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Oscar - a midfielder in the full sense of the word

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Tim Vickery | 08:35 UK time, Monday, 24 September 2012

Little more than a month into the season, new signing Oscar is already a Stamford Bridge sensation.

I must confess that I took a bit longer to be won over by him - before making up for lost time by coming to the conclusion that he could be the most important player Brazilian football has produced in a while.

I was at one of his very first matches for Internacional, a 3-0 defeat to Fluminense in the Maracana stadium in August 2010. He was brought on after 35 minutes, made a mess of everything he tried and was himself replaced after 57. It hardly matched the hype that was already surrounding him.

Three months later I saw him get a place in the starting line-up against Botafogo. He made little impression and was substituted once more. But before the game I talked to Inter's director Fernando Carvallo, one of the best talent spotters in the Brazilian game. Forget any early impressions, he said. This boy is the genuine article.

Oscar takes on the Belarus midfield in the Olympic tournament

Oscar is already attracting attention for his all-round midfielder's game. Photo: Empics

If such a knowledgeable source had high hopes, then Oscar was clearly worth a third glance, a fourth and a fifth.

Early in 2011, he started to impress playing for Brazil in the South American Under-20 Championships. The individual plaudits went to Neymar and Lucas Moura, but it was noticeable that Oscar was at the heart of many of the good collective things his side were producing.

But could he cut it with the seniors? He quickly showed he could, scoring three times for Internacional in their Copa Libertadores campaign.

Then came his triumphant World Youth Cup campaign. With both Neymar and Lucas promoted to the full Brazil side, there was more responsibility for Oscar to carry. For all his frailty and sloped shoulders, he bore it well.

He scored all three goals in the final against Portugal. But at least as impressive was his all-round game - and as he has continued to progress over the subsequent year, it is his versatility which catches the eye as much as his ability to score goals - like the one against Juventus last week that sent the Stamford Bridge faithful crazy.

Oscar can drop back and mark. Stronger than he looks, he can win the ball, orchestrate possession from deep, feed the strikers and get beyond them to shoot at goal. Bright and mobile, two-footed and talented, he is a midfielder in the full sense of the word - and it is precisely that which makes him so interesting.

The glory days of Brazilian football - those three World Cup wins between 1958 and '70 - came after they had come up with the idea of the back four, dropping an extra player to the centre of the defence to provide extra security.

A football team is like one organic unit - making changes in one part will inevitably have an effect on another. In this case the burden was borne by the central midfielders. Since the initial idea was to retain two wingers and two strikers, the pair in the middle found themselves with acres of space to cover. So both of them had to be all-rounders, able to attack and defend.

In 1958 and '62 the central midfield pairing was formed by Didi and Zito. 'The Ethiopian Prince,' Didi was the brains of the team, cutting opponents apart with his elegant passing. But he also had to work hard when Brazil lost possession, getting behind the line of the ball and closing down space.

Alongside him, Zito was the enforcer, the hard man who screened the centre-backs. But he could also make an attacking contribution, as he showed when scoring the goal that effectively won the 1962 World Cup. Brazil and Czechoslovakia were level at 1-1 when he both started and ended the move that put his side ahead, running the length of the field to head home at the far post.

Eight years later in Mexico, it was a similar story, with Gerson and Clodoaldo in the roles of Didi and Zito.

Brazil were a goal down in the semi-final against Uruguay. Gerson, the latter day Didi, was not the greatest athlete - he was struggling to find space against the tight Uruguayan marking - so he took a decision. He dropped back to cover and sent Clodoaldo, Zito's replacement for club and country further forward. It was an inspired switch - just before half-time Clodoaldo scored the equaliser.

The classic 4-2-4 system did not last long. Even in 1958 Mario Zagallo was funnelling back from left wing to help out the overworked midfield duo. But for a while afterwards, 4-2-4 influenced the way that Brazilian midfielders developed. The 1982 pairing of Falcao and Toninho Cerezo were also all-rounders.

Then it all changed. Brazil became increasingly dependent on attacking full-backs. Someone had to cover for them. And having purely defensive midfielders in a 4-4-2 meant that there was also space for purely attacking ones. The age of the specialist was born.

For years Brazil's midfield included Gilberto Silva - now winding down his career where he started it, at centre-back - and Kaka, who in reality is a support striker. Even while it was winning trophies, a midfield without midfielders could never capture hearts by producing the flowing football of old.

For all the frequent disappointing results Brazil have had over the last two years, and for all the jeers aimed at coach Mano Menezes, there are grounds for optimism. The midfielder is back. Oscar is proof. So too is Romulo.

If Oscar is an attacking midfielder who can also defend, Romulo is the opposite. Both were on target last week in the Champions League - Oscar, of course, for Chelsea against Juventus, and Romulo for Spartak Moscow against Barcelona - on his 22nd birthday. If this really is the rebirth of the all-round Brazilian midfielder, then we all have something to celebrate.

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:

I am always interested when British footballers move abroad. The trend has steadily decreased, so the recent transfer of goalkeeper Mark Cook from Harrogate to Universitario of Peru has fascinated me and I would love to hear your insight into this. I see he made his debut recently and was slightly shaky from what I saw online, but the goal was decent and he could do little about it. What has been the reaction to his arrival in South America and how do you feel he will adapt?
Craig Morton

I'm all in favour of British players moving abroad - it's a great way to broaden their education. There are easier places than South America to do it, though! The Mark Cook case is interesting precisely because it is so rare - which means that he sticks out so much.

For the debut match you mentioned - where he did nothing wrong - one of the Peruvian papers sent a reporter into the stands to hear what was being said. There were reports of anger directed at him, at the fact that he was taking the place of a local, and plenty of uncomplimentary remarks about the ungainly way he moves.

