumstances. All six confederations are represented and there have been some classic matches in recent years - Barcelona v Santos (2011) and AC Milan v Boca Juniors (2007).

    Prize money has increased for the winners and the European clubs do take this more seriously then some believe - theres a lot of kudos attached to winning this tournament and having the right to call yourself the best in the world. ESPN now televise it in the UK, for me its one of the highlights of the year.

  • Comment number 54.

    @49, 51 and others:

    These players are not fast tracked to portuguese (or other EU) nationality or need to get passports. There are no restrictions on nationalities of players for UEFA competitions. (In some national leagues there used to be (and in some still are) restrictions on the number of non EU players though Portugal is not one of them)

    What exists is the homegrown players rule, which states that teams must submit to UEFA a list of players that includes:
    a) 8 players that have been registered with the club's national FA for a minimum of 3 seasons between their 15th and 21st birthdays,
    b) 4 of which have to have been registered by the club itself.

    This regulation does not put any limit on nationalities, on the players' current age (Fabregas for example will qualify as a homegrown player for any team in England for the remainder of his career should he ever come back to the EPL).

    And most importantly the regulation does not require that any of these so called homegrown players have to be on the pitch or in the club's match sheet at all. There can still be 11 (+3 substitutes) south americans on the pitch, a couple of "homegrown" players on the bench and the rest watching from the stands. Heck, they can all be south american (or african or fijian) if they were in the club (or some other club in the country) 3 years before being 21 yo.

    Hope this clears any misconceptions.

    What is missing from the article, in my opinion, is the real reason why situations like this are possible, alluded to by some poster above: 3rd party ownerships. Only a small % of the rights of most players in big clubs in Portugal (and other countries) belongs to the respective clubs. Investment funds (some of unknown and dubious origins) own the majority of the players' rights.

    Clubs see these arrangements as the only way they can compete with clubs from richer leagues, but this means most of them will only stay for a limited number of seasons as this business plan obviously revolves around making money from transfers, which then generates a vicious self-perpetuating cycle.

  • Comment number 55.

    @KickItLikeValcke

    Brazilian hooligans are a totally CLUB thing. Hooligan incidents related to the national team are unheard of in Brazil. There are not organized supporters for the national team in Brazil. There arent even chants for the Brazil team!

    So no, brazilian hooligans ownt be a problem. Hooligans from other countries may be a problem however.


    as for the suggestions of a World Club Cup every 4 years, thats absurd. We are talking about club football. A brazilian will be a brazilian till the end of his life. If the team plays well, the national team will remain the same from one World Cup to the next.

    Now, suppose you win the 2012 Libertadores. What are the chances you will have a good team in the 2016 World Club Cup???

    For European clubs its already difficult to keep a good team 4 years in the future. Its much harder for South American, Asian, African teams.

    So I win the Libertadores in 2012. In 2016, 80% of my victorious 2012 team will be playing in Europe!!!

  • Comment number 56.

    There is a very simple format for a global Champions League, just stage it every four years in a host nation instead of the dreary mess that is the current World Cup.

  • Comment number 57.

    First of all, Benfica did not "discard Perez into football's dustbin" as some posters are saying and even Tim is allaying to. He actually DID get a look in at Benfica, and played several games right at the start of the season and showed real potential, but then got injured for 4 months, and himself insisted on returning to an argentine club (preferably Estudiantes) for his rehabilitation.

    Benfica didn't really want that as he was part of Jorge Jesus' plans for the season (being in the main Champions League squad ahead of experienced players such as Joan Capdevila, if more proof was needed of the manager's faith in his abilities) but he refused to return after Christmas, spending the whole of january trying to engineer a move back to Argentina, before pretty much admitting defeat and suddenly declaring a great desire to play for Benfica again just before the transfer deadline (probably as he'd realised a move was unlikely and the fans were strongly doubting his commitment). However on deadline day, he finally got his move back to Estudiantes. It was more by his own cynicism rather than being by Benfica.

    So say what you will about the way Benfica treats their players, but these are the facts about Perez. Nevertheless there ARE many cases of players not getting a fair crack of the whip at Benfica, but these cases do NOT exclusively affect South American players, and indeed the fact that there are so many in the 1st team suggests that it's actually the local Portuguese players that get the rough deal.

    In any case, the hypocrisy of some of the views on here is astounding. What are Portuguese clubs supposed to do? The only reason English, Spanish, German and Italian clubs are so “big” is because of money. Money generated by hugely inflated ticket prices, and massive TV deals that clubs in other countries could only dream of. If you want to see what English football would be like without this artificial advantage, look at Scotland.

