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Sandro keen to ignore talk of home

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Tim Vickery | 10:27 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

Millions of people every year move to live in a new country and struggle to make sense of their new surroundings as they deal with a different climate, new language and unfamiliar culture.

The fascinating thing about footballers is that they go through this process in public. Everything they do is geared towards their performance on the pitch, where their work (i.e. the success of their adaptation) is viewed and judged by thousands in the stadium and millions watching on television.

Extra interest is added by the fact that footballers have not usually grown up as global citizens. They are frequently drawn from the lower end of the social scale, with little access to cultures outside their own. Then, of course, there is their youth. Many of the migrating players are at an age when they are going through changes and establishing their own identity as an adult - a process that can be difficult enough on familiar ground.

It is hardly surprising, then, that there are casualties - players unable to cope and whose potential is never transformed into reality.

Sandro, Tottenham's new Brazilian acquisition, is determined not to be one of them.

Tottenham's recent signing Sandro

Sandro is trying to put life in Brazil out of his mind in an effort to settle quickly

Before crossing the Atlantic, he took the initiative of teaming up with a Brazilian sports psychologist. Well trained in preparing her compatriots for life in Japan, she focused Sandro's mind on one key point.

"She told me to forget about Brazil," the player told me a few minutes after making his debut against Arsenal last week in the Carling Cup. "I have to put Brazil out of my mind and make my life here, form my family here."

It is excellent advice - simple, but easily ignored. It does not make Sandro any less patriotic. It does mean that he should be able to avoid an obvious pitfall.

In his time at Manchester City, Robinho always seemed to expect an automatic, first-team place and the same, everything-is-a foul criteria from referees that he was used to back home.

When he left Chelsea, Luiz Felipe Scolari lamented that his relationship with the players had mostly been purely professional. He had wanted to play the father figure role more normal in Brazilian football. Both he and Robinho might have been more successful in the Premier League had they heeded the advice given to Sandro.

It is, though, increasingly difficult to make the mental transition. Sixteen years ago, when I moved in the opposite direction to Sandro, the only feasible method of communicating with England was by writing a letter - one week to arrive, another to get a reply. Technology has moved on so much.

I have two Brazilian stepdaughters, slightly older than Sandro. Both are now in Europe. With a simple application on their mobile phones they can call home for free. It means that routine problems are reported back to their mum. One called home recently because she had woken up with a toothache.

For a footballer, this ease of communication presents a threat. His is a team sport. How can he find a collective common denominator with his team-mates if his mind has never left home?

Shakhtar Donetsk's Willian

Shakhtar Donetsk's Willian has kept close links with Brazil

Young Brazilian attacking midfielder Willian plays for Ukraine side Shakhtar Donetsk. Some time ago, I saw an interview with him and was struck to learn of his apparent lack of integration into Ukraine life. He watches a Brazilian TV channel on cable - the idea of watching something from his adopted home was greeted with laughter - and talks to friends and family back in Brazil on the internet.

In his case, he has plenty of Brazilian team-mates to bond with. But that does not apply to Sandro, who only has goalkeeper Gomes at Tottenham.

Although his English is still very limited, Sandro has clearly been making an effort to build up a relationship with his new colleagues. "There's a really good group here," he says, "and they've received me really well." When he was replaced in extra time of the recent Carling Cup game with Arsenal, the entire Tottenham bench - the subs and the injured players - all came across to congratulate him.

There was plenty to congratulate. "I'm sad about the result," he said after Arsenal's 4-1 win at White Hart Lane, "but, on an individual basis, I was reasonably happy with how it went. It's always great to play in matches where there's a lot of rivalry. The main difference from the Gre-Nal (the Gremio versus Internacional derby in Porto Alegre, perhaps the fiercest in Brazil) is that more physical contact is allowed here. That suits me."

Before the match, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp had bizarrely compared his new signing to Socrates. Too young to have seen the 1980s star, Sandro is nevertheless aware that he is a very different kind of player to the Brazil legend.

"Athletic" is one of the last words that could be used to describe Socrates - and one of the first for Sandro. He may not possess the imagination of Socrates, who developed his skill with the backheel to compensate for his lack of athleticism, but he is much more dynamic, winning tackles on the edge of his own area and with the engine to get into the opposing box.

"I'm happy to be compared with a quality player," says Sandro - and wants the chance to show his own quality.

After helping Internacional win South America's Copa Libertadores in mid-August, he has not been included in Tottenham's squad for the Champions League.

Brazilian youngster Kerlon

Kerlon, famous for the 'seal dribble', has struggled since moving to Europe

"I was frustrated when I found out," he says, "but there is a positive side. It means that I have more time to settle in, to get to know the club and the city. But I've been told that the list can be changed in January. Now I have to use every game I play and every training session to push my claims, so when January comes the manager will have to find a place for me."

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) Whatever happened to the master of the seal dribble, Kerlon? I was amazed to see that he is currently on Inter Milan's books but he hasn't been playing much, if at all. Yet another youngster who moved too soon?
Iestyn Williams

He's been dogged by injuries for years - and this has clearly been the main problem. Perhaps, though, if he could have his time again he might go easy on the seal dribble. It has tended to overshadow him - the player who made his name in the 2005 South American Under-17 Championships had so much more.

Since then he's rarely been fit, but, when he was playing for Cruzeiro, he always seemed under pressure to come up with the seal dribble rather than choose the right option. He left for Italy before he had established himself as a senior player - and that was asking for trouble.

