Monday 30 March 2020

Meet the man helping Real Madrid sign Brazil's most exciting talents – and forget their Neymar frustrations

In 2017, Real Madrid signed the most exciting young forward in Brazil. A year later they did it again. Eighteen months later, they did it again.

It remains to be seen whether one of Vinicius, Rodrygo and Reinier can reach the level of Neymar – a player Real were close to signing on three occasions, but who eventually joined Barcelona.

But whatever happens next, credit must go to the club’s man in Brazil, who has put them in a position to find out.

You probably haven't heard of Juni Calafat, but those who know him say "he makes the difference" in the Brazilian market. Read about him in my latest for The Athletic. 

Monday 23 March 2020

Ronaldinho in prison: this is a tragedy, not a comedy

As he celebrates his 40th birthday behind bars, Ronaldinho has time to do some thinking.

His playing career was a study in shimmering, off-the-cuff virtuosity, but his existence since his retirement — he officially called it a day in 2018, over two years after playing his final match for Fluminense — has been defined by amateurism and cringing ignominy.

The photos of football’s last great libertine wearing handcuffs in a Paraguayan jail have gone around the world. While they may jar at first glance, this feels like the logical endpoint of a slow journey towards the abyss.

Read my piece on the mortal behind the Ronaldinho myth on The Athletic. 

Thursday 19 March 2020

Glauber Berti played just six minutes' football for Man City. How exactly did he become such a cult hero?

Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Sergio Aguero: these are Manchester City’s modern icons. You could make a decent case for a Yaya Toure wing or a Pablo Zabaleta sun lounge.

Glauber Berti, the Brazilian defender who arrived in Manchester in summer 2008 and left a year later after playing just six minutes of first-team football, shouldn’t really be in the same conversation.

Yet in his own way, Glauber is the ultimate City cult hero. While the reasons for that might elude the casual observer, they are both legitimate and instructive, revealing plenty about the complex tides of fandom.

Read my interview with the one-game wonder on The Athletic.