European football has always dominated around the world when it comes to domestic leagues, but when it came to international football, Brazil were the team everyone wanted to beat. Brazil are five-time World Cup and Copa America winners, three time Confederations cup winners, and held the number one world FIFA ranking from 1993 right up to 2007. Yet the one downfall in the brilliance of Brazil is their domestic league.
Brazil has produced some of the greatest players the world has ever seen. The likes of Abedi Pele, Gaucho Ronaldinho, Zico, and Ronaldo have all worn the Yellow of Brazil and dominated the international game in some style. The genuine ideal since the late 1950’s from around the world was that Brazilian football was unplayable. Football before the Brazil way was still a talent, but Brazil turned the game into an art form. The flair brought into their passing game perplexed the likes of West Germany and Italy. Their rigid defences combined with powerful forwards were becoming a thing of the past as Brazil introduced pure speed and skill into world football.
With the national team being such a huge success, the domestic leagues in Brazil have always been overshadowed by European domestic football. The level of football on a domestic level will always be higher across Europe than in other subcontinents. Even the great Diego Maradona took his game overseas and saw the returns to his game.
Brazil’s domestic league unfortunately has one key factor missing as to why their league cannot attract world class players in their prime compared to European leagues, money. From a financial file by the UEFA website, it stated “A total of €754.1m was distributed to clubs participating in the UEFA Champions League last season, with the two finalists, FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC, receiving the largest amounts.
“All the clubs were entitled to a minimum €7.2m in accordance with the distribution system, which awarded a basic participation bonus of €3.9m, plus €3.3m from the six €550,000 match bonuses given per group game.”
Most of this money comes purely from advertising and TV rights. With the UEFA Champions League being the main attraction in world domestic football, players are aspiring to play in the tournament and perhaps one day win it. Brazil is only associated with the Copa Libertadores, although the likes of Nike, Samsung, Fox Sports, and the primary sponsor Banco Santander endorse the tournament, the amount of money put into the tournament is nothing compared with the likes of Sky, Adidas, and other large companies, which inject hundreds of millions of pounds more than what the Copa Libertadores receives. This is because the fan base of the tournament is on an international scale whilst football fans in Europe will not really take much interest into South American football.
But yet as the Brazilian league may seem to be in a decline, they will always produce a diamond in the rough. Ronaldinho was snatched from Gremio to Paris St Germaine and heading to Barcelona, whilst Ronaldo developed his game at Cruzeiro before moving to PSV Eindhoven, and playing his best football with Real Madrid. But Brazil has been able to keep hold of one player that is seen to be the next big thing in world football, Santos striker Neymar. The legendary Pele is a huge admirer of his talents. He was quoted in saying, “Although we cannot talk of him as an heir because each player is different, Neymar has the ability to be better than me," Pele told Mundo Deportivo. But as always the one raw talent in the Brazilian league that is set to set the world on fire is continuously linked with the big clubs in Europe. Despite saying he will stay until the end of his contract, European teams will flex their financial muscles in order to obtain Neymar’s services and take a huge chunk of talent out of the Brazilian league once more.
Alex Bellos wrote a book called ‘Futebol: the Brazilian way of life’, Bellos wrote about why Brazilian soccer was such a success and how the people of Brazil thrive off their love of the sport. But even the players can explain the temptation of playing in Europe. Bellos visited Marcelo Marcolino, at the time a professional footballer for FC Copenhagen; he explained what it was like being away from the sunny lifestyle of his home country and into the blistering cold of Europe.
Bellos wrote, “He also knows that he is living his dream, despite the miserable reality. Every Brazilian wants to play in Europe. ‘When I go back to Rio people treat me differently,’ he brags. ‘It’s like I’m royalty. People realise you are an important person. No one else from my neighbourhood has played in Europe. If you say you play for a small local club, people make fun of you, as if the team is nothing. Brazilians respect you more if you are playing in Europe. People see you with different eyes.’ He pauses again and adds: ‘I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I was someone.’
From this you can tell that the Brazilian culture believes that Europe is the place to be if you want to play football. There may be big teams such as Santos and Flamengo that Brazilians take pride upon, but if you wish to succeed as a top footballer you need to be playing where the best football is and unfortunately that is not in Brazil.
It is arguable that the Brazilian league is finally climbing up the financial ladder towards the heights of European leagues. Santos have started to lead the pack by endorsing a new television channel covering everything that is Santos, Pele has become an ambassador for the club which brings in a lot of commercial interest to the club, the stadium has been redeveloped and is being used in the 2014 World Cup, and with Brazilian starlets such as Ganso and Neymar amongst the squad, Santos has started to make an international mark on the map of world football.
Brazilian football is in desperate need of more money to attract players from Europe. Asian leagues are injecting millions of pounds into their squads and players such as Nicolas Anelka and Asamoah Gyan are now playing in the Far East, whilst Brazil is only able to acquire players past their prime such as Adriano and Ronaldinho. Their singings come as good news for any club in Brazil because shirt sales are guaranteed to improve if a big name player is to join from Europe, but the standard of football may not improve as they have performed at their best whilst playing in Europe.
When it comes to the media in Brazil, Television programmes have come under controversy for being so ‘pro Brazil’. Before the Quarter Final between Paraguay and Spain in 2010, SporTV, a Brazilian television network, aired a story trashing Paraguay's culture, currency and even the physical appearance of its people. The story said that Paraguay "is a black market paradise" and mentions, with distasteful irony, the "breathtaking scenery," the "haute cuisine," and the "nice and friendly" people of the country.
Newspapers in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital published the video on their sites and condemned the attitude of the Brazilian channel. "The story was very disappointing, considering all the bonds that unite us as neighbouring countries," lamented the newspaper La Nación. Readers from both countries also demonstrated their indignation on the Internet. In a story criticizing World Cup coverage, Brazilian journalist Luciano Martinas Costa said that "nothing tops, in terms of low-blows, the clumsy attempt at humour committed by the team of channel SporTv." In a commentary, published by the Press Observatory, Costa said the channel was arrogant, even in its apology.
The conclusion to the question is that in one way, Brazil will always have an amazing national team because the players all have a familiar style and flair, therefore they can play well as a team because they all play the ‘Brazilian’ way. But the national league cannot progress in the way European leagues have because there is not enough money being invested into clubs or the league itself. Although money is starting to come in to the bigger clubs such as Santos from big money transfers and commercial deals, that money is only a fraction of the money going into the Barclays Premier League. The league level of football in Brazil is nothing compared to England and Spain because there isn’t enough all round talent within the teams. And when the people and players of Brazil like Alex Bellos see that Europe is the best place in the world to play football and with the playing levels, playing facilities, and global audiences so high in Europe compared to anywhere else in the world, Brazil will always have talented players that can play well for their country but they will never be able to remove the lure of European football from the equation in order to improve their own leagues.