Why can't Barcelona keep their Brazilians?
Barcelona's long history includes more than 30 Brazilian players turning out for the club stretching back to the 1930's. Fausto dos Santos and Jaguare were the first, arriving on a season-long loan deal from Vasco da Gama. More Samba stars appeared regularly. This summer, Arthur and Malcom joined from Gremio and Bordeaux.
There were some disasters along the way, as well as success stories. Many Selecao greats contributed to the Barcelona cause during their time. In recent seasons, though, it seems Barcelona are struggling to hold onto their Brazilians. Is there a reason why this is happening? Is it coincidence? Are there any exceptions to the pattern? Let's look at several cases to see if there's a pattern.
Evaristo was the original Brazilian superstar at Barcelona. He joined in 1957, stayed for five years, won La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups. However, even back then Barcelona were capable of making a mess of things. The player and club fell out when they tried to make him eligible for the Spanish national team. Evaristo didn't want to play for Spain. He had already won 14 caps for his home country. In the end, he left Barcelona. Doing a Figo before Luis Figo, the patriotic Selecao signed for Real Madrid where he won another two league titles.
Joining Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" in 1993, the Brazilian striker scored 39 goals in the season and a half he graced the Camp Nou. He won La Liga in 1993/94 before winning the World Cup that summer. In January 1995, he departed Catalunya after falling out with Cruyff. Romario was one of the best strikers of his generation but an extremely volatile character. Cruyff was similar but more entrenched with the club. Consequently, the legendary player left long before his time.
The original signed for Barcelona as a teenager for a world record fee in 1996. In his single season under Bobby Robson's guidance, he helped the Blaugrana win the Spanish Super Cup, Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. His play was superb. The youngster scored 47 goals, including one of the best goals of all time against Compostela. He was skilful, fast, strong, already a world-class finisher. In his year at Barcelona, he produced one of the best seasons of all time. Sadly, it only lasted a year. Negotiations began over a long-term deal. Barcelona believed an agreement was reached but it all collapsed in the 11th hour. The player moved to Inter Milan.
When Ronaldo departed, Barcelona made a move for fellow Brazilian Rivaldo who joined from Deportivo La Coruna in 1997. Over five seasons, the ageless one scored 130 goals and helped the team win two league titles, the Copa and a Spanish Super Cup. Individually, he won the Ballon d'Or in 1999, scoring perhaps the most famous goal of his generation when he completed his hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Valencia with a late overhead kick that sent Barcelona into the following season's Champions League.
In the summer of 2002, just after he had helped his country win the World Cup yet again, he was released from his Barcelona contract. The club had appointed Louis van Gaal for a second spell as manager. During the Dutchman's first spell, he had fallen out with Rivaldo. The Brazilian was deemed surplus to requirements. His career continued through 2015, when he finally retired with the club he owned, Mogi Mirim, in Brazil at 44-years-old.
An all time great, the bucktoothed dribbling wizard spent five years with Barcelona. During that time he won two league titles, two Spanish Super Cups and the Champions League. When Ronaldinho signed for Barca, the club had been going through a rough spell. Lionel Messi credits Ronaldinho as the man who turned Barcelona around more than any other, a huge mark of respect.
In 2008, Barcelona let him go. To their credit, for once, it was a good call. He had reached a stage where he was spending more time in nightclubs than on the training field. Hs partying lifestyle caught up with him. Great moments became far less frequent.
Thiago may be a Spanish international born in Italy but he was eligible to play for the Selecao. Both his father and brother are Brazilian internationals. His father, Mazinho, was a World Cup winner in 1994. Thiago first joined the club as a 14-year-old, worked his way up through the B team and into the senior squad. He longed for first-team football that wasn't forthcoming. His contract included a clause allowing him to leave for a discounted fee if he didn't play a specified number of minutes. Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich took advantage, signing him in 2013. The manager moved on but the midfielder remains an integral part of die Roten's set-up.
Neymar arrived at Barcelona in 2013 amid controversy. Barcelona had made a €40 million payment to his parents to swing the transfer their way with Real Madrid also trying to sign the Santos superstar. It should come as no surprise, then, that father and son agreed a deal to join Paris St Germain for a world record fee. Many found Neymar's decision to leave Barcelona for PSG surprising. The Brazilian was motivated more by money than by the standard of play at his club. In Ligue 1, he also has the chance to emulate Messi rather than playing in the Argentine's shadow.
This may be the strangest transfer in recent times. Paulinho arrived last summer for €40 million despite opposition. Cules didn't like him given he had failed at Spurs and came from the Chinese Super League. An inability to juggle a ball at his unveiling didn't help.
As the season unfolded, he performed well above expectations. He scored nine goals from midfield while Barca won the domestic double. Fans had a change of heart. However, a year after joining he returned to China on loan with a fee of €50 million agreed to make the deal permanent next season. On one hand, the board handled the publicity around the deal poorly, failing to support the player sufficiently. On the other, they can point to a potential €10 million profit for a player they probably shouldn't have been signed in the first place.
After witnessing his brother leave the club for first-team football, Rafinha is on the verge of following Thiago Alcantara's example. Last season, he went to Inter Milan on loan. The Nerazzurri decided against paying to sign him full time. He returned to Camp Nou. Despite an excellent preseason, Barcelona added more options to their midfield, ruling out a place for him again. Left out of the match day squad for last weekend's game against Real Valladolid, the Brazilian international could accept another loan with Real Betis if Benfica isn't serious about acquiring him.
Coutinho arrived at Barcelona last winter. Although not the only Brazilian in the current squad, he is the most senior. He arrived for £112 million from Liverpool and showed flashes of brilliance in limited appearances [he was cup-tied in the Champions League] during his first seven months at the club. He is expected to be a key player, this season.
If recent history teaches us anything, we should enjoy him while we can. He could move on for more money, fall out with the manager or the board could repeat their incompetence by letting another talented Brazilian slip through the net. It seems there's a number of reasons dating back decades that have come between the club and its Selecao stars. These relationships aren't built to last. Coutinho, Malcom or Arthur could be on the move at any time.