- The samba stars of present day in Kaká, Ronaldinho and Robinho will have reached football’s “elderly years” in 2016, whilst the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura da Silva and Alexandre Pato will take their places.
- We look ahead, five years into the future, as to what the team post-2015 Copa America and preparing for a possible appearance in the Russian 2018 FIFA World Cup, will be like. No more Ronaldo, Rivaldo or Ronaldinho to rely on.
Brazil’s disappointing show in the 2011 Copa America where they bowed out to the Paraguayans on penalties was a distinct reminder that the eccentric, samba-signing choir-like team of 2002 and/or 2006 is no more. No Ronaldo, no Ronaldinho (to the extent that he is fully fit and world class) and no Rivaldo – who went into exile from European football before returning home – is at an age where retirement would normally be a big option. For him, however, he seems to refuse it.
So now we see a fresh batch of talent arriving from some of Brazil’s most bestowed youth academies rise up and become targets for European heavyweights alike. Neymar, Lucas Moura da Silva of Sao Paulo, Paulo “Ganso” Henrique and more will, inevitably, make the jump from the small-ish pond to the capacious ocean that is Europe. Whether they’ll end up in Italy, Germany, France, England or Spain, it will more than likely happen, make their name an enshrinement to whichever club they sign for and then ‘return’ to their homeland in embarking onto national duty with the national side. That is what has become the norm for Brazilian footballers. Galvanized by players such as Ronaldo after leaving Cruzeiro for PSV Eindhoven in Holland and to then play for four of Europe’s biggest clubs, who each have a rivalry with one another (F.C. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid C.F., Inter Milan vs. A.C. Milan), then returns to Brazil in Corinthians and finally retires from the game. A great service on the frontlines for his country during the three World Cups he played in – 1998, 2002 and 2006 – with 62 goals in almost 100 national appearances, it is somewhat a believed path that the most talented Brazilian players must take.
Where will Neymar end up then? Arguably the most talked about Brazilian talent in the world and one of the most sought-after by the likes of Real Madrid in particular, he could go on the same path as his former national team mate. Although he has signalled that his intentions are to stay with Santos for a couple more seasons it will not stop teams flying over to São Paulo to ask for his signature on the dotted line. You know what Madrid are like. And so that’s why I have written this article to dip into the future and see what it beholds for the next generation of Seleção. I will find out their ages five years from present day and configure from their birth dates. This team will total up to a 23-man squad.
~ = around that age
Julio Cesar (36 years old) – After serving Inter Milan for so long, he may well return to Brazil like his predecessor in Dida and make another 20-30 odd appearances for the national side before retiring from international duty after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Diego Alves (31 years old) – Whilst Julio Cesar is in the dying embers of his professional and international career, the aged and experienced figure in Diego Alves will prove to be a great replacement for the weather-beaten Inter shot-stopper. His time in Spain and performances for Valencia – or whatever club he is playing for at the time – will have captured the attention of the Brazil national coach and given him opportunities to play between the sticks.
Neto (~26 years old) – Time spent in Italy and possible loan spells out to different clubs, whether domestically or not, will have warranted cameo appearances for the national side whilst he takes third spot in the pecking order of goalkeepers. The youngest of the three, Neto will have played a somewhat “stand-in” role for the two older goalkeepers.
Rafael (26 years old) – The retirement or fading away of Aranha, Santos’ other goalkeeper, will have allowed Rafael the opportunity to gain experience in the first team for the club whilst attracting attention from European clubs across the board, most likely from Italy and Spain. And despite being at a similar age to Neto, coincided with less European experience, will nevertheless give him time to show his worth in the national side.
Daniel Alves (33 years old) – He will have lost his pace over the years due to age and not be as blisteringly quick as he once was, recommending a much more low-tempo role as a right back than what he has performed before with Barcelona like a secondary right winger. Despite the loss of pace, his stamina and determination for the ball will still be at a high level and resemble that of Cafu in his old age for the national team where he could still run the whole ninety and more. Constantly finding space down the right side left by an inside-cutting winger that allows runs to be made.
Marcelo (~28 years old) – Will have made almost, if not, more than 20 caps for Seleção and becoming a regular left back for the side. Younger full backs in Diego Renan, possibly Bruno Cortês and the Da Silva brothers will make their appearances occasionally but reliance will be left on Marcelo to re-enact the style of play that usually was made by Daniel Alves on the right flank.
Rafael/Fabio Da Silva (~24 years old) – Putting them separately would unfair, so putting them as one would allow greater room and also having the knowledge that only one of them, really, will make the national team on a continued basis. The other will be injury-plagued or not consistent enough to make the standards raised by the national coach at the time. Patrice Evra’s almost-inevitable departure from Manchester United whilst he loses his pace and place in the first team makes way for one of the Da Silva brothers whilst the right back position is more than likely to be consumed by either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling. Should one of the two young Englishmen fall to injury or suspension, one of the Da Silva brothers will probably make their names heard to whoever is in charge of United at the time (fingers crossed for a 74-year old Fergie)
Bruno Cortês (29 years old) – His appearance this year for Brazil will lead to another 7 or 8 more over five years as he spends time in Brazil with two or three more clubs other than his current club Botafogo. Competition shown by the Da Silva brothers and the continued used of Marcelo at left back may prove to be too much for Bruno, leaving him without much leverage to instigate a claim.