He does look as if he could command his area better than the club's other keepers. But fundamental in this position is communication with the defence. He doesn't speak the language and it was clear in that debut game that the centre-backs were reluctant to pass back to him.


  • Comment number 1.

    Oscar is a really promising player - reminds me of a young Kaka.

    He stood out for Brazil at the Olympics and seems to be adapting well to the Premier League. It is early days yet of course but he could become as influencial for Chelsea as he already is for his country.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hope you're right Tim, it gladdens the heart to see a Brazil side play well. Still long for that 1982 side! Falcao and Toninho Cerezo were sublime - I know they didn't win the cup, but... wow. Sometimes winning really isn't everything. Too young for 1970 side, would love to have see them.

    The Kaka of 2006/07 actually looked in the same league, as an attacking midfielder (always thought he was better behind two strikers than off one) but he's been in decline since. He appears to live a clean life and maintains he's injury free. Is there any view in Brazil as to what has happened to him? Is he still viewed as a likely part of 2014?

  • Comment number 3.

    BaggiosPonytail wrote:

    Oscar is a really promising player - reminds me of a young Kaka.


    Oscar is a more complete player than Kaka.

    This kid is amazing. I was hugely impressed by his performances at the Olympics and felt he was better than Hazard who has received all the plaudits.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Tim,

    Is off the field problems having an effect at independiente? They are poor this season but was wondering how much of it is to do with the hooligan's and president's power struggle? Has it caused a split with the players siding with one side over the other? Plus would the players like to see the clubs run more like European clubs (the ones with less ultras influence)?

    Cheers keep up the good work

  • Comment number 5.

    This is probably your best blog this year because it highlights a crucial point often overlooked by coaches in their pursuit of silverware i.e. a fluid midfield is the heartbeat of any successful and entertaining team. If the heartbeat is not in rhythm then the rest of the team will fall apart. A glaring example was the over-hyped Dutch team at Euro 12 - excellent forwards, decent defenders but two immobile midfielders failed to provide the connective tissue. In contrast, Spain imposed themselves on all-comers, even when not at their best, by deploying technically adroit all-rounders in midfield.

    It is a thing of joy to see a new crop of Brazilian players in the old tradition - players who know how to win the ball and what to do with it. Oscar is perhaps the best example because he is more mobile than Ganso and Romulo, more skillful than Ramires, and stronger on his feet than more celebrated forwards Neymar, L. Moura, Pato and Robinho. My fear is that M. Menezes is spoilt for choice and has no clue how to use his wealth of offensively minded defenders, all round midfielders and excellent forwards. It would be interesting to try out David Silva in a defensive midfield berth. He has the balls skills, physical presence, pace/mobility and awareness to play there. A centre back he is not ! At least not yet. A strong midfield anchor will free up four mobile, offensive minded midfielders to support a lone striker. It's worked before - ask Spain !

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Tim, timely article. Oscar is good, but Brazil do lack more players like him, so if he was to get injured then plan A for Brazil will be out of the window.
    I find it increasingly difficult to believe that Brazil will be contenders in the next WC 2014. Mano Meneses while trying to find new young players has completely denigrated the Selecao, he should have gradually introduced new players instead of changing things in one fell swoop. Brazil's prestige and reputation is at an all time low. Teams don't fear Brazil anymore, hence they are rated about No 13 in Fifa rankings. I suppose it's a case of throwing the young players in at the deep end and letting them sink or swim come the World Cup. No real hopes or aspirations of triumphing on homesoil.
    Dunga had built up a very good side that were unlucky in SA 2010. They had won almost everything to that point. I don't think Mano will be able to do that. His failure to start with Hulk effectively lost them the gold medal at the Olympics, Mano's tactics and selections at Copa America 2011 were pathetic.
    Also you cannot credit Mano for discovering Oscar or Romulo, surely Ney Franco the manager at U-20 World Cup has to take the credit. I feel he should lead Brazil at WC 2014. He actually has the experience of winning a competition, Mano Meneses does not.

  • Comment number 8.

    @5 Falcaocerezo
    I'm guessing you were suggesting David Luiz as a defensive midfielder.

    And I can tell you that those of us who don't support Brazil are praying that Marcelo and Luiz cement their places in the starting eleven.

    It's hard enough at the best of times to survive against Brazil. I remember them pulverising Holland in South Africa for 45 minutes. But they lost because Felipe Melo was a red card waiting to happen.

    And Marcelo and Luiz are the best get-out-of-jail free card that any opposition could ask for.

  • Comment number 9.

    @7 Jay Krishna
    I'm no fan of Menezes, but your charges against him are unfair.

    Dunga bequeathed him an elderly team. Maicon and Lucio are clearly being exposed already as physically past-it, and I applaud Menezes for identifying early that the veterans are not candidates for 2014, and bedding down their replacements.

    This use of the Olympic team to prosecute full internationals has meant that the FIFA ranking has slipped, but it has allowed the 2014 team to get three years together.

    England's current ranking owes much to Terry, Cole, Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney, but only the last of those five offers anything for 2014. Hodgson was going to enjoy a honeymoon at the Euros anyway, followed by the simple World Cup qualifying group, and I for one wish that he had started building his 2014 team rather than exhuming the 2004 side.

  • Comment number 10.

    @6 yakubusdiet

    Of course lacking physicality in midfield could be a problem for Brazil in 2014. However, I don't think it's something they can (or should) worry about too much. It hasn't stopped Spain winning 3 major tournaments in a row after all.

    Essien is unlikely to still be playing in 2014 and teams like Ghana and Nigeria are not balanced.

  • Comment number 11.

    @8 yakubusdiet

    As you say Luiz is a liability - it wouldn't matter where he plays. He should have been sent of this weekend for another reckless challenge.

  • Comment number 12.

