Thursday, 11 February 2016

The great migration: Why Brazilian clubs are losing their best players to China

Football fans in Brazil are used to seeing top players leave the domestic league but at the start of 2016, there's a growing trend to worry about. The country's best players are being snapped up with ever-increasing regularity – and no longer just by the grand old clubs of Europe, but by the rising powerhouses of Asia. For supporters, it is concerning.

Since the end of Brazil's national championship in December, a clutch of the 2015 season's standout performers have joined the exodus to China, with champions Corinthians hit hardest.

Read more about Brazilian football's great migration over at ESPN FC.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Lucas Lima, Malcom and more: 5 young Brazilians who could soon be in the transfer spotlight

With the European transfer window open, many of the world's top sides are looking to strengthen their squads.

This, of course, means there will be plenty of interest in the best Brazil has to offer: from established stars who could be tempted into one last adventure to up-and-coming players.

I have picked out five potential transfer targets from the Brasileirão, from Santos playmaker Lucas Lima to flying forward Malcom of Corinthians.

Have a read on the Mirror website.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Meet Wendell Lira, Brazil's surprise winner of the Puskas Award for best goal of 2015

You know you've made it when Pelé knows your name.

"I was delighted that Wendell Lira won the Puskas Award for goal of the year," said the Brazil icon after Monday night's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

He was not alone: in seeing off competition from some of football's biggest stars – Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Carli Lloyd – the Vila Nova forward struck a blow for the underdog, capturing hearts and minds around the globe.

Indeed, only Wendell stood between Messi and a clean sweep of awards on the night, succeeding where Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, failed. Not bad for a guy who, until a couple of years ago, worked part-time in his mum's cafe to help pay the bills.

To call Wendell an undiscovered star would be to overplay his standing somewhat. In his homeland, as in Europe, few had heard of him at all before his nomination for the award. Fame has arrived swiftly and unexpectedly, like overnight snow.

Read my full profile of Wendell on the Mirror website.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Brasileirão 2015 end-of-season awards

For British football fans, Christmas is a time for joyously abandoning oneself to the vagaries of the fixture list. For our more cultured continental cohorts, it’s time for forty winks, a holiday and – heaven forbid – spending time with one’s family. Such are the rhythms of football life in Europe.

In Brazil, of course, the festive period brings the most miniscule of breaks before preparations for the next year begin in earnest. At least 2016 offers some hope in that respect: the nascent Copa Rio-Sul-Minas may well prove an important step in the overdue realignment of the Brazilian calendar.

Christmas is also time for reflection on the campaign that has just finished. History will show that 2015 was far from a vintage year in the Brasileirão: the overall level felt underwhelming at the best of times, many of the putative big hitters lurched through the season as if working off a few too many Friday-night caipirinhas, and any hopes of a real title battle were quashed months ahead of time.

Still, it falls to your so-called expert to dish out some praise. So stiffen your upper lip and join me on the podium for the WhoScored end-of-year awards, which you can read here.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The joy of six: Dominant Corinthians enjoy their victory lap after sealing sixth Brazilian title

As victory laps go, this will take some beating.

A derby match against your most bitter, most ideological rivals. Two goals in the space of three first-half minutes, then another before the interval. A laughable, playground-kick-about fourth that left opposition defenders slumped inside their own penalty area, dreaming of the bus ride home. An own goal forced, a penalty converted – and then one saved from the other lot. And all that with a reserve team.

This was not a normal game and this no normal Corinthians side, as their fans well know. 45,000 of them crowded into the Itaquerão for the game against hated neighbours São Paulo, but even the most optimistic cannot have expected the massacre that awaited.

It was an afternoon that had begun with chants of "É campeão!" and ended in tears - of emotion, but also of laughter at the sheer state of the São Paulo side tasked with ruining the party. The Timão had sewn their sixth national title up three nights earlier with a shrug of a draw away to Vasco, but that had been a non-event. This was a celebration.

Read my article on the new Brazilian champions on the WhoScored site.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ricardo Oliveira among the forwards striking for redemption in the chaos of the Brasileirão

As we head into the final quarter of the Brazilian season, a couple of certainties are beginning to emerge from the fog of unpredictability that defines the league.

The first is that Corinthians will win the title. Tite’s troops continue to grind out win after win and hold a seven-point advantage over Atlético Mineiro after 28 games - a princely advantage in anyone’s books. The second is that Joinville are destined for the drop. For all their good intentions, the minnows cannot buy a victory and are already seven points from safety.

In between those two, however, lies ‘The Flux’. Vasco looked marooned a few weeks ago, but have won four of their last five to inspire hopes of survival. Their most recent win came against Flamengo, who recent results read WWWWWLLL. Coritiba have started winning after months of misery. Atlético-PR and Ponte Preta can’t seem to decide whether they’re top-four contenders or relegation scrappers. It’s chaos.

Amid the madness, though, is a nice redemptive subplot bubbling through the campaign: a handful of strikers up and down the country are sticking it to the doubters with their exploits in the final third. The leader in the category, of course, is Alexandre Pato, but here are three more doing the business in the 2015 Brasileirão.

Read about them in my latest WhoScored article.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Surely Neymar is not greedy or egotistical enough to want to swap Barcelona for Manchester United

If you've been keeping even half an eye on the all-consuming behemoth that is the summer transfer window, you'll know that there's a hot new rumour doing the rounds.

It involves Manchester United and Neymar, whose international representative, Pini Zahavi, was spotted at Old Trafford at the weekend. It supposedly involves a bid of €190million, the value of the striker's buyout clause at Barcelona.

Mainly, though, it involves the kind of suspension of belief that would put the world's most ardent Scientologists to shame.

Not because it is hard to imagine United harbouring ambitions of signing Neymar – heaven knows Ed Woodward is a dreamer – but because it is difficult to see why on earth Neymar would harbour ambitions of playing for Manchester United.

Read the rest of this piece, which has gone down exceptionally well with Manchester United fans, on the Mirror website.