Clashes between Primera Liga giants
Barcelona and Real Madrid will have a distinctly Brazilian flavour this
Barcelona, or "Brasilona" as some commentators have christened them,
have six Brazilian-born players on their books including world player of
the year Ronaldinho, defender Juliano Belletti and midfielder Deco, who
hails from Sao Bernardo do Campo but now plays international football
Real have four in their squad -- Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Julio Baptista
and the spectacular youngster Robinho -- and former national team boss
Vanderlei Luxemburgo is in charge of the team.
The nine-times European champions have also secured an option on
Brazilian international defender Cicinho, who is expected to join the
club from Sao Paulo during the January transfer window.
It is not just in Spain that Brazilians have made their mark; the
Italian, German, English, French and Russian leagues have all looked to
the South American country for new players.
"In almost every country teams have been hiring Brazilians and I don't
think it is just a passing fashion," Ronaldinho told Reuters in an
interview. "I think Brazilians do a good job and have brought good
results with them so that makes them very interesting for teams like
Barcelona and Real Madrid."
There was a time when having a Brazilian in your squad was a rarity,
something of an exotic indulgence. Brazilians' famous "saudade", or
yearning for home, made them uncertain investments and many clubs
preferred not to take the risk.
The success of Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, however, all of whom played
for Barcelona in the 1990s, helped to pave the way for an ever
increasing number of their compatriots to make the move to Europe.
Not only were Brazilian players often available at a far lower price
than European counterparts but their presence on the pitch was usually a
guarantee of the sort of entertainment that would bring fans flocking
Juninho's influence at Middlesbrough was a prime example. The diminutive
Brazilian became a hero on Teesside for his skill, commitment and
dedication to the cause, even if the trophies did not materialise.
Ronaldinho has performed a similar role at Barcelona. Joining the
Catalans in July 2003 from Paris St German when the club was in a crisis,
he became the catalyst for their revival.
He scored 14 league goals in his first campaign and inspired the club to
a 17-game unbeaten run which lifted them to second place in the title
race. The following season he helped to guide them to their first league
title in six years.
"I think Brazilians have a different style that attracts football fans
and the public in general," says Ronaldinho.
"But what I think attracts teams most about Brazilians is that they can
help bring trophies to the club. Brazilians are experiencing success and
that is why doors are opening here in Europe."
Brazil and Barcelona team mate Belletti agreed. "It was different in the
past, Brazilians came to Europe and couldn't adapt," he said.
"It was more difficult then, but now that Brazilians are helping their
teams win trophies, that motivates them to sign more Brazilians."
The success of the national team is another incentive for European clubs
to look to Brazil. The five-times world champions have already booked
their place in next year's World Cup and, unlike four years ago, they
have qualified with ease.
Their spectacular attacking style and array of talent have already drawn
comparisons with the great team that won the 1970 World Cup.
The latest high-profile Brazilian to make the switch to Europe is
Robinho, the 21-year-old prodigy who helped to steer Santos to two
Brazilian championships in 2002 and 2004.
With his dizzying "pedaladas" (step-overs) and limitless repertoire of
ball skills, Real Madrid are hoping their new recruit will help them to
win a first trophy in three seasons as well as allowing them to match
Barcelona in the entertainment stakes.
"He's a huge player," said Ronaldinho. "He's a great friend and I wish
him all the luck in the world and hope he can go far."
Belletti sounded a note of caution, saying that a move to Europe was not
always a guarantee of success.
"Robinho has the ingredients to be one of the best players in the world,"
he said. "He has personality, he is in the Brazil national team and now
is at Real Madrid, but when Denilson came here he was in almost the same
situation as many thought he could become the best player in the world."
Denilson, touted as one of the country's most talented players when he
joined Real Betis for a world-record $35 million in 1998, sank without
trace in Spain and has recently been loaned out to French side Bordeaux
in an attempt to resurrect his career.
"Robinho's advantage is that he has a Brazilian coach in Luxemburgo,"
said Belletti. "He knows him and he coached him before and the fact that
he will play alongside people he knows like Ronaldo will also help him a