    @Yakubusdiet- Spain don't have a physical midfield and they do alright...not comparing quality of the midfields, just saying that physical strength is not that important.

    Also, disagree with people's comments on Marcelo, he is probably one of the best left backs in Europe at the moment.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Tim ,
    What does this mean for Ganso? Can they play together? saw him(ganso) at the olympics , seemed to wait for things to happen rather than take the initiative (oscar) . hope im wrong , however my first impression was that he has a phobia of closing & chasing down players . He has the vision to see the obvious* that no one else can see ,effortlessly sensuous weight and angle on the pass , but doesn't seem to demand/want the ball and is happy to let the game pass him by.
    Again , hope im wrong about all the negatives .


  • Comment number 14.

    @10 and @12
    I acknowledged myself that Spain has a diminutive midfield. But they are a one-off and have enjoyed massive success both as Spain and Barcelona.

    It is a completely different thing for Brazil to expect similar success with their own army of lesser-achieving lightweights. Especially when they were second best to Mexico's Olympic development team.

    We will possibly never again see a team of slight physical build achieve as much as Spain, and certainly other teams would be foolish to disregard long-established adages about skill, size and the need for a balance between those two domains.

    Menezes can go the Dunga route and have Sandro and Romulo as his defensive midfield enforcers and Oscar, Hulk and Ramires as his attacking midfield trio. That would exclude Neymar and reduce flair and creativity, and depend upon the counter-attack.

    Or he can go to the other extreme with Lucas and Romulo holding behind Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura, but that would optimise flair while leaving defensive risk.

    And I certainly don't share Jay Krishna's admiration for Hulk. He is an excessively muscle-bound lump who has momentum and power rather than speed or mobility. I would rather have Damiao or Pato as the number nine, and I'd rather have Lucas Moura or Ramires as the right-sided attacking midfielder.

  • Comment number 15.

    There's a distinction between light and "lightweight". The latter is usually a product of the player's environment. Brazil's young midfield talent aren't all drastically light, they're just used to playing in a lightweight league.

    With Oscar now in the EPL and Lucas soon joining PSG, they will get stronger. Ganso and Neymar both have the ability to do the same, they just need more experience (ie. move to Europe!)

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the difference between the Spanish and the Brazilian midfield is that the Spanish have players that can match anybody in physique; see Alonso and previously Marcus Senna. Whereas the Brazilians seem to be made up of complete lightweights. If improvements is not achieved in these coming months, I foresee Brazil struggling a lot even against the weaker European teams.

    @6 Yakubusdiet,
    As a Ghanaian, Brazil is the team i do not like us or any other African team to meet, not because they are better, but because African teams tend to feel inferior against Brazil even before a ball is kicked; see Ghana v Brazil 2006 and Ivory Coast v Brazil 2010. Ghana might play better against them, but I doubt we will be able to win even with the quality of players you mentioned.

    Essien will be available and good enough to star in the 2014 world cup, no doubt. He will be 31. Ghana's average age will still be younger than that of the 2006 successful Italy squad

  • Comment number 17.

    @16 kngjrdn

    My point about Essien was more about his fitness than his age. He has been injured for such a long time I don't think he will be able to rediscover the form he had a few years ago. I hope i'm wrong but I fear his career may nearly be over.

  • Comment number 18.

    There are so many players of similar ability from which Menezes has to pick 11. I think Brazil would be much better off if they had to play qualifying matches (assuming they would qualify).

    Oscar, Ramires and Thiago Silva are the only players I would have in without hesitation at the moment - I think Oscar will develop per the next two seasons, his touch is excellent, he sees passes at angles others don't and he gets stuck in. He's only 21 so should bulk up more too - hopefully he stays injury free.

    I'm unconvinced when it comes to Neymar, can see him stagnating, I think he should have moved to Europe before now, life in Brazil must be too good to let go of for him.

  • Comment number 19.

    If you were the manager of Brazil and were playing Spain in the World Cup Final tomorrow, what would your starting eleven be?

  • Comment number 20.

    At 11:05 24th sep. 2012, Falcaocerezo wrote:

    This is probably your best blog this year because it highlights a crucial point often overlooked by coaches in their pursuit of silverware i.e. a fluid midfield is the heartbeat of any successful and entertaining team. If the heartbeat is not in rhythm then the rest of the team will fall apart. A glaring example was the over-hyped Dutch team at Euro 12 - excellent forwards, decent defenders but two immobile midfielders failed to provide the connective tissue. In contrast, Spain imposed themselves on all-comers

    Sorry mate but if you are saying the dutch had a decent defense then i really want to know what euros you have seen?
    If you call an aging injury prone defender who plays for HSV (a team that had been leaking goals all season) as your best defender then you know you are in trouble.

    Problem with the dutch they are all good in attack but they have forgotten how to defend. They have a whole generation where no one is decent in the defensive department of the game. (and i am not the only saying that)

    That is why Van Gaal has thrown out the whole defense and has build a new defense with guys from 18-22 years old.

  • Comment number 21.

    Oscar looks promising but as is often the case with u21s that have had good games at a top level, there is too much hype. The boy has to bulk up a lot more and comparisons to Kaka at this stage are ridiculous. How many promising players have we seen that have become too big for their boots after a couple of good games? I fear the same will happen here, if he plays like he did against Juve for the rest of the season, then some people may have a point, but its far too early to judge.

  • Comment number 22.

    I believe Neymar and Ganso both need to move to European clubs sooner rather than later. It's interesting what a shift there's been over here towards players staying, as exemplified by Ganso this week, having been linked to top clubs all over, choosing to move just up the road. (Which I still can't really understand). Any ideas, Tim? I reckon it's down to a number of things but would be interested to hear other peoples' thoughts.

