The Most Impressive Brazilians to Feature in the Premier League
Over the years, there have been some truly spectacular Brazilian talent in the Premier League; here we take a look at some of the best of it.
There is no doubt that Brazil is a great footballing nation and as produced some fantastic talent over the years. Names such as Pele, Garrincha, Ronaldo and Kaka easily spring to mind. In his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson wrote, “No country can apply the rich mix of ingredients you gain from a top Brazilian player”, while in 2018 Jose Mourinho said, “I think that a team without a Brazilian isn’t a team. I think their talent is fantastic and the creativity of the Brazilian player cannot be measured”.
Recent years has seen a raft of amazing Brazilian talent in the Premier League. Here we look at the best of them.
Fernandinho – Manchester City
There is no arguing with the fact that Fernandinho is a standout player and without him, Pep Guardiola’s time with Manchester City may not have been quite so successful. When he was signed for £34 million, it was widely thought that it was a huge amount to pay for a 28 year old defensive midfielder. In his first season, despite winning the first of his titles, he didn’t really stand out compared to Yaya Toure or David Silva in midfield.
However, Guardiola did an incredible job of realising his potential. Guardiola once said, “He can do absolutely everything. He’s incredible,” and considering the range of positions he has been played in, it certainly seems to be the case. He has played at right-back, left-back, centre-back and in a range of midfield roles, and no matter where he is placed, he always seems to excel.
Roberto Firmino – Liverpool
There was quite a bit of consternation when Liverpool signed Firmino from Hoffenheim for £29 million, with many thinking that it was a ridiculous amount to pay. However, Firmino has gone on to become one of the most important factors in Liverpool’s success. He seems to possess unique talents and in many ways looks completely irreplaceable.
It is arguable that Liverpool’s recent success is more down to Firmino than any other player. Highlights include his winner against PSG that kick-started their Champions League campaign back in September 2018, scoring the extra-time goal that made the team World Champions at the end of last year, and scoring eight goals, five of which were match winners, so far this season.
Gilberto Silva – Arsenal
It may be more than a decade since Gilberto Silva played for Arsenal but there is little doubt that he is still one of the top Brazilians to have played in the Premier League. At the 2002 World Cup, the Brazilian media described Gilberto Silva as the player who “carried the piano for Ronaldo and Rivaldo to play their tunes on”. While Brazil prides itself on producing creative players that are full of flair, it was happy to count a highly disciplined and robust midfielder amongst its own.
He then went on to Arsenal where he was a major part of the team’s success. While he was not always at the forefront of the action, he was an absolutely vital part of the team. When he left the club he said, “I am always comfortable doing the hard work in the middle. For me, it is an honour. It’s what I was made to do.” There can be no doubt that he did it extremely well.
Juninho Paulista – Middlesbrough
Many people still consider Juninho Paulista to be the greatest player in Middlesbrough’s history. They purchased him just a few months after being promoted to the Premier League, when he was just 22 years old. His debut for the team, at home against Leeds United, was a memorable event. Within 11 minutes he had collected a pass from Nigel Pearson, made it past Gary McAllister and provided a perfect ball to Jan Aage Fjortoft, from which he scored. Later, in the 74th minute, he received a yellow card for going through the back of Tony Yeboah.
Juninho had three separate spells with Middlesbrough and famously shed tiers twice, when they were relegated in 1997 and when they won the League Cup in 2004. In between, he spent game after game demonstrating his incredible talents.
Ederson – Manchester City
There is of course much comparison between Ederson and Alisson, the two Brazilian goalkeepers for the Premier League’s two top teams. Alisson has 30 clean sheets and 46 wins in 55 games, he has won one Golden Glove and there is potentially another on the way. After the same number of appearances for City, Ederson had 34 clean sheets, 46 wins and one winner’s medal, with another on the way.
While Ederson’s performance may have dipped since then, the real interest will be whether Alisson follows a similar path. However, there is an argument that Alisson’s presence in the Premier League is down to Ederson. He was instrumental in making clubs realise that it is worth investing heavily in goalkeepers.
Ederson helped bring a great deal of stability to Manchester City. He drastically reduced the number of goals the team was conceding and a great deal of their recent success is down to his efforts.
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool
Liverpool stole Coutinho from under the noses of Southampton in January 2013 when the team had already agreed a £10 million fee with Inter Milan to sign him. His time with Liverpool can be summarised by looking at whom he replaced and who replaced him. His debut for the team was as a stand in for Stewart Downing in a defeat to West Bromwich while the proceeds from his sale helped the team to buy Virgil van Dijk and Alisson five years later. Arguably, no player played such an important role in the team’s ascendancy to its current form.
In the month leading up to his departure in January 2018, he played eight games for Liverpool in which he scored seven goals, provided four assists and captained the club. At the time, it seemed as if Barcelona were going to be getting one of the best midfielders in the world.
While things have arguably not worked out for Barcelona, his departure from Liverpool was necessary in order to allow the team to grow. Nonetheless, his efforts for the team were still spectacular. He scored against all of the league’s top teams and was one of the most consistent players they have had.
Alisson – Liverpool
Alisson has had a massive impact in a very short time at Liverpool. He has already won the Champions League, is arguably the world’s best goalkeeper, and is likely to win the Premier League this season. All of this and he has made fewer Premier League appearances than Laurent Depoitre, Trevor Morley and Eoin Jess.
Alisson’s current clean sheet rate is 54.5% and his win rate is an incredible 83.6%. He is destined to go down in history as one of the best players to ever play in the league. In fact, it is seems that he is highly underappreciated by many and deserves far more recognition that he currently receives.
Willian – Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea
Since Willian joined Chelsea, he has produced outstanding results. In 2013/14 he was excellent in both games against Liverpool, was fantastic against Aston Villa in September 2014, he was named Player of the Year following the team’s Champions League group run in 2015, knocked Tottenham out of the FA Cup in 2017, he helped the team to numerous Europa League victories under Maurizio Sarri, and just last December he stopped Spurs once again.
He is an incredibly hard worker, as testified to by his 70 appearances across two title-winning seasons, and he is sure to be remembered for years to come as one of Chelsea’s best.
David Luiz – Chelsea and Arsenal
David Luiz’s record speaks for itself. He has won a Premier League title, and was a source of great consistency and maturity during Antonio Conte’s first season with Chelsea. He thrived in a three-man defence where his greatest strengths could come to the fore and his weaknesses were covered.
His move to Arsenal has highlighted his weaknesses but this does not mean that he isn’t a fantastic player who deserves to be recognised. Placed in the right context, there are few others who do his job as well as he does at his best.
Lucas Leiva – Liverpool
Back in December 2008, Rafa Benitez said of Lucas Leiva, “People just don’t know how good Lucas is.” He had been booed at Anfield during a goalless draw with Fulham but Benitez stuck by him and insisted that the attacking midfielder was perfectly capable of performing in a more central role.
Leiva was being compared to players such as Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Momo Sissoko when he joined, which is no easy task. He was a young player who needed time and patience to develop, which at the time, the team could not really afford.
However, when he left around ten years later, all of the fans respected him. He won the Player of the Year award in 2011, he put in countless memorable performances and he was very much a hero of the club by the time he departed. Even now, three years since leaving he has at least 25 more Premier League appearances than any other Brazilian does.