Despite once being deemed too physically challenging and technically unrefined, the number of Brazilian footballers playing in the Premier League has increased year-on-year. Their captivating flare and technical quality has wowed English footballing crowds while stories of their individual successes have created unprecedented levels of interest back in their homeland.
Club: Chelsea (2007–2010)
Dependable, a tireless work ethic and with the occasional flash of Brazilian brilliance in his locker courtesy of his lethal right foot, the right-back-come-utility player (occasionally deployed on the right-wing or as a defensive midfielder) may not have been one of The Blues most glamour transfers in years gone by but he was arguably one of the most underrated players at Stamford Bridge. A regular starter under Avram Grant, his place in the starting XI became uncertain with the arrival of new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and FC Porto’s José Bosingwa at the start of the 2008–2009 season. Nonetheless, his versatility, reliability and experience was to prove vital in the following season when Chelsea went on to record an FA Cup and Barclays Premier League double.
Finest Moment: Winner of Chelsea’s Goal of the Season Award (2007–2008)
Where is he now? Retired
Club: Arsenal (2001–2005)
Despite a slow start to his Arsenal career, which was tarnished by an injury on his debut, the following seasons would see him gradually mature and become an increasingly important squad member. The central-midfielder’s form peaked in the 2003–2004 season when he was seen an integral part of the ‘Invincibles’ team. Whilst he was strong and combative in defence, he also showed an offensive edge to him, attacking from deep with the ball and acting as the catalyst for Arsenal counter-attacks. The midfielder helped the club to win 2 Barclays Premier Leagues and 3 FA Cups, the last in 2005. The Gunners haven’t won a trophy since his departure.
Finest Moment: A stunning midfield performance during Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition of Internazionale at the San Siro in the UEFA Champions League Group Stages (25th November 2003)
Where is he now? Director of Football at Corinthians
Club: Manchester City (2007–2009)
Upon his arrival at Eastlands in 2007, the attacking midfielder made a blistering start under the then manager Sven-Göran Eriksson. He was dominant at the heart of the City midfield, noted in particular for his accurate passing, telepathic vision and, above all, precise set pieces which gained him notoriety amongst the City faithful. The Brazilian was the creative outlet for the side, and his first season saw him return with 10 goals and as many assists in all competitions. But with the resignation of Eriksson and subsequent arrival of Mark Hughes, his role in the first team slowly diminished. Nonetheless, his versatility ensured that he always remained an important squad member until his move to Turkish club Galatasaray in 2009.
Finest Moment: A superb free-kick against Newcastle United in the Barclays Premier League on his debut (29th September 2007)
Where is he now? Santos
Club: Middlesbrough (1995–1997, 1999–2000 and 2002–2004)
Arguably the greatest Brazilian to grace the English game, The Little Fella, as he came to be known at the Riverside Stadium, produced some of the most exciting football ever seen at the club with his close control, wonderful range of passing and offensive style. His effectiveness in the attacking midfield position helped the club reach the FA Cup and League finals in 1997 and saw him come runner-up in the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award. His humbleness and love for the Teeside outfit was confirmed when, after having helped the club win the Carling Cup in 2004, he stated that the win meant more to him than winning the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Brazil.
Finest Moment: Voted by Middlesbrough fans as Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player (December 2007)
Where is he now? President of Ituano
Club: Arsenal (2002–2008)
For six seasons he was Arsenal’s unsung hero, providing tactical stability, leadership and acting as a magnificent defensive shield in front of the back four. His excellent understanding of the game and calmness was trumped by his effortless simplicity with the use of the ball, which set him apart from his counterparts. Whilst the likes of Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Patrick Vieira provided power, creativity and grace, the experienced Brazilian seamlessly broke up opposition moves that consequently instigated countless numbers of counter-attacks that the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp duly thrived on. His premature departure from the club in 2008 left a gaping hole in the Arsenal midfield that has arguably only now been tightened up with the emergence of central-midfielder Alex Song.
Finest Moment: Winning the Premier League as part of the ‘Invincibles’ Team (2004)
Where is he now? Grêmio