Q) Don't you think young kids in South America these days start to play football just for the sake of earning lofty salaries one day?
Ahad Shaukat

An interesting question. In Rio, I've spoken to talented youngsters as young as nine or 10 and been struck by their ambitions - play for Barcelona and Real Madrid, buy a house for his mother, have an expensive car and a girlfriend with blonde hair. These type of benefits of a top-class career have already permeated their consciousness. But I still think the main reason they play is the joy of doing so. It must give them huge pleasure or else there is no way they would spend so much time doing it.


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  • Comment number 5.

    Rather than the idiots at post 1 and 2 and then number 3 complaining without writing something positive, I want to comment on Sandro.
    I watched the Spurs-Arsenal game last week and hope he does settle and intergrate. He looks like a strong, athletic polayer in the Vieira mould and with fitness and time to get used to the pace of the game, I hope he can be a big player for Spurs. True box-to-box midfielders are very rare in todays game and he would be a real plus to what can be quite a static Tottenham midfield. He would fit in well with Huddlestone and create a very strong and dynamic central midfield partnership.

  • Comment number 6.

    Surrey bloke well said it's pathetic

  • Comment number 7.

    Anyway, I was also a little surprised at Redknapp's comparison too. How well did he know this player that he has supposedly signed?

    I think Sandro will do well- he is from a similar mould as Gilberto Silva and Denilson (Arsenal version) and I think he will perform well in the english leagues. But he's not Socrates, as you pointed out Tim.

  • Comment number 8.

    Tim can you shed some light on another young Brazilian with Inter Milan, Coutinho ? , what do you make of him and how is he regarded ? I saw him pre-season with Inter and he looked great.

  • Comment number 9.

    I was pretty impressed by Sandro I must say.
    He looked the part in midfield, although with the rest of the team playing rather poorly, the result wasn't a reflection on his performance.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Sandro has a very good attitude about his exclusion from the Champions league squad. He's a good player who has a very bright future at Spurs. Best of luck to him.

  • Comment number 11.

    It'll be interesting to see how he goes at Tottenham. I struggle to think of many Brazilian players who have done too well in the Premier League, particularly in midfield. Gilberto and Juninho are the obvious ones that looked at home.

    However, Lucas, Denilson and Anderson, before they came over to play in England, were touted to be the future of the Brazilian midfield, but I would say none of these players has reached anywhere near their early potential. There have been many others that have fallen by the wayside. Kleberson, Robinho, even Elano after a great start.

    It'd be interesting to see what people think. Is it a problem with commitment or attitude? An inability to cope with the lifestyle? Or an inability to cope with the style of football played over here?

    Apologies if I've missed any players that actually did ok! This is off the top of my head.

    A question for you Tim. Which national teams should we be looking at to do well in the upcoming Copa, and beyond that, the next World Cup? Can Uruguay maintain their current level? Chile seem to have a good bunch of young players, and I'd be interested to see if you think they can get even better. And is there anything there from the teams we didn't see this summer - I'd love to see a Colombian resurgence?

  • Comment number 12.


    He was on the books at Inter - we sent him out on loan to Chievo, and then brought him back two seasons ago, sent him out on loan to Ajax where he promptly did his knee again (I believe his third cruciate injury in 4 years?), and is currently back at Inter where he is recouperating, waiting to be released (or similar) in January. The information around it is very vague, but I think that's whats happening. He's been removed from the Inter squad list on the website, but his agent recently said he is recovering at our medical facilities. I did hear rumours about him retiring, though, too.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a spurs fan, I was quite impressed with what I saw last week after the first half (which was a bit of a tactic mess by redknapp).

    However, one thing that may well have helped Sandro, that wasn't mentioned, was that he'd had plenty of time to get used to coming to Spurs - the move had been agreed sometime ago and indeed been mooted at least a year ago, so that should have enabled him to start adapting e.g. english lessons.

    One other thing, it's not just Gomes, Giovanni Dos Santos is half brazilian isn't he?

  • Comment number 14.

    Good blog Tim, unlike your colleague who just sums up what everyone already knows from the weekends PL action. Will be interesting to see how this brazilian gets on in the premier league, like others have said.

    Off-topic but I was wondering what ever happended to Kerrison?, think he went to Barcelona a few seasons back, don't ever remember seeing him in the first team though?

  • Comment number 15.


    I find it intriguing that Big Phil (and other Brazilian coaches) place such importance on the personal relationship with players: how is it possible for a coach in Brazil to establish a "father figure" connection to his players when most of them (the coaches) don't even last six months at each club?


  • Comment number 16.

    Another excellent blog Tim, I do wish a couple of your colleagues would take the time to read it and see what a good blog looks like.

    With regards Sandro, I hope he does adapt. It has been sad to see so few Brazilians do well in England, hopefully he has the right attitude to do well. It can't be easy for him, different culture, different environment and different language but it sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders. Hopefully people wont be expecting too much too soon and let him develop.

    I also hope Man Utd will give Anderson the chance to develop, he's still young and has just recovered from a bad injury, I feel he could still do well given the chance. I feel we in Britain are too often quick to write off people.

  • Comment number 17.

    The trouble is with a layer like Sandro, he realy has been built up to quite an extent prior to the move - due to the time we all had to hear about what a great signing he would be.

    That does however mean that expectations for an immidiate impact can be quite high, and as the article is written around the premise for players having to settle down a new life in the public glare this buys him even less time to adapt.

  • Comment number 18.

    A good article Tim.

    I'm disapointed on hearing about Kerlon and his famous Seal dribble, the first time I saw him pull it off was just brilliant. He made me laugh seeing that the oppositions players had to use their heads to get the ball down and off him.

