It is a measure of the rapidly changing nature of English football that there are now more Brazilians in the Premier League than any other foreign nationality.
Manchester City’s signing of Brazil striker Jo and Chelsea’s hiring of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari were the most prominent signs of a trend that has accelerated over the past year.
Even Brazilian goalkeepers are all the rage, with Liverpool signing Diego Cavalieri from Palmeiras and Tottenham paying PSV Eindhoven £7million for Heurelho Gomes. They joined a cast list of compatriots that includes Elano (Manchester City), Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough), Geovanni (Hull, formerly Manchester City), Anderson (Manchester United), Lucas Leiva and Fabio Aurelio (both Liverpool) and Denilson (Arsenal).
Meanwhile, twins Fabio and Rafael da Silva, stars of last year’s South American Under-17 Championship, have gone to Manchester United, though they will not be in the first team this season.
The Premier League also now has a number of other players with Brazil connections. This summer, Brazil-born Portugual midfielder Deco joined the Scolari revolution at Chelsea, while Giovani Dos Santos, Mexico-born son of Brazilian former player Zizinho, moved from Barcelona to Tottenham. Down the road, Brazil-born Croatia forward Eduardo Da Silva is preparing to return for Arsenal after his lengthy injury lay-off.
With all that, the departure of Brazilian World Cup winner Gilberto Silva from Arsenal to Panathinaikos for £1million was fairly insignificant.
Looking elsewhere English clubs also looked elsewhere in the Americas for new signings – a striking feature of a summer dominated by Euro 2008.
Newcastle, frustrated by their inability to attract big-name Europeans to Tyneside, landed Argentina winger Jonas Gutierrez. Arsenal finally secured a work permit for Mexican forward Carlos Vela, almost three years after they signed him following Mexico’s success at the 2005 Under-17 World Championship.
Europe’s rising stars have not been ignored completely. Luka Modric completed his £16m switch to Tottenham from Dinamo Zagreb, a deal agreed before Euro 2008, while Arsenal demonstrated they are still a magnet for French talent with the signing of Samir Nasri from Marseille for £11m.
Other Euro 2008 performers moving to England included Portugal’s Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea) and Sweden’s Johan Elmander (Bolton). But the message from Premier League clubs is clear – if you want to get ahead, get a Brazilian.
Five to watch
Carlos Vela (Arsenal)
The Mexican wonderkid finally makes it to England after two seasons spent on loan in Spain. He now has the work permit but does he have the means to adapt to a new style of play?
Jo (Manchester City)
The Brazilian is City’s record signing at £19million and arrives from CSKA Moscow with a big reputation.
Johan Elmander (Bolton)
The Swede comes with a big price-tag (£11m) but a proven goalscoring record in France with Toulouse.
Heurelho Gomes (Tottenham)
Spurs finally have a replacement for the unfortunate Paul Robinson, the former England keeper deemed unsuitable by coach Juande Ramos.
Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle)
Newcastle fans have a potential new hero, a crowd-pleasing winger who celebrates goals by donning a Spiderman mask. But the club may end up paying more than the reported £5m fee if Mallorca are successful with their compensation claim after Gutierrez invoked FIFA’s Article 17 to leave the Spanish club.
By Gavin Hamilton