    Currently the 5th best league in the UEFA rankings, many top players in Europe started their careers in Portugal, this despite the severely limited resources available to clubs there. Most don't stay that long, as given the top teams' participation in european competition, anyone worthwhile is likely to be snapped up by the richer clubs of the bigger leagues sooner or later. Given the style of Portuguese football’s similarity to that played in South America, it’s very easy for players from South America to adapt to the playing style (even if the weather and the distance from home is a bit harder to get used to), so it’s no wonder that as a way of compensating for the loss of their own talent to other European leagues, the clubs go looking to south America as a source of more players.
    As for the criticism of Benfica for not having a “cantera”. Well yes, not being Spanish, they don’t have a cantera, and given the nature of football in Portugal, it would be impossible to operate a local recruitment policy in the same way as the Spanish canteras. But the big clubs in Portugal all have very good academies, as they’re called in English, the most established being the Sporting’s, which produced Ronaldo, Figo and Nani amongst others. However, where in days gone by, these players would spend at least a proportion of their careers in Portugal, nowadays this is less often the case, as the top players are tempted away earlier and earlier by the riches overseas.

    As for the comments regarding it being an easy way to European nationality, those are frankly way off. In Portugal you need to remain there for 5 years to get citizenship. Not that many of the top players have that amount of patience to stay in Portuguese football that long. There are exceptions like Luisão for instance, but players like him are sadly rare. It’s just as hard as the UK to gain citizenship for example, in fact for many people it’s harder as the system isn’t efficient and some people end up taking much longer (though this is unlikely for footballers who can usually jump to the front of the queue, again, money talks!). Yes some Brazilians may be able to prove Portuguese descendency and get it that way, which, again, is the same rule as applies to pretty much every other European country as well, though for some reason you don’t see Americans and Australians queuing up for a British passport to come and play football in Europe (funny that!). As for Paraguayans, Uruguayans, Chileans etc., that route isn’t used by them as there are very few, if any, footballers in those countries of Portuguese origin. In any case, the reason why all that is wrong is well explained by fuday (in post 54).

    It’s easy to criticise, but most of the criticisms I see here are from people who don’t really seem to know what they’re talking about (misspelling the name of the clubs you profess to know so much about is a big give away). Benfica, or any other Portuguese clubs, don’t treat players any differently to any other leagues’ teams do. They’re just operating in different circles to the more glamorous, famous teams.

  • Comment number 58.

    #57 no_name

    Thank you for you post. If I offended you, I apologise. My comments were mainly out of curiosity as to how Benfica were able to field a totally non Portuguese team against Chelsea in the first leg.

  • Comment number 59.

    #58 cashforhonours

    You didn't offend me, you had a genuine question which I think has been answered by fuday. It isn't against any rules to have a starting 11 like Benfica had, just as it wasn't when Chelsea or Arsenal did it. I agree with what you've said about the lack of respect for the players that don't make it but by reading some of the comments on here it's as if Benfica are the only club in europe to have players that don't make it, and are somehow morally corrupt in trying to give a chance to players from South America who might look more talented than local players. Interestingly I'd be willing to suggest that the 4 Rio based players mentioned by Tim won't be big in european football any time soon. Most of them had a fair go at Benfica and none of them were good enough where it mattered. Had they been local, nobody would bat an eyelid, but because they came a long way to not make it, it's frowned upon.

    Anyway as a fan I'd much prefer them to play local players and hold on to them, and there are one or two promising young players coming through the ranks at the moment, which should put an end to the fielding of a team with no Portuguese players. Nélson Oliveira is in good form at the moment and has been given a fair few games recently domestically, and given the lack of quality at left back, I'd expect another game for Luis Martins isn't far off either.

    As it happens, I'm more frustrated by the amount of Spanish players the club seems to be recruiting lately, as this is a relatively new phenomenon in Portuguese football (though I don't mind Javi Garcia being there, and José Reyes was well liked too, so I guess the success can change your opinion!).

  • Comment number 60.

    Thank god for no_name's outstanding post, he basically wrote most of the important stuff that had to be said. It keeps amazing me how the stereotype of the british football fan who doesn't look or care much beyond his own back yard keeps popping up in these sort of articles on european football.

    To call top Portuguese clubs "not competitive" (51#) when Porto have won 3 major european trophies in the past 9 years, last year's Europa League semi-final featured 3 portuguese teams and their league is ranked by UEFA as the 5th best in Europe (ahead of France, a country bigger than the UK with a population of 65million - Portugal has 10) seems harsh. Sporting, Portugals 4th club these days, knocked ManCity (league leaders at the time) out over two legs a couple of weeks ago, for crying out loud.

    Now that I'm done ranting, this mass importation of South Americans Tim is talking about has been a strategy for loads of Portuguese clubs for years now. This is the case because Portugal holds several key advantages for Brazilians in particular, in form of by far the easiest adaptation to European Football due to linguistic, social and climate similarities, as well as no work permit issues like they have in the UK.