David Luiz (29 years old) – Chelsea’s exuberant centre half will have curved his error-prone ways and become a much more consistent and reliable defender than once before. Whether he will be converted into a more attacking player with a positional change or instructions to go forward more would be interesting to see, but nonetheless will become a regular for the national team. Lúcio and his destined retirement from the international scene at around 34 to 35 years old, whilst peaking 36 leaves greater room for younger defenders such as Danilo, Dedé and Mario Fernandes to make a mark when Luiz is unavailable.
Thiago Silva (31 years old) – Brazil will not have to look much further than David Luiz and Thiago Silva for first team centre halves. The combination of both players’ experience in Europe and possible captures of the most prestigious footballing prize in the continent – the UEFA Champions League – will have upped their reputation for their defensive and attacking abilities, traits and quite possibly desires. Once again, today’s centre backs for Seleção, Lúcio and Luisão will be long gone from the green-trimmed yellow kit and rather spending their days in either Brazil or in the Middle East. One of them will anyway.
Lucas Leiva (29 years old) – I have a feeling that he will still be part of the national side through those five years after impressive performances as a holding midfielder during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in the homeland of samba soccer, as well as the 2015 Copa America, which would then in turn allow him a greater chance in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Alongside Sandro (quite possibly) and/or players such as Casemiro, Ganso and others in the midfield, he will provide that calmness that is not very often seen in teams. Probably will still be playing for Liverpool.
Hernanes (31 years old) – His exceptional playmaking abilities for Lazio and perhaps other clubs around Europe will have warranted another 15-20 caps for the national team over five years whilst other central midfielders become more noticeable to the national coach. A conversion from attacking midfielder and playing in-behind the striker to a holding midfielder and alongside a battler in the centre of the park may be necessary – especially with the national side when attacking midfielders will become far more prevalent – but will continue to roam up and down the centre to provide those instinctive key passes that often lead to a scoring opportunity.
Ramires (29 years old) – Still having the stamina that he has today five years on. Maybe a move away from London and Stamford Bridge but still in Europe, plying his trade to either at a top club in one of the “big leagues” (France, Germany, Spain) or having gone to Russia in Anzhi with fellow Brazilian Jucilei. Will have made over 20 caps and still a regular for Seleção.
Paulo “Ganso” Henrique (26 years old) – I’d like to think that he’s transferred to an Italian club, playing in the role of a playmaker/trequartista. In the final three-quarters of the pitch the majority of the time whilst laying off passes to whoever plays as the main striker. Easily could be one of the big three, Inter Milan, A.C. Milan and Juventus, but could even go to France in Paris Saint-Germain, despite it being unlikely with the omnipresent marquee signing in Javier Pastore being quite central to the Parisien club’s plans. And at the age of 27 (Pastore), where would Ganso fit in? Average around 35-40 caps, in the squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and played bit-part in the 2015 Copa America, 2016 Summer Olympics and still in the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad as well. Clinical passer of the ball and making his name in Italian Serie A football.
Lucas Rodrigues Moura Da Silva (~23 years old) – Or better known as just Lucas. A quick, agile player with great technical feet and a small stature to weave through defences quite easily enough, breaking into the attacking thirds whilst simultaneously keeping the fans at the edges of their seats. Ok, there may have been some exaggeration there, but if you watch him play, so often he will live up to that “weave through defences” part for São Paulo. Will most likely find himself in Europe, in either Italy or Spain, for one of the two big clubs in either country. Sold for around £16million and just about to stake a claim. Will have broken the 25 cap mark soon enough.
Renato Augusto (28 years old) – His playing time in Germany may lead to a transfer to England and a top six club should Leverkusen let him go. May well be brought in because of experience and his abilities to change the game with his pace and acceleration on the ball. Whether he will still have it at 28 will just have to be seen in five years time, but putting that aside, he will probably like what Thiago Neves is now – best deployed as an attacking midfielder.
Alexandre Pato (~26 years old) – People forget about “Duck” these days. Or at least, I do anyway. He’s only 22 years old now but he will more than likely be deployed as Brazil’s main striker whilst players like Lucas and Neymar play off of him, or alongside someone like Leandro Damião. At some stage he may find himself in a big money move to Manchester City or Paris Saint Germain at some point, and then return to Italy – not necessarily with A.C. Milan but some club – whilst obtaining around 20-30 odd caps during this point in time. Within rotation of Damião up front, the two will be more than likely to be relied upon to spearhead Seleção’s attacking moves.
