English Clubs Must Stop Seeing Brazil As Football's Dark Continent

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Oscar of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Reading at Stamford Bridge on August 22, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The myth that buying Brazilian represents a gamble in the Premier League is dying at last.

Whenever a foreign player arrives in the Premier League, particularly one perceived to dabble in such sorcery as dribbling, or passing, the first crunching tackle they receive is invariably greeted by commentators and pundits with a gleeful "Welcome to the Premier League!" This is because, of course, the likes of Italy, Argentina and Uruguay don't produce their own cut-throats and hatchet-men. Diego Lugano? Rotherham born and bred.

This nonsense is the last residue of the ancient myth of English exceptionalism. A country which continually sees itself as punching below its weight with its own talent, whose every tournament exit is followed by weeks of maudlin soul-searching. To cope with the deficit between expectation and reality, a mentality of paranoid parochialism has been formed. A false dichotomy is presented: skill, flair, and vision on one side, and reliability, honesty, and work-rate on the other. The subsequent fallacy is obvious and comforting - England utterly fails to achieve the former, and therefore it must surely exemplify the latter.

Accordingly, Brazil has always been seen as football's dark continent in England - here be solidity and reliability, there be mad goalkeepers, kamikaze defenders, and insubordinate fancy-dans. The exceptionalist myth once again is trotted out upon any player who fails to live up to expectation, as though the Premier League is the only competition in the world which players have underperformed in.

So, who are the supposed Premier League ‘flops'? Kleberson, a player who was a water-carrier at international level whose performance in England was underrated. Roque Junior, a player with gaping weaknesses which were covered by a superb Brazil side but not by a crumbling Leeds United. Robinho, a player scuppered by hype, expectation, and misuse, who has a strike-rate at Milan virtually identical to his time at Manchester City. The list goes on, and the same patterns emerge - players whose availability should've served as a warning-sign rather than an opportunity, simple bad buys. Brazilians who have been spectacular before and after their Premier League spell are notable by their absence. Allowances are not made for other circumstances - it would be as ridiculous as citing Ronaldinho as evidence of Brazilian players being ill-suited to Serie A.

In contrast, the biggest success story from Brazil to the Premier League is undoubtedly ‘The Little Fella', Juninho. Not only a man who built a relationship between club and player rarely found in the most partisan of home-grown talents (he famously declared that winning the League Cup with Middlesbrough meant more to him than winning the World Cup with Brazil), but also the most diminutive, the most lightweight, the most elaborate of them all. And all this in an earlier, less forgiving and less technical age of English football. The sample size is too small to draw definitive conclusions, but his excellence where the likes of Julio Baptista bombed suggest that South American light-footed flair is not in diametric opposition to the Premier League establishment.

Fortunately, this mentality appears to be changing - Chelsea were prepared to make a considerable outlay for Oscar, and Manchester United seemed willing to pay an astronomical fee for Lucas Moura. The extent to which similar transfers have been sheer gambles is disputable, but it's undoubtedly less true now than ever before - Brazil is simply a better league than it was even five years ago. Clubs are richer, and hang onto their talents for longer. If the likes of Neymar and Ganso were born a few years earlier, they'd have left Brazil far earlier. Rare successful shots-in-the-dark from European clubs for young Brazilian talent aside, this is to everyone's benefit: The player is not forced into a move before he is ready, and can develop his talent in a good and competitive league. The Brazilian club gets to keep their star player for longer. The European club know they have a player who can perform at a high level. Brazilian fans get a better and less depressing league to enjoy.

This is to be celebrated, of course. Transfers aren't scuppered by an unseen, mystical force which exists in the Premier League and nowhere else, they're the result of just not thinking transfers through properly. There are differences between the two leagues, clearly, but they are not insurmountable: for example, Sir Alex Ferguson overcame the significant contrast between typical full-back play in Brazil and England by signing Rafael Da Silva at a younger age and introducing him to first-team duties slowly. The 22-year-old is now a full international, whose game has been sufficiently Anglicised whilst still retaining his powerful and exciting forward play.

English clubs should not, therefore, be surprised when they are expected to pay for emerging talent at a premium, but nor should they be discouraged. The stronger the Brazilian league becomes, the more reliable an indicator it can be, and at present the potential hazards of the market are at least no greater than the likes of The Netherlands and Portugal. The prices have increased because the risks have diminished. The pipedreams of signing the next Ronaldo for pennies are disappearing - and in the long run, that's a good thing for everyone.

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