    I also feel for him aswell, being under such pressure to perform the Seal dribble.

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  • Comment number 20.

    Was impressed with Sandro against Arsenal, first time Id seen him. Looked like he wanted to make a statement, but as my mate (spurs fan) pointed out, he did give the ball away a lot.
    Another thing, is Big Phil really that good a manager? I think my mum could have won the world cup with the Brazil squad he had available to him............
    Tim, still the best blog on the BBC website. Keep it going.

  • Comment number 21.

    #14 Keirrison is back in Brazil with Santos on loan from Barca (I guess he's essentially replaced Robinho). Last year, he was first at Benfica, then Fiorentina, for whom I personally had the pleasure of watching him score a very well-taken injury-time equaliser v Lazio at the Olimpico: other than that, however, I get the impression he failed to impress (sic). Undoubtedly talented, but seems to lack consistency.

  • Comment number 22.


    "Another thing, is Big Phil really that good a manager? I think my mum could have won the world cup with the Brazil squad he had available to him............

    Big Phil did win the World Cup, in impressive fashion. Firstly saving them them from almost not qualifying, then managing to get Ronaldo and Rivaldo to play in their top form. Although I'd question his man management skills over Ronaldos haircut, maybe your Mum could have sorted that out.

  • Comment number 23.

    Dear Tim,

    Thank you once again for another facinating insight.

    Reading last weeks blog on the Argentine league I was struck by the seemingly untrammelled power and longevity enjoyed by the president of the AFA Julio Grondona, as recently demonstrated in his handling of Maradona, which you described with great aplomb! Even though it is off topic this week, I wonder if you could possibly provide, at some point, an in depth analysis of 'Don Julio', as many of this blogs Argentine posters refer to him?

    I am given to understand that Grondona has been in situe ever since 1979. Is that true?
    I make out that he has seen off in the following order; the Junta and President's Alfonsin, Menem; and in all probablity,the Kirchners. Factor in the the upheaval of the 2001 economic implosion and that does seem to indicate a football powerbroker of extraordinary ruthlessnes.

    How does he mantain his powerbase? What has happened to those (if any) leading Argentine football personalities who have defied him? Has Argentine football regressed under his control?

    Its all very intriguing and it makes our rudderless FA here in England seem rater dull in comparision!

    Thank you and regards


  • Comment number 24.

    @ 14 tonberryking

    Keirrison was promptly loaned to Benfica as soon as he arrived to Barcelona. Didn't get much playing time, but when he did he didn't really convince the manager. So he went back to Barça on that season in Januray and was loaned out to Fiorentina. Did ok there scoring a couple of goals but not sure about his overall performance, didn't follow it.

    But now he is back in Brazil, in Santos, for a year long loan. Kind of defeats the point of adapting him to the European game... have Barça given up on him? Not sure.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ 21. WalkingMzungu
    Apologies, didn't know you had summarised the Keirrison query already!

  • Comment number 26.

    OK, let's see... why so few Brazilian players have suceeded in English teams? I can only speculate as the reasons are often of a personal nature and we cannot generalize.... but if someone pushed me to venture I would say:

    Reason Number 1. Football in England is never about ball to the foot, dribbling is frowned upon, physical strength, area coverage, marking and speed are more important than tactical awareness or technical ability, long passes and big space game development prevails over the short game. The only exception to this general rules would be Arsenal on a good day, but then again this is a completely uncharacteristic English football team. Culturally speaking, Brazilian and to some extent South American football is about fooling your opponent, passing the ball in neat triangles and moving upfield rather elegantly, and once you are somewhere in the vicinity of the opposing team's box, break the slow stride and surprise with quick spurt dribbling or a tavelinha (give and go). But in all event, the main thing here is that you give the ball 'round' and you get it back 'round', period. In English football, the ball travels fast, half the time it is up in the air (it used to be 90% of the time 20 years ago), one or two touches on the ball is the norm and in the end there is no love for that round thing... conceptually the ball is a missile, and (please follow the argument, do not laugh) in South American football it is a woman. I think it was of Riquelme that was said that 'because he treated the ball so well, 'she' (in Spanish and Portuguese ball has gender mind you) wanted to come back to him'. I would venture say that there is nothing less Brazilian than English football. Another angle in this argument would be: why are Scandinavian players often successful in the Premier League? And yet, I have not heard of a Scandinavian World Champion at any level, youth or whatever. And they still question guys of exquisite finesse as Veron or Berbatov.

    We name Gilberto Silva as a success story, but let's call a spade a spade: by Brazilian standards this guy is/was wooden. He could have been any nationality and nobody would have noticed. What Brazilian trait did Silva have? What is the difference between say, Van Bommel and Gilberto Silva?

    This is the way things go. I applaud Wenger and hopefully he will overcome, posting numbers, that concrete and ugly outcome that is irrefutable. Until that happens and the sliding tackle continues to be celebrated Brazilians will go elsewhere.

  • Comment number 27.

    Far too many people move abroad and immediately look for the place which closest resembles home and then make themselves comfortable in that environment instead of immersing themselves in the country they've just arrived in.

    That really really annoys me. Robinho really really annoys me. Sandro sounds like he's going about his move in exactly the right way and as such I hope he lands squarely on his feet and becomes a happy success.

    Players like Robinho need to take a long hard look at themselves. I mean, I read interviews attributed to him where he stated his reasons for leaving England were the weather (Milan's is almost identical to Manchester) and boredom. Well I'm sorry but if you allow yourself to get bored in a new city then that says more about your personality than the city itself.