Leandro Damião (26 years old) – His height and strength on the ball, as well as quickness has been headhunted for before, but will inevitably find himself in England, Italy or Spain. Either of the three. Better yet, Russia in Anzhi quite possibly as Roberto Carlos steers them into a UEFA Champions League spot for the second year running after his retirement from the game and appointment as manager from the Anzhi board. With Pato, he and “Duck” will regularly play together up front, or often be rotated with Neymar in a front three.
Robinho (32 years old) – Unlike Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, he will not lose his pace and quickness on the ball very quickly, or at least I don’t think he will. After A.C. Milan perhaps the club which will want him more is Santos and would love to take back the youngster they made and shipped off into Europe. A signing that may come pre or post-Neymar’s exit, a return to Brazil would definitely be more welcoming than a transfer into Spain or England once more but not earning the same £70-90K that he has been accustomed to in servicing his talent. Will most likely break 100 caps for Brazil and upgrade his seating in the Centurion Club. He probably remains the closest to role than most, other than Kaká.
Hulk (~30 years old) – Unless F.C. Porto return to the UEFA Champions League roundtable once more like they had done in 2003 under the commandment of José Mourinho, then I can’t really see Hulk staying there much longer. Eventually the club may have cave into the pressure of richer clubs asking for him and will have to set a high price tag for a greater return on him, like they had done for their beloved Radamel Falcao to Atlético Madrid. Something in the region of £20-26million could be on the cards but whether any club is willing to dish out that much for him remains to be seen. But, who knows? Without A.V.B to take them further into Europe after leaving the Portuguese champions in search of Chelsea, wondering in the footsteps of many who have proclaimed him to be the “next Mourinho”, thus leaves a bigger problem. If the current manager in Vítor Pereira can do it (who has done well since taking over) then maybe Hulk will stay.
Lucas Piazon (~22 years old) – An outside shot but still someone that could be considered. His five years at Chelsea, built up with loan spells at mid-table Premier League clubs, will help him improve and become a greater asset in the final thirds of the pitch. Despite being mainly an attacking midfielder, he can operate as a striker too, which leads to his inclusion as a “secondary forward”. Piazon has the ability and talent to become a great player if nurtured and Chelsea should do that if they are to find replacements in their aging squad. Yet to make his debut for Brazil’s senior squad, he may well do that post-2015 Copa America. Will have reached 10 cap mark.
Neymar (~24 years old) – Finally, Neymar. Left a space for him at the end because of how much interest there is in how he will develop into the player so many have rated him to be. I will go as far as saying that I personally think that he is overrated. This is just a matter of opinion. I have watched him and he is impressive but all of the hype surrounding him seems suffocating. It has gone as far as saying that he will become the “next Pelé”. I find that completely and utterly ridiculous, but alas, this is all media hype. He will, again in my opinion, not come as close to that tag as some people put out, but can however live up to the great expectations if he is not lazy and wasteful about the opportunities he is presented.
Moving on from that, the issues surrounding when he should/will leave Santos F.C. remains to be uncovered. The Santos chairman/President has continuously come out and denied that Neymar will leave the club and will not be leaving – any time soon at least – believing that his place is in Brazil with the club he has grown up with. Over a large period of time, Santos has produced a wealthy batch of talent. The biggest obviously being Pelé but Robinho follows that and he too was proclaimed to be the next you-know-who before he went to Real Madrid in 2005. I believe that, if he stays at Santos for the minimum of two more years, then he should be capable enough of seeking a bigger club in Europe. Santos fans over the years, I assume, have started to learn and understand that they cannot keep hold of all their best players and biggest talents, regardless of how hard they try, since they will most likely need to flap their wings elsewhere – unfortunately. They have seen it happen a couple times and this’ll probably be another, too. On the contrary to that, this has never been a greater time to give them the opportunity to suck every last penny from whomever may want their precious gem of a player in Neymar. Real Madrid have been in the news recently with speculation surrounding them that in fact they have signed Neymar and will join at some stage in the future – the validity of that story does not seem to be very strong, but continues to circle around los Galacticos, Santástico and Neymar himself. They could get as much as £40million if they really push themselves to, and if they do, they should be very, very happy with themselves.
And lastly, if he does reach the expectations set upon him (hypothetically speaking) then he can achieve almost anything and everything in his entire career. Given the right club, time and allowance to learn, perform and exceed, the likes of domestic league titles, UEFA Champions League titles, individual awards such as the UEFA and FIFA Player of the Year awards (supposing that Messi doesn’t set the record for the most won year-on-year) and the World Cup to make it his nation’s sixth title – all in all the world is his oyster and whatever he does can be turned into gold but that only comes with the right time and the right placement. If that doesn’t happen, he could become a big flop. Could is the key word in that statement. He is as delicate as a vase and if you break him you are going to have a big hole in your wallet.
* Looks at Real Madrid *.