Just ten games to go, six teams with a very realistic chance of winning the title and at least five clubs all desperately battling to avoid relegation to the second tier of Brazilian Club Football – undoubtedly making this the most intriguing, unpredictable and wide open Campeonato Brasileiro Série A for many years. Between now and the final set of matches on 4th December 2011, much can change at both ends of the table and the spotlight will fall on ten players who could have a large say in those proceedings.
Eron (Atlético Mineiro)
Brazil has a longstanding tradition of attacking Full backs and the 19-year-old looks to be on his way towards becoming part of an illustrious group of players that includes the likes of Cafu and Roberto Carlos. He’s already represented the Brazilian National Team at Youth Levels and has made an impression in the few games that he has started – ahead of the more experienced Leandro Silva – under manager Cuca. The Left back boasts an excellent turn of pace and is always willing to get forward as often as he can, posing all sorts of problems for defenders.
Dedé (Vasco da Gama)
Whilst both Diego Souza and Elton have been providing the firepower upfront for current leagueleaders Vasco da Gama, 23-year-old Dedé has been a rock in defense for the Gigante da Colina. Since moving from Villa Rio last season, the centre back has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as a fans favourite, linked with the likes of Valencia CF and, most recently, being called up by National Team coach Mano Menezes to A Seleção. Nonetheless, he faces stiff competition from the likes of Internazionale’s Lúcio, AC Milan’s Thiago Silva and Chelsea’s David Luiz.
Lucas (São Paulo)
One of the most exciting prospects in Brazilian football, the 19-year-old attacking midfielder is already seen as a fundamental part of the São Paulo team and has already been likened to the club’s previous stars, Kaká and Júlio Baptista. He provides much needed balance in the Tricolor’s midfield come attack and is always keen to use his speed and trickery to tease defenders. He’s already made his impact on the National Set-Up by appearing in the Copa America and scoring one of the goals in Brazil recent victory over Argentina in the Superclásico de las Américas.
Establishing himself as an attacking midfielder and somewhat of a freekick specialist, the 22-year-old is key to the creative thread in the Botafogo team. The Brazilian has scored eight goals this season from his position and has been important in feeding through balls to striker Herrera. He’s not afraid to demonstrate his skills, especially through his trademark chapéu, that of flicking the ball over another player’s head. His stock is continuing to rise and he’s being tracked by a number of European clubs, so much so that Portuguese club S.L. Benfica have already bought 50% of his rights.
Thomás Jaguaribe Bedinelli (Flamengo CF)
The teenager, who came up through the ranks at Flamengo CF, is still yet to make his big break in Brazilian football however his fearlessness, willingness to attack the opposition and persistant determination to run after the ball, are already all very positive traits. Flamengo CF’s coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, formerly of Real Madrid, has gained a reputation for giving young players a chance and he has acted no differently in the case of Bedinelli. He still has a while to settle in and the recent renewal of his contract until 2016 is proof of this.
Like São Paulo’s Lucas, Oscar is very much seen to be a part of Brazil’s future, in particular the squads for the FIFA World Cup Finals in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. The attacking midfielder first won plaudits for his excellent displays for the Brazilian U-20 team at the Under-20 World Cup in Columbia earlier this year, which coincidentally Brazil won for the fifth time. Since then, the 20-year-old has become an important part of the Internacional set-up. He has worked on refining his shooting technique as well continuing to improve his ability to keep possession.
Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos)
Technically gifted, strong on the ball and with terrific vision to pick out a killer pass, the tall Santos man is widely being tipped to be fill the number 10 role in the Brazilian National Team – a role which nobody is yet to make their own. He has shown great maturity in the last few Campeonatos however his ability to perform on the big stage is still being called into question. He does require time on the ball to pick his pass and one would be concerned if he was put under pressure from the opposition.
Wellington Nem (Fluminense)
Farmed out to Figueirense by parent club Fluminense, the 19-year-old has really shot to prominence this season. Playing just in the hole behind or sometimes alongside experienced striker Júlio César has given the youngster a lot of confidence. He has the ability to get away from his markers and is very attack minded. He likes to pick up the ball from deep and go on marauding runs – something that causes the opposition many problems. The Brazilian is nimble on his feet and is always a danger when in the opposition box, as he possesses a lethal finish.
On the lips of all Brazilian football fans, Neymar is quite simply a special talent. His speed – which is blistering – and change of direction, dragging defenders from side to side, can be breathtaking. He’s ubiquitous in Brazil – appearing on television adverts, billboards and magazine covers. Nonetheless, he’s gained a reputation for courting controversy, in particular over accusations of him diving. The striker has been, for many years now, subject of intense interest from a number of big European outfits, including Real Madrid and Chelsea. However, he has declared he will not leave Santos before the summer of 2012.
Leandro Damião (Internacional)
A name familiar to fans of Tottenham Hotspur, with whom the tall Internacional striker has been linked with for many months, Damião has made a big impact in Brazil since being given the number 9 shirt by coach Dorival Júnior. The Brazilian played a crucial role in leading the line during the club’s successful run to victory in the 2010 Copa Libertadores. He made his debut for the Brazilian National Team earlier this year against Scotland and will be looking to cement down a regular place in the starting line-up alongside Santos’ Neymar and Flamengo CF’s Ronaldinho.