    The Portuguese recognize that, while this undoubtedly makes the top clubs more competitive, it obviously has a negative impact on the development of national talent. Starting next year, most of the bigger clubs (Benfica included) will implement "B Teams" in the second league (similar to Barça in Spain for instance) to give young portuguese talent more opportunities to shine without the pressure of top-tier football.

    ps - I also want to emphasize that Tim didn't mention several excellent South Americans playing in the Benfica starting XI who deserve to be named, such as Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Aimar, Bruno Cesar, Artur, Oscar Cardozo.

  • Comment number 61.

    Re comments complaining that I didn't mention this player or that player, or the issue of third parth ownership, etc.
    I've pushed the word count as far as it will go - and that's what we have the comments section for, so people can add other stuff and further the debate.
    I simply don't have enough space to go into every player in detail - or look at all the implications of the way in which they are bought - so thanks to everyone who has added detail on these subjects.
    My story was the follows - drawing attention to the sheer number of South Americans on Benfica's books and then dividing them into 3 groups - those not needed, the solid servants and the big name stars, ending up with some detail on the main name in the last category.

  • Comment number 62.

    It does seem ridiculous to bring in a vast amount of south american talent and not use them and just let them go. I mean i understand clubs who 'buy' potential but having such a large number of players that obviously won't make the grade is just silly. Let alone whatever, if any, Portuguese young talent they have on their books.

    Must be horrible for the fans having lost that connection between local players and the team. The fans love nothing more than a local lad who represents his club yet the opportunities in football (not just in Portugal) are becoming less and less for young local players to do so.

    The Portuguese league reminds me of the dutch league, some big name clubs who act as feeder clubs to the now bigger names in Europe, the only difference being the youth set up in Holland seems to allow players a chance to break through.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ cashforhonours any citizen from portuguese-speaking countries may become portuguese after a 6-year stay in Portugal, which is common when players arrive with, say 16. For other countries, a 10-year stay is needed.
    @ fuday Yes, you're right about these funds. But they're loaded with portuguese players too..
    There are portuguese players everywhere at the european top clubs, must have been doing something right about youth player development...
    Benfica now has forward Nelson Oliveira (20) as biggest club promise rotating with Rodrigo (Real Madrid cantera) and Cardozo (128 games for club 86 goals)

  • Comment number 64.

    Much of the influence of Benfica with South American players comes from the Eusebio days. He was such an early ambassador for South Americans to do well in Europe. Why he never played for Brazil I simply do not know, but his legacy remains at Benfica and many South Americans follow the path he trod...

  • Comment number 65.

    By the way Tim, just so that you know, David LUIZ and Luisao are NOT the same person!!! One plays for Chelsea and USED to play for Benfica, the other is still at Benfica. The only things they have in common is that they are both Brazilian, both defenders, have the Benfica connection and their names both start with "LUI"!! But trust me, they are two totally different human beings!!!

    Tim Vickery = Must do better!! ;)

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi guys, I've recently created my own blog http://isaacwalmsley.blogspot.co.uk/ and your feedback would be much appreciated

  • Comment number 67.

    #65 BobbyKnowsBest

    Do not understand your post. At no point in his blog does Tim confuse these two players?

  • Comment number 68.

    @64. Eusebio was from Mozambique so how could he play for Brazil?

  • Comment number 69.

    65 - 'trust me' ? I wouldn't trust you with a shopping list after a post like that. What on earth are you on about?

  • Comment number 70.

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

  • Comment number 71.

    #68

    I was sort of waiting for one of our Portuguese contributors to enlighten Bobby Knows Diddly re Eusebio but I guess they were watching the game. Some people are better off saying nothing rather than anything.

  • Comment number 72.

    I thought Eusebio was Spanish? I remember him well as probably the first celebrity style goalkeeper to wear those bigger gloves in a European match. Certainly not a Brazilian umless that was a different Eusebio? I remember he once blew the whistle for an event in an episode of Jeux Sans Frontiers..probably a little known fact.

  • Comment number 73.

    Ooh, nice editing Tim! Changed the article to get rid of where you were saying Luisao and Luiz were one & the same!! I suppose that's the power you have as the blogger. If someone pulls you on a mistake, you can change what you wrote & then have a cheeky dig at them to try to make them look like a silly Sally!! Doesn't bother me though fella, I actually take it as a compliment that you realised I was right & you've amended your work. If you want me to proof read your next one first, feel free to get in touch! ;)

  • Comment number 74.

    #73 Bobby Knows Squat
    Seriously, what?? I read the blog on Monday when it came out. There's been no editing. Have another look - Tim mentions Luisao, and then 2 lines later mentions Luiz. Two unrelated sentences (other than in the grand scheme of the article). Double check your own before pointing out nonexistent deficiencies elsewhere.
    (Actually, I guess there was a mighty quick editing job done on Monday afternoon, because the first time I checked, it was a blog about the NI contingent at Augusta!)

 

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