  • Comment number 28.


    "What Brazilian trait did Silva have? What is the difference between say, Van Bommel and Gilberto Silva?"

    Well, for starters, Gilberto Silva is a World Champion!

  • Comment number 29.

    Another interesting article.

    7. Agreed. I think he'll do very well. Although he's slightly older he seems to have a different mentality to Neymar. He seems to realise he'll have to work for a regular first team place. I think he'll get one.

    Gomes seems a level headed guy, and that will help him. Given the encouraging early signs I do wonder if they have a different approach with younger players at Internacional compared to Santos.

    I just get the impression that a Dorival scenario would have been dealt with differently there. Would they have indulged a young player that much, and put the individual before the team and manager?

    I saw the Internacional game with Corinthians yesterday. The Internacional supporters don't seem the type to tolerate such behaviour from a single player. Internacional are clearly doing something right, and I hope Tottenham benefit.

  • Comment number 30.

    walking mzungu:

    you mistake 'trait' with 'biography'... yes, of course Gennaro Gattuso is also a World Champion... please, keep the discussion at a minimum standard.

    Subject: How about why do Brazilian players rarely succeed in English football?

  • Comment number 31.


  • Comment number 32.

    Another enjoyable read Tim, great blog this.

    I found this weeks second question interesting too. Through my son and nephew I occasionally get roped into back-street kickabouts, here in north-west England. It staggers me that players lofty salaries and celebrity lifestyles are often mentioned by kids of 6 and 7. it's madness.

  • Comment number 33.

    Having only Gomes as another Brasilian at Spurs may well be more of a help than a hindrance to Sandro. Gomes is well integrated, having been in Europe for about 6 years. Perhaps it means that Gomes and Sandro won't form a clique, and Gomes' difficulties in his first year at Spurs means he can help Sandro through any difficult times

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  • Comment number 35.

    #30 I don't think there's any such thing as a "Brazilian trait": it's essentialism, which I find abhorrent.

    With all due respect, I don't think you have anything to teach me about "keeping the discussion at a minimum standard". Your original post is full of clichés inaccuracies and generalisations.

    "Dribbling is frowned upon." Really? I guess I must then have live in an alternative reality where dribblers such as Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Ryan Giggs, David Ginola, Gianfranco Zola, Robert Pires etc have been among the best-loved players in English football over the past twenty years.

    "Physical strength, area coverage, marking and speed are more important than tactical awareness or technical ability." This may not be the case in all European leagues, but it's certainly the case in all those I do watch. Like it or not, but (over-)emphasis on speed and strength are the defining characteristics of the modern game, and few (if any) nations produce players more suited to those characteristics than Brazil.

    "In South American football (the ball) is a woman." In that case, Eder, Josimar, Roberto Carlos and several other hard-hitters should've done time for severe abuse.

    "I would venture say that there is nothing less Brazilian than English football." Oh dear, do your homework: football was introduced to Brazil by the English.


  • Comment number 36.


    You're spot on in most things although a bit unfair with Scandinavian players, some of them are very skillful.

    Foreign players are usually regarded with suspicion here ,stereotyped if you like and most of them are mistreated by the press. Nani, Anderson, Lucas, Gomes when he arrived, are or were vilified by the press. Nani has been this season the best Man U player so far, Anderson has had lots of injuries but when he played he has been good enough while not setting the world alight he's definitely been better than Carrick or Hargreaves or any other midfielder bar Scholes. Lucas is a handy player and if you listen to the "commentators" he seems to be the midfield version of "Ade Akinbyi", ask any Liverpool fan and they will tell you is not as bad as everyone says he is. Robinho and Elano were taken out of the team for no apparent reason, maybe because they didn't get "stuck in". CR7 was tought by the commentators to be half the player of Rooney and when stats couldn't lie anymore started to be dismissed as a "diver".
    The last Match of the day, they had the nerve to question whether Gardner should have been sent off over that tackle on Di Santo? He shouldn't have been sent off, he should have been arrested on the spot.For the past 3 to 4 years the most skillful team in England has had a player with a broken leg...coincidence?
    From experience populist journalists here try to second guess people's thoughts, so Brazilians are lazy nancies, French are sulky and difficult, Scandinavians are eager and fair and so on...

  • Comment number 37.

    26 Marcelao

    your comments are at least 20 years out of date. the truth in what you say is completely overshadowed by your massive exaggeration.

    You have heard of Middlesbrough? and how incredibly popular Juninho was there?
    Do you think he might have dribbled the ball a bit? Or did they just lump long ball to him, to take advantage of his mighty 5 foot 5 height?

  • Comment number 38.

    Rubbish blog this week I'm afraid to say. After weeks of repeated questions about Sandro you have bowed to pressure and focused an entire blog on a player who is fairly good at best. Sorry Tim, i personally prefer to hear about what's going down in South America itself.

    #36 I just cannot respect the accuracy of your comments. I am a Liverpool fan who regards Lucas as not meeting the standards we set. There are LFC fans who support him but it seems more of a defence of the club itself to counter-act critics that mock Lucas. Saying that he perhaps has been misused by being played in a defensive rather than attacking midfield position but he still can't pass very well.

    Anderson was not vilified by the press on the whole upon or before his arrival. I remember him playing very well for Porto in the CL and the British pundits at the time agreed he was a hot prospect.

    To cover old ground - Brazilians that have played well in England;

    Sylvinho, Gilberto Silva, Juninho, Alex, (Ramires?) and of course Mirandinha!