    1. Increased popularity of the league, going hand in hand with increased wages. (probably more the latter keeping players here though of course)

    2. More "big name" players coming over or returning. ie. Seedorf, Ronaldinho's success at Atlético, etc.

    3. Neymar (the Future Hope Of Brasil) himself staying, actually perpetuates this and influences other youngsters to do the same.

    4. Mano deliberately choosing youngsters for Seleção (ergo, more players that are still playing here) means they no longer hold that belief that they need to play abroad before getting picked.

    I'm sure there are other reasons. What it leads to, in my opinion, is an improved quality serie A for sure, but talented players that, on the international stage, lack the benefit of more rounded and higher level experience.

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with Tim but I just don't understand why neither Dunga nor Mano gave more opportunities to Hernanes. He is one of the most complete midfielders in the world. As Tim mentioned, this kind of players is so rare in Brazil.

    By the way, Romulo has just suffered a serious injury. Probably Hernanes would be given a fair chance.

  • Comment number 24.

    23 - bad news indeed about Romulo this weekend.
    Hernanes - an interesting case. One of the things I don't understand about the Menezes regime is the way he has (mis) used Hernanes - on the few occasions he has been picked he's usually been used wide - at the highest level he's not quick enough for that, and it wastes him. Hernanes strikes the ball wonderfully well with both feet, is mobile and can mark - ideal, I would have thought, for a central role - and probably a deeper one than the role he plays for Lazio.

  • Comment number 25.

    21 - too much hype on Oscar - very possibly, it's an easy trap to fall into. But the rate of his progress is very exciting.

  • Comment number 26.

    On the q and a thing about Mark Cook, the last para got lopped off - so here it is;

    I believe he played once more – a 3-0 defeat – and he has since lost his place because Llontop, the club’s senior keeper, is back after a lengthy injury lay off and has been playing well. For Mark Cook, then it’s going to be a test of skill, of character and also probably of linguistic ability. But Universitario are a massive club, so playing for them must be a great adventure.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oscar is a more complete player than Kaka.


    what an absurd statement! the kid hasnt even been on the scene 1 year and he's already better than Kaka, one of the best midfielders of his generation, with a trophy cabinet to boot.

    Please have a re-think

  • Comment number 28.

    At 15:48 24th Sep 2012, siralexferguson wrote:

    Oscar looks promising but as is often the case with u21s that have had good games at a top level, there is too much hype. The boy has to bulk up a lot more and comparisons to Kaka at this stage are ridiculous.

    Don't agree with that assessment. Why does he need to "bulk up a lot more"? There are quite a few slight players in the English Premier League now e.g. Silva and some diminutive e.g. Cazorla. They have had no problem adapting.

    As for comparisons with Kaka well there are similarities in style. It's obviously early days but Oscar seems to have all the attributes to become a world class attacking midfielder.

  • Comment number 29.

    the whole 'bulk up' theory is why the England team wont win a competition for years until they change this idea....

  • Comment number 30.

    Like I said, light does not equal lightweight.

    There's this myth that you can't be slight AND strong and accomplished enough on the ball to cope with a physical game.

  • Comment number 31.

    At 17:21 24th Sep 2012, signori wrote:

    the whole 'bulk up' theory is why the England team wont win a competition for years until they change this idea....

    Haha. I can just imagine Hodgson on Oscar now.

    "Yes the kid looks to have some talent but I can't put him in the team yet as he'll get knocked off the ball too easily. I've told him to go away and bulk up and i'll watch him again in a year..."

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry, but the critcisms that have been posted on these comments towards David Luiz is pathetic.

    The criticisms made towards him last season were ridiculously over the top and unfair to the extreme.

    Plenty of players made mistakes last season. And the fact remains that Luiz still has more all round ability and potential than 99% of CBs playing in Europe.

    On the ball he is terrific, possesses great vision. He has an excellent tackle, formidable in the air, and his 'lapses' in concentration are far less common than those on here imply.

    I'd much rather have him in my team than Phil Jones. A clear liability player.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Neymar should follow Oscar into the EPL but i think he may be wary after the Robinho experiment going wrong.

    The more Brazilians in the EPL the better. As long as they can stay on their feet.

    Shameful scenes in Ecuador at the weekend as the players, and especially the goalkeeper of Pelileo SC completely lost it and attacked the referee.

    follow links for a look.

  • Comment number 34.

    Excellent article and right on the button. Oscar is a delight to watch and he is so relaxed on the ball. Can score and is technically gifted and as we saw against Stoke if he can survive the EPL he can survive anything. He can even tackle. One of the most promising all rounders Brazil have had for a long time.
    As for the the comments about Luiz he is very young and is developing into a very good CB. There is no better training ground than the EPL for a CB. Nowhere is as tough or as fast so he will only get better.
    I hope that Brazil win the next WC they are a joy to watch and always have been.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oscar is turning out to be a good prospect and I would say he is turning out to be a good distributor of the ball, but Ganso is a better passer. In reality, Brazil would be better off with both of these guys on the pitch at the same time, and while I have not seen enough of Romulo to say he is good, he certainly is not the worst. I do think I would pick Sandro myself, simply because I am more acquainted.

    "For all the frequent disappointing results Brazil have had over the last two years, and for all the jeers aimed at coach Mano Menezes, there are grounds for optimism. The midfielder is back. Oscar is proof. So too is Romulo" - Said as if Mano Menezes had something to do with these two guys learning and developing their game, Mano certainly did not.

    "Then it all changed. Brazil became increasingly dependent on attacking full-backs." - Said as if the wing backs in the 4-2-4 did not attack. Nilton Santos and Djalma Santos pushed up and attacked when Brazil had the ball because they had to support the 2 man midfield. The 2 pontas were not going to do this, Zagallo would not drop back when his team had the ball, he would stay up. This statement also implies that Brazil did not depend on deep lying forwards either or forwards that came back to help, i.e. Ronaldo, Rivaldo.

