Spain and Italy used to be the first destination for talented Brazilians but many are choosing the previously un-fancied Premier League for their Europe debuts
Besides a few exceptions, the English Premier League never used to be a preferred destination for Brazilian players in Europe. However, over the past four years this trend has been changing, and very quickly. Today, some of the best Brazilians ply their trade in England.
Brazilians used to be considered flops more often than not in England, and the examples are many, from 2002 World Cup winner Kléberson who was a massive failure at Manchester United, to the likes of Anderson also at United, Diego Cavalieri at Liverpool, Paulinho at Tottenham, Julio Baptista and Denilson at Arsenal, and most notably Robinho at Manchester City. They are players who arrived with very high expectations, but were massive disappointments by the time they left.
However, there were rare exceptions in the past such as Juninho Paulista. The little man was magical during his time at Middlesbrough, winning the Football League Cup back in 2004, but most importantly becoming the first and only Brazilian to have ever been crowned as the best player in the EPL, achieving that accolade in 1997.
Another famous example from the past would quite certainly be Gilberto Silva, who wrote history with Arsenal in their ‘Invincible’ season in 2003/2004.
There have been successful Brazilians in the past, but what is most evident is that the Ronaldo’s, Rivaldo’s, and Ronaldinho’s never chose England as their destination. The most skillful Brazilians always opted for the Netherlands, Spain or Italy, with the perception towards them from England being that they were more about showing-off more than anything else.
At the same time, the top Brazilian stars were not as interested in going to the Premier League as much as they are today. So this new interest is mutual between both parties. If Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were active footballers today instead of 15 years ago, would they have played at least once in England during their career? The answer today is much closer to yes than it would have been back in time. And this is the essential point.
Who was the pioneer of this change? It is difficult to award it to just one player, because Juninho did more than any other Brazilian in England, however, this movement only came a decade after he hung up his boots.
The reason behind it is probably a group of players combined. Juninho proved that skillful Brazilian wizards could deliver, when England was more physical and less technical. So it was no surprise to see Willian, Philippe Coutinho, Felipe Anderson, Richarlison, Bernard, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and others, succeed in England.
The attackers had to wait until the end, but Brazilian midfielders had already achieved success with Juninho, Gilberto Silva, and Ramires, who scored an all-important goal at the Camp Nou for Chelsea. Fernandinho became a lock in Man City’s midfield, as well as Lucas Leiva who was a fan-favorite for Liverpool. Meanwhile, defenders like Alex and David Luiz had already proven their success at Chelsea, and even Fabio Aurelio to a certain extent at Anfield, prior to his injuries woes.
Today, England is the ideal place for young Brazilian attackers. a decade ago, they would have been labeled as show-off merchants, but it is very difficult for British press to keep entertaining this narrative, when some of the best forwards in the league come from the land of the South American giants.