  • Comment number 39.

    38 - rubbish comment this week, I'm afraid, from the good doctor.
    first, I'm in London at the moment (unavoidable - visa renewal), so why not take advantage by talking to a new South American recruit to the premier League.

    2 - if you think this blog is all about Sandro then you clearly haven't read it properly.

    It is not possible to discuss contemporary South American football without making reference to the move to Europe - even last week's, which centred on River Plate, touched on this subject - one of the reasons that the club have been so poor recently (along with other big Argentine clubs) is as a result of constantly selling their best players.

    The players want to go - so the issue of how they deal with the transition would seem to me to be a perfectly suitable topic for this blog.

  • Comment number 40.

    How about Rochemback? How was he regarded at Middlesbrough?

  • Comment number 41.

    Footballer or non-footballer, you have to unpack, mentally, when you change countries. Otherwise you will be miserable, for sure.

  • Comment number 42.

    #39 fair enough London is a boring place after all! It's not my favourite blog still, and I take it back that it's entirely about Sandro, there was a bit about William watching TV. I don't expect you to take criticism lightly mind, you're a firebrand if ever there was.

    #40 Rochemback took a couple of tasty free-kicks but over his 3 years in Teeside was better known for eating pies.

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  • Comment number 51.

    37.... Sorry, I forgot to mention another wildly exaggerated reason on why Brazilians might not adapt that well... generally, but just generally, not every day... the weather in Brazil is a touch better that in England, and this includes Middlesborough (where Julio Arca also played, and he was as short as Juninho...)

    Incidentally, calling Pires a dribbler IS an exaggeration and denying that, generally the terraces cheer sliding tackles would be another one. In Brazil, generally, other more artistic endeavours are applauded.

    Chossing a handful of exceptions to justify your arguments is not what I would prefer. Rather, I am trying to determine a general thesis. Of course George Best was exceptional, but how many of these players existed for every Darren Fletcher type out there? Generally, the trend is towards big and fast players... and to see this we should look at all teams, all divisions, not just the Chelseas or Arsenals...

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  • Comment number 55.

    Phil, I understand Sandro's pyschologists' somewhat drastic 'cut old ties' approach - but although Spurs might have been able to 'take the boy out of Brazil' can anyone seriously hope or even want to 'take Brazil out of the boy'? Isn't his football style 'which Redknapp compared favourably to Socrates' based around his Brazilian culture?

    Great point on how times have changed though - with simple communication across continents now relatively easy and common - compared to sixteen years ago, throw in the fact that the world's population particularly in places like London is much more cosmopolitan and mixed..Sandro will have no problem finding deep Brazilian roots here within the currently estimated 200,000 diaspora living within these shores. Surely better to embrace both cultures especially for your family's sake?

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  • Comment number 57.

    #51 Ok, here's an attempt at a general theory: comparatively few Brazilian players have been successful (at the highest level) in England because English clubs have bought comparatively few (top-class) Brazilian players.

    As opposed to your other arguments - which beg to be torn apart: sorry - I do believe the weather is a relevant factor. I certainly remember Ronaldinho turning down Manchester United in favour of Barcelona (at a time when United were by far the most successful of the two) because of the higher "quality of life" in Spain.

    That aside, however, I believe your dichotomic view of Brazilian v English football is largely based on mythical (mis)perception: the Best/Fletcher comparison is 100% irrelevant. There's an abundance of journeymen for every exceptional talent in Brazilian football too.

  • Comment number 58.

    allo gobi please get a life and stop randomly commenting. Anyway, i am a liverpool fan and i think that lucas would be brilliant if they put him in the right position. Also anderson just needs to get settled back in after his injury

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  • Comment number 63.

    Great blog, as always Tim. Just a quick question relating to you being in London at the moment....
    ....are you going to the The Lane on Wednesday?

  • Comment number 64.

    But Mzungu... my argument is based on that Brazilian football is superior to English football, period... And the sensibilities of the 'Brazilian style' clash with the 'English style'. So naturally, and besides the weather or quality of life, Brazilians (except for a few chosen ones) would naturally have more difficulty in playing in the Isles. THEY LIKE MORE THAN TWO TOUCHES ON THE BALL, is this an outdated myth? In English football, at the third touch you have a humongous athlete (who cannot pass off the outside of his foot) breathing down your neck, a sliding boot (helped by wet grass, a staple of the place) in between your calves and a referee that will not call it as long as the ball is touched... and does not the English crowd typically cheer when this happens? I have lived in Brazil in the 70's and 80's (Vasco fan) and this type of protestant work ethic was (and I'd like to think still is) abhorred.

    One other argument that I like is that tactically, often South Americans playing in the UK are asked to run a la Rooney the entire length of the field tracking their opponents' attacking or overlapping backs. While I agree that in modern football this is commonplace, Brazilians are often bought to play in more forward creative positions and this work ethic is difficult for them to accept.

    OK, take one Best and one Garrincha, let's call it a tie. After that is taken out, and for the next 40 years there came out hundreds of Garrinchas in Brazil and maybe a handful of Bests (Irish really) in English football. How cannot this be clear? A journeyman in Brazil (a country whose national team has sadly been Dungaized over the last few years) can do things technically that a journeyman in England cannot dream of. Do we not agree on this?. I am a big fan of Argentina, but I cannot possibly deny that Brazil produces hundreds of players every year that play a different game altogether.

    Lastly, although it is true that proportionately few Brazilian top players have been asked to move to the UK, it is also true that proportionately close to zero English players have been asked to move to continental Europe. Is this also a myth? There are super rich clubs out there in Europe but Fletcher is staying put...