    Also, the tone of this blog is optimistic with good reason but reality should have had a section in which with the current Brazil team, Oscar, Ganso, Romulo, whoever etc. can create however many chances they want because Brazil at the moment are a team that concede goals but cannot score them. This means that although having players like Oscar can be a good thing, they can be wasted on the current Brazil team of wasteful forwards and bad defenders and goalkeepers.

  • Comment number 36.

    BaggiosPT you seem to have a downer on Chelsea players. Luiz won the prem player of the month award when he first arrived and people thought he was a revelation because of his marauding runs. Fergie slags him off and all of a sudden the public perception changes. Jones and LUiz very similar, I though British Phil Jones was very naive at times and despite being at fault for several goals was still being hailed as the new Duncan Edwards whereas Luiz was a bufoon when caught out of position.

    Very few young CB's arrive in the premier from a foreign league and don't struggle early doors. After his poor performance against Sampdoria he was sensational; very disciplined, tactically aware, saw things early and is proactive rather than reactive and of course exciting going forward.Terry kept him disciplined and the Chelsea fans won't have a bad word said against him.

    The tackle on Saturday was poor, but name me a CH in the premier who hasn't made a bad tackle, it's inevitable when the game is played at such speed.

    Essien missed the first half of last season and was never given a run of games in the 2nd half of the season, tell me a player who could return impressively from such circumstances. Watching Essien against Man City last week there were signs of the old Essien, still ring rusty, but class is permenant. He will never be the box to box player he used to be, but I can see him still being outstanding in a deeper role.

  • Comment number 37.

    The picture reminds me of the famous one of Maradona v Belgium (literally) in Spain 82 although that picture may have been slightly contrived.

  • Comment number 38.

    On the subject of brazilian midfielders I was dissapointed of the exclusion of Shakhtar midfielder Fernandinho in the recent friendlies in favour of Ramires. I feel he's the perfect player brazil are looking for just in front of the back four acting as the attacking volante if you like.

    Anyone that has seen him play will know he pocesses much more creative and intelligent input to what Ramires will give in the middle of the park and had a great game when last picked against Bosnia possibly Brazils best player on the night ahead of more well known players who play in 'better' leagues. Very underated like most Brazilians plying their trade in Eastern Europe.

  • Comment number 39.

    At 20:41 24th Sep 2012, mark wrote:

    BaggiosPT you seem to have a downer on Chelsea players.

    I don't think I do.

    I don't rate Luiz and I think he is liable to cost Chelsea some points this year - whether it is getting sent off, conceding a penalty or being caught out of position. He is obviously comfortable on the ball and likes to drive forward when possible but the primary function of a defender is to defend and I don't think he does the basics consistently enough.

    I didn't buy into the hype around Jones last season. He had a few decent games for Man Utd and suddenly he was being touted as a future England captain. He will need to improve his positional play dramatically if he wants to establish a place in the Utd defence in the long run.

    As for Essien between 2005-08 he was definitely one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. Pace, power, excellent range of passes, good at tackling. He also scored some great goals from long range strikes. He was probably as influencial for Chelsea then as someone like Toure is for Man City now.

    I just think injuries have taken their toll and he will struggle to get his form back. I hope he gets a run of games for Madrid but with the midfielders they have I doubt it.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi BPT

    I hope you are wrong about Essien,after three interupted seasons it was always going to take time to get back to anywhere near his old self. He should be in his prime now and it would be a terrible shame if he was denied the chance to show what he can do. Any one of the three injuries would have ended his career 25 years ago and with modern advances in medicine there is still hope, he certainly would give Chelsea a different dimension to the cumbersome, clumsy and wasteful Mikel.

    We'll just have to differ regards Luiz. All defenders cost their team points at some time during the season, even Rio at his best had a tendancy to daydream. Ashley Cole has often been called the best left back in the world, but he was responsible for quite a few goals under AVB.It's the nature of the job, at times centre halves will be exposed or a second too slow in coming out. Under De Matteo when Chelsea abandoned their high line he was Chelsea's best defender and superb in the CL final.

  • Comment number 41.

    Post 20 - agree with your comments about the Dutch defense. It is still awful as was typified when they conceded 4 goals to Belgium in a friendly game. Okay so they beat Turkey 2-0 but it could have been 5-4 as the Turks did everything but score. Hungary, who Holland beat 4-1 away, were dismal. Negative and defensive and they never tried to come forward and the Ducth defense had an easy night. When your best defender is Heitinga then you know you have problems.!

  • Comment number 42.

    Oscar has been magnificent in the games that i have seen him. a real prospect and could be a vital player for brazil and chelsea. hopefully injuries stay away and dont jeopardise his career.

    On the Luiz comments; people will just find any excuse to slate a player they dont like due to the fact that he doesnt play for the team they support. luiz is a great defender, a commanding presence and terry has calmed him down while hes been at chelsea.
    and if people believe Luiz's tackle was reckless and deserved a red then what about evans in his challenge with shelvey? or how bout RVP when he only got a yellow for an identical challenge to luiz's against liverpool? why arent RVP or evans being slated as being liabilities or dangerous brutish thugs? what other challenge has luiz done that makes him so dangerous? hes a centre back, bad challenge happen. hypocrites need to jog on and stop having selective memory

  • Comment number 43.

    I don't think Luiz is a bad player.

    He is highly skilled and technically accomplished. Problem is, he has a reckless temperament, and I don't think that can ever be fully fixed, any more than Joey Barton's.

    So I stick by my earlier point, that with Marcelo and Luiz on the pitch the opposition is always still in the game.

  • Comment number 44.


    when has he been more reckless than your average centre back?

  • Comment number 45.

    My doubts about Luiz would be more to do with the fact that he is liable to lose concentration and wander out of position.

