Thursday 8 October 2020


For a long time, this blog has been a feed of links to articles I have written elsewhere. The idea was that all my work on Brazil would be in one convenient place.

I can no longer be bothered to do that – sorry! – so this will be the last post.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented over the years. I'll leave everything up so the next generation of Brazilian football fans can marvel at how sketchy my writing was in 2010.

You can read all my stuff on The Athletic and follow me on Twitter


Saturday 26 September 2020

How do you replace Dani Alves?

Dani Alves turned 37 earlier this year. He has made no secret of his desire to play at World Cup 2022, yet he will be pushing 40 by the time it begins. It is a lot to ask for him to maintain his level until then.

This represents a challenge for Brazil in two respects. Most straightforwardly, there just aren’t that many Brazilian right-backs around at the moment. Then there is Alves’ particular interpretation of his position. 

He may once have been a rampaging touchline-hugger in the traditional mould, but at Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain especially he took on more creative responsibilities — not just from the flank but increasingly from central areas.

With the cupboard relatively bare, it looks as though Tite is going to try something a little different in an attempt to find an alternative for Alves. Read how on The Athletic.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Does Thiago Silva have something to prove at Chelsea?

Thiago Silva is not fulfilling a lifetime ambition by moving to the Premier League. 

He made it very clear that he wanted to stay at Paris Saint-Germain this summer, and his hand was forced by Leonardo's desire to refresh the first team at the Parc des Princes.

But the move to Chelsea does present him with a series of opportunities: to help guide a young, exciting team; to keep himself in the Brazil conversation until World Cup 2022; to prove, after eight seasons in France, that he could have cut it in any of Europe’s top leagues.

And, of course, that PSG were wrong to let him go.

Read my piece on Silva — an excellent defender who hasn't always convinced everyone — on The Athletic.

Monday 10 August 2020

The giant heart behind Richarlison's scowl

When Richarlison signed his first sponsorship deal with Nike, he did not celebrate or lord it over his team-mates.

No, he went back to his dorm room, stuffed his old clothes into a suitcase, then went into town and handed them out to homeless people. 

This is just one of the stories I heard from those who know Richarlison best. "He’s just spectacular," one of his former coaches said. "The kind of person who seems to have been designed differently by the big guy up in the sky. I get emotional just talking about him.”

Read the rest of this piece, about the giant heart behind Richarlison's scowl, on The Athletic. 

Monday 29 June 2020

The Alexandre Pato conundrum

Alexandre Pato is still only 30 years old.

It is really not difficult to conjure an alternate timeline in which he has racked up hundreds of goals for a Champions League team and is gearing up for a fourth World Cup as Brazil’s No 9.

Instead, he is toiling away for São Paulo, his best run of form in the last decade having come not in Europe but in the Chinese Super League. He dreams of a return to Milan, but that possibility looks well beyond him now. He last played for his country seven years ago.

It is a dizzying contrast. And so the question persists: What on earth happened?

I tried to answer that question, with the help of James Horncastle, for The Athletic. 

Thursday 25 June 2020

The feud that overshadowed Brazil's greatest football song

Football and music have never collided as beautifully as they did in the song “Fio Maravilha”, Jorge Ben's nimble tribute to the Flamengo striker of the same name. I

t was the final cut on Side A of “Ben,” one of Jorge Ben’s most beloved albums. Almost 50 years later, it remains a staple of his live show, its sparkle undimmed.

Yet the story of Brazil’s greatest football song also contains its share of shade. It is a tale of opportunism and idiocy, of good intentions undone by bad judgment. It forced Jorge Ben, one of his country’s great lyricists, into a hasty rewrite and left a bitter taste in his mouth. It turned Fio Maravilha from a folk hero into a pariah.

Read my piece on the song and the story behind it on The Athletic. 

Monday 8 June 2020

Sandro Orlandelli talked a doorman into letting him into Highbury. He became Arsenal’s South American scout

Sandro Orlandelli, who spent a decade as Arsenal’s man in South America and later reprised that role for Manchester United, is under no illusion that his path into top-level European football would be almost impossible to follow.

It is a tale of pluck and persistance, bad English and fuzzy logic, the cogs oiled by the goodwill of strangers. This might also be the only Premier League interview you read this month that references a night spent shivering in a central London shopfront.

Now technical coordinator at Red Bull Bragantino back in his homeland, Orlandelli laughs heartily as he tells the story of his big break. “Sometimes I couldn’t believe it was reality,” he says, and for good reason. If it had not actually happened, you would struggle to make it up.

Read my interview with him on The Athletic.