  • Comment number 65.

    Excellent blog, Tim. It's a very interesting subject you've discussed. I'm happy to read Sandro's approach to living and playing in England. It's something you never hear about Brazilian players. Usually they're just brought in 3 at a time to make sure they don't get too homesick.
    Just a small question, how will Internacional cope without Sandro? He seems to have been an important player for them in that Copa Libertadores campaign.

  • Comment number 66.

    38 - To cover old ground - Brazilians that have played well in England;

    Sylvinho, Gilberto Silva, Juninho, Alex, (Ramires?) and of course Mirandinha!

    Mirandinha? I really hope your tongue is planted deep in your cheek, writing that!

  • Comment number 67.

    Mzungu and Marcelao, lets call it a draw. There are two types of football played in England and Brazil. In Brazil you need a footballing brain and samba body (so flexible it can twist and change direction in flight). In England you need a good pair of lungs and a tight body that moves in straight lines, capable of taking out anything that gets in its way. Two very different styles, and both work in their native environments.

  • Comment number 68.

    not sure why this blog is digressing into a why brasilian football is better than english football debate

    anyway, the advice given to sandro may sound simple to the ear, but in reality could be much more difficult for the player to adhere to. i'm sure others in sandro's situation must have been given similar words of wisdom, yet the case of success from such transition particularly as it relates to move into english football is seldom heard of. brasilian culture has an important role in this adaptation (or lack there of) for players also, as it is just the manner of upbringing and lifestyle that footballers moving away always cling to. hope for sandro's sake that he follows teh advice, but does not give up his brasilian football upringing. that can easily get lost by virtue of a direct move from brasil to england i feel.

    as for the knocks on darren fletcher, come on...i feel you are not giving credit to the style of football manchester plays which is not bad at all. english football is not the same as 20 yrs ago, the game has evolved and brasilians can do well but they must be mentally prepared for such moves. money surely is another reason why we're seeing more south americans in england now than before. italy, portugal and to some extent spanish style of football remains more suited for brasilians i feel. but hey, money talks.

  • Comment number 69.

    I just want to point out that Sandro cannot be your tipical Brazilian player. He was born on small town (8,000 inh.) in Minas Gerais State (no beaches near some 1,500km), then was formed in Rio Grande do Sul state (and its mid 40's, mid 50's ºF winter). Also, in Rio Grande do Sul, football has more contact than other places in Brazil. So, if it's not England, it's not carioca football either.

    He's definitely no Samba Boy.

    Besides that, he speaks very well Portuguese, he is smart and mature. Give him time, and he will deliver...

  • Comment number 70.

    What a legend ! ;)

  • Comment number 71.

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

  • Comment number 72.

    Well done qnd thank you, Tim. It's nice to read an article these days that isn't about Wayne Rooney's I-don't-care-whats or Rio Ferdinands latest "injury horror".

    I think it's important to remember how young these players are, and how (if their debuts are made before 18 at a club) they are suddenly watched by thousands throughout their young adult lives. There are two things that can happen, one is a starring career and all the jazz and flash cars, the other is the BBC3 "Where are they now" programme which never fails to amuse.

    I went to Brazil and dutifully took in some football while I was there, and I have to say that it was almost like watching a different sport, not better and not worse, but just so different in the game and the crowd to be almost like learning to support football all over again.

    I can only imagine what it must be like the other way round, and at the same time being not in the crowd but one of the eleven players they are baying at.

    Well done Santos for being honest and not promising the world of himself the minute he arrived.

  • Comment number 73.

    * or even Sandro, sorry!

  • Comment number 74.

    Brazilians who didn't make it in Scotland:

    Rafael Scheidt - and he really really was - rated at one time by the Guardian as the 2nd worst transfer in the history of football.

    Signed by King Kenny (after watching the guy in what must have been the most creatively edited video of all time) for a cool £5m would you believe. Celtic got a Brazilian in more ways than one. MON shipped him straight out the door.

    Had an inflated (wildly/grossly/spectacularly) transfer value because he was 'capped' by Brazil.

    Started just one game in a grand total of three appearances for Celtic.

    In Glasgow, Rafael's brief visit gave birth to the phrase 'utter scheidt'

  • Comment number 75.

    Football is the peoples game,writing with perfect English does not express ,common peoples views in fact, it's nice read from authors who's first sport at school was football

  • Comment number 76.

    ps i had to put sandro back in my local aml (armchair managers league) only because i already have bale and huddlestone and just replaced sandro with van der vaart, my sources says he's more like dunga than socrates, still not a bad comparison though

  • Comment number 77.

    Re 74

    ?! £5m for a injury-prone center-half?!

    Wow! Grêmio did good on this one, didn't it?

  • Comment number 78.

    Another excellent post Tim.
    Interesting to read that finally a player is taking a different approach to try to integrate into the new country's culture instead of keeping their minds back home. If most of them coming abroad did the same, I am sure we would see many more successful players in the PL and Europe.
    I hope you are having a good trip, but I honestly hope you will soon be returning back to Rio where you can keep writing this wonderful blog!

  • Comment number 79.

    @64 Marcelao - your description of English football sounds a lot like the recent shower the current version of Brasil resembled going on the last mundial?

  • Comment number 80.

    Add a lot more cynical fouls to boot!

  • Comment number 81.

    Final point Marcelao- Argentina is now the biggest exporter of top class football professionals in the world now - from a population of only an 8th of Brasil's? All Dunga's fault of course jeje!!!