    If you need examples there have been many, the most recent perhaps the Super Cup V Athletico Madrid.

    In terms of wild tackles, I'm not 100% but I think this was his first sending off.

  • Comment number 46.

    @14 Yakubusdiet

    You claim that i wrongly admire Hulk, but in the Olympics final, once Hulk was sent on belatedly, he changed the game, Brazil were more forceful , had more chances, and unlike Neymar, Damiao or Pato, he is less wasteful and almost always gets his shot on goal. Also he scored their only goal at the end. He has pace and power and runs at defenders, they are afraid of touching him in the penalty area. He also has a fierce shot in him. Having watched him over some recent friendlies, i think Hulk is Brazil's best striker at the moment. In contrast Neymar is flashy but loses the ball too often with little end product.

    The Ronaldos and Rivaldos are gone now for Brazil. I just wish that Brazil had a manager that could organise their talented players into a proper playing unit, with a clear plan for winning games. They now need a settled team, better defenders and a steady goalkeeper. Time is running out...........

  • Comment number 47.

    RE 45 - I of course meant this would have been his first red card!

  • Comment number 48.

    @40 mark

    I suppose there is a temptation to judge a player who has come back from injury on his form before the injury. That is sometimes unfair because they may have lost a yard of pace etc. I think i'm judging Essien on the player he was 2005-08 which he will probably never be again. Perhaps if he adjusts his game he can be as effective as he was in his heyday in a slightly deeper role.

    Luiz was magnificent in the CL final along with Cole who also stood out. A great demonstration of top quality defending.

  • Comment number 49.

    Hi Tim,

    Always a reader but never commented. I've always felt that Mano has his midfield 2 already picked for the World Cup, I'd be surprised if it isnt Lucas Leiva and Ramires, with Lucas sitting and Ramires rampaging up and down. This would allow Dani Alves and Marcelo (who should be the full backs) to have the full flanks whilst Neymar and the up for grabs right sided position (Hulk/Moura/etc) could cut inside and support Damiao.

    I would have thought Hernanes would be competing for the '10' position with Oscar and Ganso. No?

    I'm very inclined to think that Mano has only a few spots up for discussion in his team but is really looking at seeing which of the younger players can fill squad spots. As a first XI i can't see a stronger one (minus the ?'s which are places up for grabs)

    Alves Silva Luiz Marcelo
    Leiva Ramires
    ? ? Neymar

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 Ash

    Surely Oscar is guaranteed to start for Brazil - especially if he maintains the form he has shown so far for Chelsea.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hah. Nothing is guaranteed where Mano Menezes is concerned!

  • Comment number 52.

    I hope you're right Tim. there is no reason why the all rounder can't make a return. I think equally important though, is that these guys are given the opportunity to shine in the role. Being a Liverpool fan I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Lucas Leiva a few years ago. He arrived as a box-to-box midfielder - an all rounder if you will. He was quickly shoehorned into a role as a defensive midfielder. He struggled initially and has grown into the role admirably, but I do feel there is the question of 'What if?' with him.

  • Comment number 53.

    @50 BaggiosPonytail

    Oscar has started off very well mate. We'll have to see what Mano thinks and how well Oscar continues his progression, Ganso has just moved to Sao Paulo and I think he is a competitor for that role but he always seems to fall short.

    As good as Romulo is I don't think he's a notch on Lucas Leiva nor Ramires in midfield and won't be by the time 2014 comes round. I'd even put a bet on Leiva being the captain at 2014 (one of Mano's favourites when he managed at Gremio (anderson of Man Utd was another!)).

    who are the Goalkeeping contenders?

    Right hand side is between Hulk and Moura I'd say, Moura's got a season and a half at PSG (once he arrives in January) to displace Hulk I'd say. Can't think of any others coming through or playing at present (Willian from Shakthar aside) who could take that role.

    Tactically that midfield duo and the 2 flying full backs makes perfect sense. It worked last year when Leiva and Ramires were paired together brilliantly against Ukraine and a few other friendlies, Lucas then got injured and it pretty much went to crap for Mano.

  • Comment number 54.

    @53 Ash

    Yeah it will be interesting to see. I always like to see a exciting Brazil team - i've fond memories of the teams of 94, 98 and 02.

    For me it is all about having balance in the team. They have loads of skilful players (if only England could have a couple of those now) but in recent years have been disjointed. It almost seemed to be a case of put all of the exciting attacking players you have in one team and they will win.

    In international football now it's not really about talented individuals, it's about how players complement each other in a team. This is why Spain have prospered because they all completely buy into the style of play.

  • Comment number 55.


    Can you tell me what happened to Daniel Carvalho, once of CSKA and Palmeiras? I watched him once in Moscow and saw him destroy Argentina at The Emirates, London. Great prospect and then he vanished after an injury. Is he another Denilson?

    You make a great point, albeit in passing, about the conversion of a centre back to an effective midfield foil. You cite Gilberto Silva as an excellent example but there are many others - Frank Rijkaard, Emmanuel Petit, Marcel Desailly, Mauro Silva, Ruud Krol, Paul Breitner, Paul McGrath to name a few. Brazil are blessed with a number of technically adept centre and left backs who can transition to this problem role, especially with Romulo injured. These options need to be explored before it is too late. Relying on Sandro and L. Leiva is a grave mistake. Neither is up to the task. Sandro can't even impress at a hum-drum club like Spurs !. As for Leiva, they don't play football at Liverpool anymore. I don't see what value he will bring from Anfield except his usual misplaced passes and high octane, ineffectual huffing and puffing.

    Most neutrals want to see a strong Brazil - and Argentina - at WC 2014 because they provide a creative counter-foil to the formulaic football of European teams. However, Menezes is out of his depth and I will be surprised if he is still in his role by summer 2013.

