Clean Sheet

Clean Sheet

Why are Brazilian players returning to their homeland?


This season’s winter transfer window has been very active. Several European clubs don’t want to wait until the season is over and want to strengthen their squad to increase their chances of a successful second half of the season. Teams like Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool have all made moves this month, and others like Mila have been in active talks for several players.

In particular, Alexandre Pato’s return to his native Brazil has caught the soccer world’s attention. The Milan striker was acquired by Corinthians for 15 million euros after he was not enjoying much playing time with the ‘Rossoneri’.

Pato is the latest one of many Brazilian stars who are returning to their home land. Whether it’s for sporting or economic reasons, the tendency continues and the Brazilian league are now enjoying the skills of several players who were successful in Europe .

Former European stars Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano, Luis Fabiano, Fred, Elano, Juan, Lucio, Dida, Cicinho and many others, returned to Brazil to play their last years of their careers with the comfort of being home, some of them coming back earlier than expected.

Many of these stars returned because their level was not good enough anymore to play in one of the top leagues in Europe. But Brazil’s good economic situation, contrasting to Europe’s crisis, has impacted in the return of some of the world’s top players, earlier than usual.

While many big players from other countries like Alessandro Del Piero, Anelka, Raúl, or in earlier years, Batistuta, Zico or Stoichkov, went to finish their careers in Qatar, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China or the MLS, the Brazilian stars have the ‘luxury’ of ending their careers at home, close to friends and family while still getting paid very well.

Brazil’s currency, the Real, has gained value against the Euro in the last 10 years. This phenomena has helped the Brazilian top clubs to be able to offer salaries close to the wages Brazilian players earn in the ‘Old Continent’, which, combined to a still lower cost of life, make Brazil’s league very attractive for players.

TV rights and the big support by sponsors have made Brazilian clubs stronger economically. Santos is a clear example of of how a club like Santos, which is not among the most popular ones in Brazil, has been able to hold on to Brazil’s biggest star today, Neymar, with the assistance of sponsors who help pay for the 20-year old’s salary.

Ronaldinho, perhaps the country’s biggest star before Neymar, returned to Brazil when he was 30 years old. With an adequate physical shape, he could have easily played three or four more years at the top level in Europe. But probably fueled by his lack of ambition in Europe after having won everything with Barcelona, and tired of the strict rules in European clubs, ‘Dinho’ saw a good opportunity to have a more ‘relaxed’ life in his native country, and at the same time, recover his motivation and his playing level to be able to participate in his country’s World Cup.

Therefore, sporting reasons also play a part for Brazilians players wanting to return. Same as Ronaldinho’s motivation is a common denominator among the returning stars, who will have more playing time in the domestic league, being in a better position to compete for a spot in the squad that will act as host in the next World Cup.

Robinho, who already returned for a six month loan with Santos but went back to Europe, and Kaká, whose situation in Real Madrid gets worse everyday, could be the next stars who migrate back to the land of samba. The Milan attacker has been linked to a move back to his old club, while Fluminense has shown big interest in bringing Kaká back to Brazil.

The case of Pato is perhaps the most extreme. After moving to Europe at age 18, he has returned to Brazil at  just 23 on a move that would keep him with Corinthians for four years when he will be 27 and still young enough to return to Europe, but perhaps he will stay in Brazil for a better deal.

If the trend continues, the Brazilian league could become one of the strongest ones in the planet (it already is the strongest in the Americas) as the league’s executives know that bringing back top level players, will raise the interest of Brazilian fans in the league, increasing average attendances, sponsors, revenue from TV rights and even increasing awareness by fans in other countries who see Brazil as the country where the best soccer in the world is practiced.


Fernando Céspedes Fernando Céspedes

Fernando Céspedes

Is a Sports Editor at Terra with over 8 years of experience having worked for Telemundo and ESPN. He has covered important soccer events such as the World Cup and Champions League.

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