  • Comment number 82.

    Sandro is definitely going to take some time to settle in.

    He was fairly excellent at winning the ball but way to slow in possession. I was hoping he would be Palacios without the thoughtless passing. Mabe he will be. Hopefully he is a quick learner.

  • Comment number 83.

    Tim, as far as I understand UEFA's rules on Champions' League registration, Sandro didn't need to be registered because he counts as an under-21 player on 1st January 2011, much like the Premier League registration rules.

    Still, he looked like a good player on the evidence of his debut and what I have seen of him for Internacional, and he seems to have a sound head on his shoulders, so there could well be plenty to look forward to from him.

  • Comment number 84.

    Mental strength is the key to success over here for the likes of Sandro. Ability is nothing if you are in the wrong frame of mind, just look at Wayne Rooney right now for proof. Sandro himself looked decent, but its a tough job to get into the spurs midfield consistently so he will have to work hard. Good luck to him.

  • Comment number 85.

    @81 "...Argentina is now the biggest exporter of top class football professionals in the world now - from a population of only an 8th of Brasil's? "

    That's great news!... now we just have to wait for FIFA to start handing out trophies for "biggest exporter of top class footballers" and Argentina will no longer have to worry about failing to win the World Cup for such a long time ;)

  • Comment number 86.

    Tim Says: "Millions of people every year move to live in a new country and struggle to make sense of their new surroundings as they deal with a different climate, new language and unfamiliar culture.
    It is hardly surprising, then, that there are casualties - players unable to cope and whose potential is never transformed into reality"

    you forgot to mention that most people moving to another country do not do that on the back of some zillion dollar/euro/pound/younameit contract to play football so it is difficult to be sympathetic to their "plight".

    On the other hand, you make a very good point on their age and background being some of the reasons they experience so much trouble. However, all this means is that those involved in such transfers (ie. agents, clubs) are failing to prepare these young players for their new environments because they're just too busy trying to get a bigger slice of the transfer fees.

  • Comment number 87.

    Harry Redknapp is no mug when it comes to the transfer market. You might take the view that he has been quick-out-of-the-blocks to take advantage of Spurs' new status since they qualified for the Champions League.
    Players (and their agents) want to be in the Champions League, for obvious reasons. Spurs (and the player's agent) can promise that to a player as a bargaining chip (even though it may not materialise). As transfer and eligibility deadlines approach, all sides become involved in a game of negotiation and brinkmanship. The BBC now reports on this as an event in itself. Remember the Robinho “Going”.... (to-Chelsea), “Going”….(to Chelsea), “Gone” (to Man City) saga?

    Well, the clubs can play that game too. Twice now, I have read a story of a Premier League club that has been inconvenienced “by UEFA” in the matter of late Champions League player-registration. I am inclined to believe neither story.
    A club that does not have an “open slot” in the Champions League for a 'top-of-range-footballer', is tying one of it's arms behind it's back. If the player (and his agent) cannot credibly be promised Champions League appearances, then even if the club is Real Madrid, or the owner is the King of Saudi Arabia, it will hinder their chances of signing such players.

    They might get their man if they afford to pay a lot more than the inflated prices we are accustomed to reading about. Meanwhile, the player (and his agent) will use the time 'in the shop window' to line up the next deal. If the club doesn't like this, then the player may refuse to play, or merely go into a deep sulk. No disrespect to West Ham, Liverpool, or Man Utd, but isn't that what the Tevez/Mascherano deals were about?

    Looked at in this light, Redknapp's comments comparing Sandro to Socrates make more sense. The player is now a Spurs “asset” who may be sold-on in due course, so 'bigging him up' is prudent, especially if it came as an unpleasant surprise to find that he was not being selected for Champions League football. Although I am curious about the nature of the contract he has signed, it would have been foolish for Redknapp to say what he did BEFORE they had the player's signature.

    Phil, you say Sandro's English is poor, but did he actually say (in Portuguese?) the words that are attributed to him in the quotes? To me they read more like a press release from an agent who is drawing attention to the next transfer window and deadlines for players in the Champions League:
    " when January comes the manager will have to find a place for me".
    If Sandro is not named as a Spurs player in the Champions League, then he could still play for another club, could he not?

    Some might say I am being too cynical, but since the Tevez/Mascherano saga it seems like transfers of South American players to Europe may not be exactly as they first appear.

  • Comment number 88.


    Please don't argue points which haven't been made. I've never denied that Brazil is a better footballing nation in England (just take a look in the trophy cabinet) - I've simply tried to refute your (in my opinion) stereotypical and outdated essentialist view that there is such a thing as one "Brazilian" and one "English" style - that these are set in stone and can never be changed.

    My personal opinion remains that the primary reason few Brazilian footballers have been successful in England is that English clubs don't buy them, and that the primary reason they don't buy them is that they believe in the same clichés you do. Sometimes, the clichés amount to truth (Robinho) - but do you really think, say, Kaka, Maicon or Lucio would not have been successful in England? (Your argument - that Brazilian footballers fail in England because Brazil's football is superior to that of the English - is quite strange, to say the least.)

    As for your notion that continental clubs don't buy English footballers, you might want to note that Real Madrid, the most successful club in the history of the game, have had four Englishmen on their books in the past decade (the most skilful of whom, Steve McManaman, won two Champions Leagues).


  • Comment number 89.

    "I've never denied that Brazil is a better footballing nation in England"

    THAN! THAN England! Argh!

  • Comment number 90.