    #8 - I did mean David Luiz, thanks. He is a top 10 CB in the EPL despite his limitations.

    #20 - Holland have NEVER produced good defenders in droves. Even the celebrated 70's and 88-2000 sides had one or two per era i.e. Krol, Rijkaard, R. Koeman, Blind, Stam, and R. De Boer. The rest were decent, hard working guys. If their 2012 defense was so bad why were they rated a tournament favourite? Heitinga and co were average, except the young left back, but many countries don't even have that. How does Phil Jones compare ? He is another over-hyped English bag of wet beans.

  • Comment number 56.

    David Luiz is overhyped. Gary Cahill is a better defender and in my opinion, better at coming out with the ball. Luiz is prone to frequent lapses of concentration and poor judgement. His best games have come when circumstances dictate he sticks to his designated role as a central defender and not some latter day Matthias Sammer libero.

    As for Oscar, its early days. Even against Juventus, other than the goals (which of course were important), he failed to impose himself in the midfield. He seems to be playing himself into the Chelsea side, which is fine considering he has just joined the team. Comparing him to the mid 2000's Kaka who dominated games and was the heartbeat of a successful Milan side is very premature. Kaka glided through games with intent and purpose, very much a decider rather than a cog in the wheel. Oscar could become that but he's not there yet.

    Hollands problem at the Euro's was their non existent midfield. Twas like there were two disparate units on the field masquerading as a one. Once a Dutch attack broke down there was an avenue leading to their beleagured defence. Similarly Chelsea suffers from a midfield paucity. And the blame should be blamed at feet of Mikel as everyone is wont to do but rather the lack of a defensive midfield partner, or deep lying midfielder to patrol that area of the pitch with him. Frank Lampard has been woeful in that role, lacking the discipline to stay back or be within passing range, staying forward like it was 2005 and he was supposed to be main goal threat in the team and basically not contributing to the defensive or offensive structure if the new Chelsea team.

  • Comment number 57.

    *Should not be blamed at Mikel

  • Comment number 58.

    David Luiz is class. The critics must have watched a different CL than I did.

    Oscar *is* far more complete than Kaka.

    Some may say being complete makes him better midfielder, and I agree. Now, in my mind, Kaka was a mediocre midfielder, but a great attacker. He has always been subpar when dropping back to organize and control the flow.

    Now, asode from the two goals against Juve, do not expect Oscar to score as many goals as Kaka has. Kaka has the penetration, the height, and (used to) the strength to plow through defenses. I don't think Oscar will ever be able to do that, but I prefer in the middle actually.

  • Comment number 59.

    Ultimately reputations are made and lost at the World Cup.

    Di Stefano was probably the equal of Maradona and Pele, but his CV missed a World Cup and so in popular estimation he probably lags behind Cruyff, Beckenbauer and possibly even Michael Laudrup, who outside the UK is bracketed with Cruyff and Beckenbauer.

    And Kaka never imposed himself upon a World Cup, and consequently is not even widely viewed as the equal of Enzo Scifo or Hristo Stoitchkov, let alone Rivaldo or Zidane.

  • Comment number 60.

    @59 yakubusdiet

    I don't think that is strictly true. Even if Messi and Ronaldo do not have a major impact on the next two World Cups they will still be regarded as greats of the game.

  • Comment number 61.

    I've just logged back in to reply to Falcao Cerezo

    You obviously don't watch the Premier League, nor football in general, your observations are those of what sounds like a Sun article. In particular those about Sandro and Lucas. Sandro has displaced 'Brave' Scott Parker and is very adept with the ball and very good at tackling. Lucas you do an ever bigger discredit to with absolute crap written like this - "As for Leiva, they don't play football at Liverpool anymore. I don't see what value he will bring from Anfield except his usual misplaced passes and high octane, ineffectual huffing and puffing."

    Misplaced passes? Haha, the player who completed the most passes in the Premier League at the highest percentage the season before last and also the player who made the most tackles in any of the top 5 european leagues. He was also the only player last season to stop Yaya Toure and David silva having an effect on a match.
    The number of duels he is involved in and the number of attacks he starts are ridiculous, you should go and ask Paul Scholes, Michael Essien and Yaya who the most competitive midfielder they've played against in recent times ;)

    Just to disprove that you actually have any knowledge of football, some stats about the guy that keeps passing the ball away to the opposition, something that was easy to google.

    A comparison above with other defensive midfielders before his injury

    And above is a great in depth analysis after his injury last season.

    Now for Sandro, here is why he has displaced Parker.

    Enjoy. Just because these 2 are not Rivaldo, Ronaldo or Romario it does not mean that they are vital players in their teams. Brazil would not have won world cup's without players like Dunga, Mauro Silva, Gilberto, Clodoaldo and Gerson.

  • Comment number 62.

    Tim, where are you based? I am just north of Floripa and for my sins a Figueirense fan. Always interested in your blog as I love the Brasilerao. Just watching on Globo now about tonights cracker, Flamengo x Atl MG. Should be explosive. Red Card a cert.

  • Comment number 63.

    YES, He stood for Brazil at Olympics. He will become as influence for Chelsa.

  • Comment number 64.

    # 61 Stats never tell the full story and can be skewed to reflect a preferred point of view. If we relied on stats then Swansea should have been up there with City, Arsenal and United based on completed passes blah blah blah and Dunga should have been the best defensive midfielder at WC 90 based on tackles/interceptions etc.

    Displacing "brave" Scotty Parker is not much of an achievement. I can never understand why the English equate bravery and effort with ability. Throwing yourself into tackles and in front of every shot or pass does not make you talented. It simply shows that you carry a strong gene from warrior ancestors - Barbarians, Celts, Vikings, Romans, Normans etc.

