Ranked: The Premier League's Current Top Five Brazilian Players
There have been many examples of Brazilian players who have plied their trade in England’s top-flight over the years, many have flopped, while some have wowed. We look at the current crop of Brazilian exports and how their Premier League careers have gone so far.
Of all Manchester City’s wonderful players, there’s an argument to say that the most irreplaceable, from a tactical point of view at least, is Fernandinho.
Plenty of high-profile players have come and gone at the Etihad Stadium over the years but it says it all that the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder has never even been discussed as one who has outstayed his welcome or may be surplus to requirements, since arriving back in 2013.
And why would he be? Much like Claude Makelele at Chelsea all those years ago, Fernandinho carries out a selfless role in that City midfield. Covering mile after mile every game, putting in tackles, winning the ball back and putting in the perspiration while the Kevin de Bruynes and Bernardo Silvas are tasked with providing the inspiration, thanks to the Brazilian’s hard work.
His presence in the side is as good a reason as any as to why Manchester City are current favourites to win the 2019/20 Premier League.
And in some ways, there are more strings to his bow than there were to Makelele’s. He’s faster, his range of passing is bigger and he scores more goals. He’s closing in on 30 goals for Manchester City, not a bad return for someone viewed as solely having defensive responsibilities.
Sadly, at 34, time is not on Fernandinho’s side. Especially given the exhausting role he’s asked to play. His contract at City runs out in the summer of 2020 and replacing him will be one of Pep Guardiola’s biggest headaches of all.
When Lorin Karius made those high-profile blunders in the final of the 2018 Champions league final, the penny dropped for Jurgen Klopp.
It was the moment he knew he was never going to be able to compete with the very best until he had a goalkeeper who was world class.
And that’s exactly what Alisson is. The £56m he cost in the summer of 2019 (rising to £66.8 million) was a world record for a goalkeeper at the time but he’s been worth every penny of that fee.
No-one in the Premier League kept more than his 21 clean sheets last season and beyond the numbers themselves, his presence between the sticks provided a sense of calm and confidence that Liverpool just hadn’t had in previous seasons.
At 6ft 4 he has the physical presence to dominate his box and boasts cat-like reflexes that bailed Liverpool out plenty of times as they went on to win the Champions League last season.
Brazil’s first-choice keeper is fresh from winning the Copa America for his country and was voted the best keeper of the tournament. Another big season is expected of him at Anfield.
In many ways, Roberto Firmino is very un-Brazilian for an attacking player.
A tireless worker when it comes to closing down opposition defenders and trying to win the ball back. A man who is as comfortable playing with his back to goal as he is receiving the ball in front of him.
He’s also a rare specimen in that you can’t really say that he plays as a striker or a winger or a playmaker. He’s a sort of hybrid attacker, somewhere between a number nine and a number 10 but not quite a false nine. Clear as mud?
Whatever you want to brand his position on the field, no-one can deny that he’s invaluable to Liverpool. If it’s goals you want, he scores them. 137 Premier League appearances have yielded 48 goals while in the Champions League his strike rate is even better: 14 from 25 games.
But here’s the evidence that he’s not just an out and out striker. He also has 32 Premier League assists to his name and a further nine in the Champions League.
Beyond the numbers, his movement, reading of the game and awareness is the perfect foil for the pace of Sadio Mane and the trickery of Mo Salah. The interesting bit is that it’s Firmino who operates through the middle and in that sense, is the one of the three who Jurgen Klopp finds it most difficult to be without.
On the Transfermarket website, Firmino is rated as the most valuable Brazilian player in the Premier League, alongside team-mate Alisson (above) at £72 million.
We’ve said already that in some ways he’s quite un-Brazilian but of course, not in every way. He’s practically trademarked the ‘no-look goal’ where he faces away from goal as he taps the ball into an empty net and still comes up with moments of magical technical skills that only a Brazilian would ever dream of pulling off.
The biggest criticism one can direct at Richarlison is that he can be far better than what we’ve seen of him so far.
Bought by Watford from Fluminense in August 2017, he took the Premier League by storm as a relative unknown, scoring five league goals before late November. The departure of Marco Silva from Watford at the back end of that season coincided with Richarlison’s own loss of form to the extent that he was actually dropped towards the end of the campaign.
But form is temporary and class is permanent and Everton, who had acquired the services of Silva in the meanwhile, bought Richarlison for £35 million in August 2019, just over three times what Watford had paid for him a year earlier.
A tall, quick, strong player who prefers to operate from the left wing but can also play on the right or as a striker, he can do the lot.
But here’s where he needs to be careful. Having scored a brace in the opening game of the season at Wolves and another in a home win over Southampton, he was then needlessly sent off at Bournemouth. An error of judgement that cost him a three-match ban when he was in such good form.
If Everton can find his best position and keep his discipline in check, he could be an all-time great for them.
At first glance you’d never think David Luiz was once the world’s most expensive defender.
With his frizzy hair and adventurous runs forward from centre-back, sometimes leaving his own defence very exposed in the process, he’s certainly not your typical defender. Gary Neville, after yet another somewhat kamikaze gallop forward from Luiz, that cost his side a goal, famously called him a ‘Playstation player.’
But the proof is in the pudding. Very tall at 6ft 2 and one of the quickest defenders around, his unique brand of tough-tackling, silky skills and accurate passing is why Chelsea paid so much money for him the first time round, why PSG paid even more to prise him away and why Chelsea were so keen to get him back.
Occasionally deployed as a defensive midfielder, he’s also a real fans’ favourite at Stamford Bridge and not shy of a shot, be it from open play or with his bizarre but effective technique of taking free-kicks.
You’re always going to get the odd costly error out of him a couple of times a season but he more than makes up for it as one of the most imposing defenders in Europe.