    Another point to Marcelao, plenty of clubs have tried to buy English players but we English just don't seem to like to move abroad, instead preferring to holiday over there and vomit all over the beaches :S
    Italian, Spanish and German clubs have all tried to buy the likes of Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and co in recent years but other than the Sir Davids of this world, none of them really seem to want to go there.
    As for no English dribblers, that really is nonsense haha just as the image of no leg-snappers from Brazil is. Just look at Felipe Melo for a prime example.

  • Comment number 91.

    There is no reason why a club from continental Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, would need to buy a British player when they can get the same or much better from other countries, including South America.

    Besides, apart from the regular exception to the rule (which exception to be honest, I'm still trying to find), British players do not travel well. Just take a look at every world cup apart from 1966 to see that they fail to perform outside the UK, and the same seems to happen in the rare occasions when they join an overseas club.

  • Comment number 92.

    Fantastic article!

  • Comment number 93.

    Tim, I'd be interested to know what application your step-daughters use to get free calls to Brazil so I can use it. Thanks

  • Comment number 94.


    ?! £5m for a injury-prone center-half?!

    Wow! Grêmio did good on this one, didn't it?
    And his agent did not too badly out of it either! But it only one of series of bad decisions made by Kenny Dalglish in his time managing Celtic..a pretty spectacular failure it has to be said. And he parted with £5m on the basis of watching a player in a video..fools and their money as they say. The Celtic fans at the time though were delighted to get a Brazilian..unfortunately he was no Lucio!

    Would be interested to know what happened to Schiedt if anyone (or Tim even) knows and whether he is still in the game in some capacity. I'd heard he was with Corinthians for a while and may even have finished his career with them. The transfer is still referred to in the Scottish press as a kind of cautionary note about paying big money for players (you never even watch!)..a bit of 'beware of brazilians bringing gifts' kind of idea

  • Comment number 95.

    It's not Willian at the image, it's Fernandinho from NT and key player of Shakhtar, you should know a difference.

  • Comment number 96.

    94 - ah, rafael scheidt - i'm never allowed to forget this one, because at the time i thought he would be a good buy for celtic - as always, you learn more from your mistakes than from the times you get it right.

    He was clearly unlucky - with injuries and illness etc - and he was a player with virtues. He was a constructive centre back, who could pass out of defence with precision off either foot - and he had made some reasonable performances for Brazil (against Argentina and Barcelona no less) when he was signed.

    Where i got it so wrong was in forgetting that British football would force him to play higher up the field, without the protection in front of him that he had in Brazil - thus exposing his lack of pace, a problem that only worsened after his injuries.

    Post-Celtic he did OK in Brazil, playing for big clubs - Corinthians, Atletico Mineiro and then being a senior figure at Botafogo - was last heard of in China.

  • Comment number 97.

    I find some of the posts on here hilarious. There is three problems that cause Brazilians not to do well in the UK.

    1. Culture - Britain has a northern european culture which, although different from other Northern European countries has many similarities which are considerebly different from Southern Europe. This is why Scandinavian, Dutch and German players usually fit it in and Brazilian players normally fit in better in to Portugal, Spain and Italy as the culture there is similar to back home.

    2. Weather - England does not have good weather - full stop. See how Robinio was great during the fairer weather but rubbish when it was bad - and its bad a lot as we play during the loverly seasons of Autumn, Winter and Spring and not summer.

    3. Speed of the game. In Europe the speed of the game is quicker than in Brazil and more physical, with the English and German leagues being the most.

    Of the players who have not adapted that were mentioned earlier - Lucas is not a good player and is another of the dodgy scouse-spainard signings that he wasted money on.
    Anderson is okay - not exactly brilliant - passing is hit and miss while he could not hit the barn let alone the barn door with his shooting! Sandro - started of poorly but came on as the game went on. He looks like he has got good attributes for the English Game - very Veiraish.
    Elano - good player but played out of position by Man City because they had too many Generals and not enough chiefs.
    Robinho - he has too big an inflated opinion of himself. If he got his head down and performed instead of acting like a superstar he would be regarded as a world great but instead will always be remembered as the winging winger.
    Denilson - Still learning his game at probably one of the best places to do it. He is not another Pele but he's better than Dunga.

  • Comment number 98.

    87 wrote - "Phil, you say Sandro's English is poor, but did he actually say (in Portuguese?) the words that are attributed to him in the quotes? To me they read more like a press release from an agent who is drawing attention to the next transfer window and deadlines for players in the Champions League"

    I don't mind being called Phil but I do strongly object to the total lack of respect you have shown in this accusation. There are indeed grounds for cynicism about much of what happens in the transfer market, but in this instance your comments are entirely misplaced.

    The interview was conducted in Portuguese, there was no involvement whatsoever from any agent and I think you'll struggle to find press release pieces that cover ground such as his use of a sports psychologist to adapt - which I brought up after learning it from research carried out in Brazil.

    And 95 - I don't do the photos - not my dept.

  • Comment number 99.

    #97 Germany is also in Northern Europe, yet dozens of Brazilian players have been extremely successful there.

    As for the perception that Scandinavians tend to do better in England (than elsewhere), this is true to a great extent as regards Norwegians, but most of the greatest Swedish and Danish players (from Milan's Gre-No-Li trio of the 1950s via Michael Laudrup to Zlatan Ibrahimovic) have actually spent their best years in Italy or Spain.

  • Comment number 100.

    Haha, are there people around the globe with the surname Vickery being called Phil on a daily basis?

    Hopefully when the blog goes global, people will be calling slightly overweight rugby players Tim.

    (what is the etymology? Suspiciously like a church employee?)


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