    Scotty Parker is an admirable, hard working, decent guy but he is not a bench mark. Slow, "old" Andrea Pirlo yanked him around like a puppet master just a few months ago. I felt sorry for the guy. The fact is Sandro cannot hold down a place at Spurs despite lightweight competition. As for Leiva, you cite two sets of stats - highest percentage of completed passes in EPL and most tackles in Europe. My question for you Einstein is - over how many games and against what opposition ? It is easy to generate fantastic stats playing against lowly, kick-and-rush EPL teams than against high quality opposition. Even your own links (above) show other players with better stats. Did you actually review the stats or do you need spectacles ? Had a few too many ? Need a calculator ?

    Please take the time to watch English teams against mid-ranking continental teams in the Europa League. You will notice (if you have your glasses on and haven't imbibed too much) that the continental teams use the ball better, make more passes, close down space better and hence have less of a need to dive into tackles. Hence, your stats about Leiva making the most tackles in Europe speaks volumes about the ineptitude of his team. You tackle more because your team cannot keep the ball - Einstein !!!

    If you actually read my comment you will note that I lauded both Mauro Silva and Gilberto Silva as shining examples of the anchor-midfield role, as is their compatriot Marcos Senna (now a naturalized Spaniard). Gerson was never a defensive midfielder although he did drop deep from time to time in the course of a match. I wonder when you started watching football?

    I repeat - Sandro and L. Leiva are nowhere near the level of their predecessors and are not up the task at international level. They are ok against Reading, WBA and the like. Don't use ageing players like Essien and Scholes as your litmus test.

  • Comment number 65.

    The problem is sir, you did not read either of the articles which put the stats into context. Essien was 26 and 27 respectively when he got outplayed by Lucas, I like how you don't even mention yaya toure or Silva as being accomplished opponents, but I guess that would not render your stupid argument in your favour.

    Oh and if you're going to use shaming language regarding Gerson (who was a midfielder) you should look at your own posts, Ronald De Boer a centre back? What parallel universe are you living in?

    Now the coup de grace of your post.

    First off, you state Lucas only has a high pass completion because he plays against lowly PL teams all the time.

    Second you state, Lucas has to make more tackles because his team cannot keep the ball.

    Which one is it Einstein? Because if you werent such a ____tard, you'd realise point one and point two contradict each other. Either Lucas and his team are keeping the ball to a high level and making a lot of passes, or they are not and Lucas is running around and making the most tackles, most challenges, interceptions and headers in the midfield third of the pitch.

    So come on Einstein? which is it? sit down boy until you can actually make a coherent argument which doesnt contradict itself.

  • Comment number 66.

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

  • Comment number 67.

    I have to say that he is a wonderfully gifted and relaxed player. His movement is poetry and he has a decisive attitude and isn't afraid to shoot at first sight. However, his real talent is he thinks three or four moves ahead and doesn't have a problem adapting to plan b if he fails.
    Chelsea have another equally talented but more attacking Brazilian in the guise of Piazon, this guy is closer to Kaka and equally intelligent, graceful and potent.
    Ramires may be now forced into the role of protector, hunter-destroyer, and problem solver in midfield as he is quick, tough and has the stamina of a wolf.
    Luiz sitting further back is raw but incredibly gifted for a central defender, knows how to handle himself, can score and possesses an elegant touch. His one downfall is that he sometimes forgets that he isn't an attacking midfielder. This will subside with time and Chelsea will be left with a man the equal of Carvalho at the very least.
    It would be nice if one of Chelsea's younger English players could harness some of this Brazilian flair and composure or the energy and vision of Mata and Hazard.
    MacEachran looks a possibility, as does Bertrand and Cahill will become a tough no nonsense defender every bit worthy of Terry, which every team needs.
    My only worry is that many English players don't seem to possess the same joy for the game as they are stifled by over-coaching and power hungry tacticians.
    Chelsea has a bright future and BRazil is very much a part of it!

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 Has it occurred to you that a player can rack up high stats in a limited number of games against sub-par opposition but still be atrocious against quality opposition? And that a player can spend an entire game diving into tackles because he or his team cannot keep the ball ? The contradiction is only in your warped logic.

    If we follow your "stats" and warped observations then L. Leiva is a more accomplished midfield anchor than Busquets, De Rossi, Xabi, and Schweinsteiger beacause he makes "more tackles than any other player in Europe". Are you on this planet? These guys don't need to lunge into tackles or throw themselves about because their teams tend to keep the ball better than most of their opponents. Do you want me to draw you a map or write in a larger font ? Even a five year old will get this point in a flash and not see any "contradiction".

    A little history for you: Gerson was a classy offensive player. I merely stated that he was not a DEFENSIVE midfielder. Please READ !!!! In the lead up to WC 70 there were strong doubts that Pele, Rivelino, Tostao and Gerson could play in the same team because they played in essentially the same position.

    Your point about De Boer is taken. I was referring to F. de Boer and not his twin brother Ronald. Silva is essentially an offensive player and is not relevant to this discussion. Toure is in a class of his own - a latter day Frank Rijkaard. I can't discuss him and L. Leiva. There is no basis for comparison.

    Do yourself a favour - if you were too young to have seen the games please watch a few videos of Dirceu in 81-82, Dunga in 90, Emerson pre-02, and Melo in 2010 for some education on some of Brazil's mishaps caused by defensive midfielders.

    Lucas and Sandro may yet mature - but they are some way off and time is of the essence for the Selecao. If you grew up on a diet of Hughes, Hansen, Lawrenson, St. John, Keegan, Heighway, Toshack, Barnes, Dalglish, Lee, Rush, Beardsley, Fowler,and McAllister to name a few, you will admit that beloved Liverpool are now adrift.

  • Comment number 69.

    # 65 I hope you are not just another troll. No more replies from me.


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