Tuesday 10: Brazilians in England

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With England and Brazil shortly to clash in Qatar (where else?), Josh Pedley looks at Brazilians who came, saw and (sometimes) conquered at clubs like Arsenal, Bolton, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and, er, Garforth...


Such is the cosmopolitan nature of the Premier League these days that no-one would bat an eyelid if the next young superstar unearthed by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hailed from Mars.

But back in 1987 things were quite different, so it was a very big deal indeed when Newcastle United forked out £575,000 to sign the diminutive Mirandinha from Brazilian club Palmeiras.

Nicknamed 'the Greedy One' – and not for his table manners – Francisco Ernami Lima de Silva scored 20 goals in 53 league appearances at St James Park.

But after a promising first season at St James' Park, his second campaign was a disaster.

The team’s star Paul Gascoigne was sold and new manager Jim Smith didn’t trust Mirandinha. After the club was relegated, he returned to Brazil but could never recapture his form of old. He still refers to his spell in England as the best in his career.


If Mirandinha's move to Newcastle was more of a surprise for his nationality than his reputation, the same could not be said about Middlesbrough's £4.75m capture of the 22-year old Juninho Paulista in 1995.

True, there were plenty of unflattering comparisons between Teesside and the Copacabana. But whereas Mirandinha was an unknown to all but the most clued-up English fans, Juninho was probably more famous than the club he signed for.

One of the hottest youngsters in world football, wanted by many of Europe’s leading clubs, he elected to sign for Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough, newly promoted to the top flight and bursting with upstart positivity.

The naysayers were quick to claim he wouldn't last a tackle, let alone a harsh winter by the North Sea.

The naysayers were spectacularly wrong. Mixing undoubted skill with an English-pleasing determination and a wonderful down-to-earth sensibility – he moved his parents over and played in the streets with local children – Oswaldo Giroldo Junior felt so at home playing for Middlesbrough that he returned for a second a third spell at the club. 

His first spell was particularly eye-catching. All attacking élan, Juninho and Middlesbrough reached the finals of both domestic cups in 1997.

But they lost both and, having failed to concentrate on the league, were relegated on the final day of the season after a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.

Juninho left the pitch in tears and the club that summer, but he would be back - initially on loan before re-signing for Boro in 2002, banishing the nightmare of relegation by helping the club to its first-ever senior trophy, the 2004 League Cup.

Gilberto Silva

Like Brazil, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal sides have never been short of attacking brilliance.

But when Wenger wanted a son of the Samba nation, he hired one to do a very different job.

Gilberto Aparecido da Silva had packed his passport for the 2002 World Cup as understudy to Seleçao skipper Emerson.

But when Fabio Capello's favourite water-carrier fell injured, Gilberto stepped up to play every minute of the tournament. 

Recognising a player described by the Brazilian press as "Carrying the piano for Ronaldo and Rivaldo to play their tunes on", Wenger had found the perfect partner for Patrick Vieira.

Signed for £4.5m from Atletico Mineiro, Gilberto scored the winner on his Charity Shield debut.

Languid in the run but strong in the tackle, he possessed a tactical knowledge and defensive awareness, gained from his days as a centre back, which helped to add balance to an attacking Arsenal team.

As the Invincibles team was dismantled, Gilberto became a bridge from the old to the new.

His leadership increased after the departure of Vieira to Juventus and he helped nurture the precious talent of Cesc Fabregas during his early days in the first team.

Gilberto eventually lost his place to another young buck, Mathieu Flamini. But that's the Arsenal way, and the Brazilian remains fondly regarded at the club.

Roque Junior

Being a World Cup winner gives you an aura, a seemingly bulletproof confidence not even Jason Bourne could break.

Add to that a bit of Champions League winners' invincibility and Roque Junior must have, ahem, roq-ed up at Elland Road feeling pretty good about himself.

But Leeds United circa 2003 could break men even the KGB could not.

He joined a club on the verge of a breakdown, weighed down by the decadent spending of the turn of the century when, like Russell Brand in Blackpool spotting a hen party, David O’Leary and Peter Risdale chased glory in all the wrong places.

It wasn’t that Jose Vitor Roque Junior was a bad defender, as his CV so obviously suggests, it was just a case of wrong club, wrong time.

Four months after winning the Champions League with Carlo Ancelotti's AC Milan, he found himself loaned to Peter Reid's Leeds, left bereft by firesale of Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler, Olivier Dacourt, Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate.

Given the runaround by Paul Dickov in a 4-0 debut defeat at Leicester and sent off on his home debut against Birmingham, Junior was part of a team that conceded 25 goals in seven games during his ill-feted loan spell.

It didn’t help that having partnered Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta at Milan, Junior had to share a defence with Gary Kelly, Zoumana Camara and Didier Domi.

After a 6-1 defeat away at Portsmouth, Junior packed his bags and cut his season-long loan short. After his Yorkshire nightmare, his career would never be the same again.


If you arrive at a club with an all-time legend occupying your favoured position, you have to do something pretty special to get in the team and keep the fans on your side.

A great way to do that would be to score an exact replica of a goal said legend scored against your local rivals.

And that is what Sylvinho did. Replacing Nigel Winterburn was always going to be a tricky task but Sylvinho, if only for a brief period, did so admirably and his goal away at Chelsea was a beauty.

