The Brazilian Buddy System That Watford and Manchester City are Using to Great Effect
As someone that watches Brazilian football regularly, I am often asked which young players in the Brasileirão could make their mark on Europe or the Premier League. When players such as Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison begin to make their mark, these enquiries tend to multiply for reasons that are obvious.
Brazil still has a commanding ‘brand’ when it comes to footballers. Signing a Brazilian player has a special gravitas to it- a romance even, where European supporters are concerned. However, other than in very obvious cases (Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, even Oscar), it is always very difficult to gauge how well a Brazilian player will adapt – especially when it comes to learning how to bet on football.
English and Brazilian culture are poles apart and adapting to life in the UK is often very difficult for young Brazilians that go beyond the weather and the language (though these undoubtedly play a significant part). Therefore, it is always very difficult to judge how a Brazilian player will fare in the old continent, regardless of their ability.
There are far too many examples to list of talented Brazilians who have not been able to adapt to European football or indeed life in Europe. The number of genuinely successful Brazilian footballers in the Premier League is surprisingly meagre, especially attacking Brazilian players.
However, in 2017, Gabriel Jesus at Manchester City and now Richarlison at Watford have settled into life in the Premier League quickly. Are they bucking a trend, a pair of outliers, or is there something else at work? Jesus very obviously had the talent to excel in any division in the world- as his performances as a teenager for the national team suggested.
Richarlison was a less obvious diamond in the rough however. Whilst a very good forward for Fluminense, many more eye catching talents have failed to adapt to English football. Richarlison and Jesus both benefit from having Iberian managers, which reduces the language issue at least. Both managers have taken extra care to set their young charges up with mentors too.
When Pep Guardiola met Gabriel Jesus on his first day in England, he took Fernandinho with him. Fernandinho has played in Europe for many years and already knew Jesus from the national team setup. Jesus has already described Ferna as “a big brother.” Finding places that sell Brazilian cuisine is especially important to young Brazilians moving to Europe and Fernandinho was on hand to take Jesus under his wing.
This is especially important while they learn the language. Under Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar Donetsk made procuring young Brazilian attacking talent their business model. Shakhtar worked incredibly hard to aid their adaption. First of all by producing camaraderie in numbers, but the Ukrainian club used to fly supplies of rice, beans and other Brazilian delicacies in especially. They housed Brazilian players close to one another too, to help their families settle.
Effectively, Shakhtar created a mini Brazil in the middle of Donetsk. Watford and Manchester City don’t quite have that option available to them. But in Marco Silva, Richarlison has a Portuguese speaking manager and in Huerelho Gomes, he also has a mentor. Gomes is Watford’s vice captain and has also played in Europe for many years, having hailed from a small farming town in Minas Gerais.
As Fernandinho has done with Gabriel Jesus, Gomes has been appointed as Richarlison’s “big brother.” The Sun newspaper interviewed Richarlison and Gomes side by side at a Brazilian food truck in St. Albans. The youngster explained how Gomes has acted both as a translator and a mentor for him since he arrived in Hertfordshire.
Many European clubs buy Brazilian youngsters without giving proper consideration to the huge cultural adaption the player needs to take in every day life. Watford and Manchester City have been able to help their starlets settle with something of a Brazilian buddy system. At Arsenal, Gabriel Paulista struggled to settle in London.
Yet in 2002, when Gilberto Silva was signed, he was housed next door to Edu Gaspar, the pair and, crucially, their wives became great friends and both players proved to be a big success at the club. The best way to make Brazilian talent shine in England, is to make sure there is a Brazilian older brother on hand to help them find their way.