Brazil’s Serie A: Seriously Lethargic
Brazil. Once the feared power of football. Nobody could beat the Selecao. More than once football respected them as the game's omniscient force. Once. Now, not at all. As with most struggles, the problems start at home.
Where did all the names come from? Compare Tite's squad in Russia with group that romped through Korea and Japan in 2002, the Selecao's last star.
Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Cafu, Juninho and Gilberto Silva. Of course, I'm omitting many, many names. Look down that roster, and you'll notice something. More than 50% were domestically based. Fast-forward, to 2018. Only two players based in Brazil made the tournament. Analysis? The Campeonato Brasileiro can't keep its top talent. Consequence? The squad is spread across Europe and even Asia. It can't possibly have the same bond the champions of the past shared.
It’s easy to finger point and say, hey Warreninho, what do you know? You’ve just compared data separated by 16 years. Football changes, continents get richer. True, but Brazil’s GDP has risen comparably with European nations. In a rough business, Brazilian clubs have the financial wherewithal to keep players, but they can't.
Example, squire? Yeah sure. We are 13 games into the Brazilian Serie A season. It’s going pretty well. There’s a decent title race between Flamengo and Sao Paulo. Very nice. Athletico Mineiro is in third and isn’t too far off the top two. In fact, they have the top goal scorer in their ranks. Or rather, they did.
Roger Guedes played for the Galo but on loan from Palmeiras, who were three points behind Mineira, in seventh. The 21-year-old was pivotal to Galo's title hopes but was seeking a big-money contract from his parent club. Palmeiras killed two birds with one stone over the World Cup break. They loaned Guedes to Shangdong Luneneng in the Chinese Super League with an option to buy at end of term, turning an expense into a windfall, and crippled a rival's chances in the league.
So, you have ownership with more self-interest than national pride and you have a player, who approved the deal and therefore feels the same.
When leagues loan or sell players for profit rather than to improve the club's quality, it’s a worrying sign. Hearts aren't in the right place. Guedes could do a Mario Fernandez, discover he prefers living in China, become a citizen, and take Team Dragon to the World Cup? Who’ll regret this decision, then?
Okay, Warrenaldo, but that's one or two players. Well, it's three, four or more. Oscar is in China, too. Do you remember Jo? The Manchester City-Everton-Corinthians-etc-etc Jo? He won the league with Corinthians, the last league. He scored his way to Brazilian glory with18 goals. He was the Campeonato's top goal threat. He cashed that status in for a contract at Nagoya Grampus in the J.League, where he’s not having quite the same success. Bottom of the table, but that’s another story. Either way, the champions of Brazil couldn’t keep him at the club. When the veterans emigrate for big contracts, the youngsters follow.
Look at all the hijinks that went on with Neymar's transfer from Santos to Barcelona. Courts are still sorting that out.
Samba to mosh pit
When you sift the match data, you find Campeonato matches aren’t terribly exciting. The dazzling Samba style? No, more like MMA.
A recent draw between Palmeiras and Flamengo is typical. It ended 1-1. You can have a good score draw but the quality in this contest was so poor the two goals were practically the only chances on goal. Spectators were treated to some quality fouling, more than 35 combined.
An Atletico Mineiro-Ceara match mustered exactly four shots on target. Three came in the last 12 minutes. Each found twine. Seventy-eight minutes of Thorazine before a speedball at the end.
Other games including Gremio, Botafogo and even the champions Corinthians play out similarly. It's a slogfest. Shots are hard to come by but fouls are a dime a dozen.
The trouble continues as the quality continues to hemorrhage from the league. Fabian Balbuena left for West Ham, Christian Cueva, the Peruvian international is also splitting. Having liked Russia so much he’s decided to work there instead. Jaja, Junior Tavares, and Thiago Carleto have also all made their exodus.
The only players coming into Brazil are veterans returning home after successful spells in Europe. The competition that spawned five world champions is becoming a retirement league.
Altogether, not a great state of affairs for league football in Brazil. The Campeonato needs to find some pride. Europe and the Champions League are tough competition but surely the league can keep players from going to money leagues in the Orient and Arabia. Brazil must put up a better fight against Asian clubs who have little to offer beyond money. It's Brazil, ffs. Why are we talking about it like an old college roommate we've found living out of a bottle on the street?