Amid rumours of a dodgy passport and an investigation into his transfer, the left-back’s stay at Highbury was over after just two years, his exit was no doubt speeded up by the emergence of Ashley Cole in the Arsenal first-team.

A model pro, Sylvinho ambled off to Spain, enjoying three years at Celta Vigo and  five trophy-laden seasons at Barcelona before accepting an offer last summer to join Mark Hughes and Manchester City last summer.


The summer after signing Juninho to be their midfield creator, Middlesbrough needed a midfield destroyer. And – apparently unbeknown to manager Bryan Robson – they bought Brazilian again.

On a good day Emerson Moises Costa was an energetic box-to-box midfielder with a great passing range and a ferocious striker of the ball. On a bad day, he was a passenger.

And not the kind who reads the map, keeps you awake and keeps you company on a long journey, but the kind who gets in the back of the car with a duvet and is out cold before you have even started the engine, waking only to complain.

Like Juninho, Emerson had turned down a number of offers from bigger European clubs to sign for Middlesbrough in 1996 after a successful spell under Bobby Robson at Porto.

But it seemed that Mrs Emerson was not quite so taken with Teesside and the midfielder started to take longer and longer to return from the frequent trips back to his homeland. Rumoured interest from Bobby Robson's new club Barcelona didn't help.

After Middlesbrough’s relegation in 1997, Emerson refused to return at all and demanded to be sold. The club refused and he was forced back to England, playing a handful of games in the second tier before Bryan Robson sold him to Tenerife.


Now here's a proper midfielder. Standing 6ft 4in with big curly hair and a full-on beard, Socrates was one of the coolest footballers to have played the game.

And in 2004, he played for Garforth Town. Like you do.

The playmaker had hung up his boots in 1989, but made a personal appearance at the behest of Simon Clifford, an enthusiastic Brazilophile who runs a number of Futebol de Salão academies and just happens to be owner-manager of Garforth Town.

Hence Socrates signing a one-month player/coach contract at the West Yorkshire club.

It was obviously a PR stunt, but Clifford plans for Garforth to reach the Premier League by 2025 and has enlisted the help of a number of famous Brazilians to help raise the club's profile.

The Garforth Town career of Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira lasted just 12 minutes, when the 50-year-old came on as a sub against Tadcaster Albion.

"It was far too cold,” he explained, "The second I got out I had this incredible headache, I'm just not used to it. The last time I saw snow was years and years ago.”

But that’s the problem with these fancy South Americans: they just can’t handle the British weather.


From the sublime to the ridiculous and an important lesson for signing players: for every Juninho, there is a Branco.

There were high hopes in Middlesbrough for the Brazilian left-back born Cláudio Ibrahim Vaz Leal, whose 35-yard screamer against the Netherlands at USA 94 was still fresh in people’s minds.

"I want to do well for my new club and myself," said the free-kick specialist. "But don't expect me to perform magic right away." 

Bryan Robson was certainly delighted to add the free-kick specialist to his ever-growing multi-national squad.

“I'm sure we will see the best of Branco. Players in the 26-33 bracket often have that added experience," said Robbo of the 32-year-old. "I would expect Branco to continue playing at the top level for another three or four years."

After just nine appearances, Branco was never seen again.

Mario Jardel

To be born Brazilian with footballing ability means you are to be judged against the very best to have ever laced up boots.

If you happen to be born with a natural, God-given gift to do the hardest thing in the game – to score goals – then you may have half a chance to impress a nation which has seen it all before.

Mário Jardel de Almeida Ribeiro had that gift in abundance. It just so happened that so did another Brazilian striker at exactly the same time and in Ronaldo, Brazil possessed perhaps the greatest No.9 in the history of the game.

Yet for a period at the turn of the century Mario Jardel was the most lethal striker in Europe.

He bagged 130 goals in 125 league games for Porto, 22 in 24 for Galatasaray and 53 in 49 for Sporting. He was, in short, a goalscoring machine.

But then it all went a bit wrong. Plagued by injuries, he returned to Brazil and ended up clubless in summer 2003 – so master bargain-hunter Sam Allardyce brought him to Bolton.

Jardel bagged three goals in three League Cup games, including a win at Anfield, but Allardyce couldn't find room in his hard-working team for the Brazilian.

Almost literally: having gained enough timber to be nicknamed "Lardel", the striker was put on the Atkins diet. Maybe he wasn’t too different to Ronaldo after all.

Charles William Miller

When looking at Brazilians who have made a splash in England, it’s only right to doff a cap to Charles William Miller, the Englishman who gave the game to Brazil.

After gaining his education in England, Miller returned to Brazil with a football and a rulebook in his suitcase and proceeded to show his friends this jolly good game he had learnt in Europe.

What he could never have foreseen would be that Brazilians didn’t so much fancy football as make love to it, devour it and then give birth to its very own brand of the game that was better than anything we could ever imagine.

Without Miller’s intervention, World Cups would have been a lot less colourful, cameramen would actually have to look for interesting footage instead of zooming in on bikini-clad goddesses and we may never have been dazzled by the sheer brilliance of Pele, Zico, Garrincha, Socrates, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Viva, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Dada and Ronaldinho.

So it's fair to say that Miller did good, but let's just hope that in Doha on Saturday, and in South Africa next summer, his generosity doesn’t come back to haunt us. (Again.)

Disagree with our choices? Go take it to the forums.

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