Football in Brazil is more than a sport, it’s a religion. From the favelas to the Copacabana it’s a way of life. It unites the country. And over the years, the Samba Boys have produced a constant flow of world class players. Many of which have left the golden, sandy beaches behind for the lure of Premier League football in a wet and miserable England. Fair play lads. Below we look at the best Brazilian players to play in the Premier League, there’s been some belters.
Controversial? Perhaps. But on his day Thiago Silva is one of, if not the, best centre backs in world football. Admittedly, he’s yet to hit those heights during his short stint at Chelsea and probably never will as he nears the end of his playing career, however the Confederations Cup and Copa America winner deserves to be on the list. It was either him or David Luiz, yeah, exactly.
Like all top modern centre halves Silva is comfortable with the ball at his feet, can pick a pass, he’s dominant in the air and solid in the tackle. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see the Serie A and multiple Ligue 1 winner play in the Premier League during his heyday.
Forget Willian’s disastrous season at Arsenal, instead remember the good old days at Chelsea. Because he had plenty. Helping the Blues win two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup and the Europa League between 2013 and 2020. Five trophies in seven years? I’d call that a successful stint and a decent return for a winger who often lived in the shadows of superstar and fellow winger Eden Hazard. Averaging a goal every five games, Willian was far from prolific, but he made up for it with his excellent work rate, a fantastic dead ball and exquisite vision. Willian was and still is massively underrated.
Another Brazilian who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, Bobby Firmino. A Champions League and Premier League winner. The striker has been key to Liverpool’s recent success, and while he’s far from a traditional number 9 or blessed with blistering pace, his importance to Liverpool’s attack can not be overlooked. Taking up positions between the lines, the Brazilian creates space for the likes of Salah and Mane to drift inside and cause havoc.
Although not renowned for his proficiency in front of goal Firmino became the first Brazilian to bag 50 goals in the Premier League. Good effort, that.
Robinho’s stint at Manchester City was, in truth, a disaster. But the guy was a serious baller, so he had to make the list. After famously signing for the Citizens on the final day of the summer transfer window in 2008, Robinho later admitted to thinking he was signing for Chelsea. Real Madrid changed their minds at the last minute. Gutted.
Over the next 16 months, the Brazilian’s Manchester City career went from bad to worse. He made just 53 appearances in all competitions scoring 16 goals before moving back to boyhood club Santos on loan.
From a Premier League flop to a club legend, kind of. Lucas Leiva spent a decade at Anfield, making almost 350 appearances in all competitions. Signed from Grêmio, the Brazilian was well known for his no-nonsense approach in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield. Despite being small in stature, Lucas was strong in the tackle and possessed a cracking pair of lungs which allowed him to get up and down the pitch. Like a little Jack Russell constantly yapping away at the opponent’s ankles. Great viewing.
Give Phillipe Coutinho time on the edge of the box and he’ll punish you. Capable of playing out wide or as a number ten, the creative midfielder scored banger after banger for Liverpool. No keeper was safe. The Reds paid a bargain price of just £8.5 million for the then 20-year-old. Fair to say he was worth every penny, scoring 54 goals in 201 appearances, finding the net every four games. Not bad, eh?
Premier League. FA Cup. League Cup. Champions League. Europa League. Ramires won the lot during his six year stint at Chelsea. Criminally underrated, the Joinville academy graduate could play a number of positions across midfield but was best suited to sitting deep in the holding role. Breaking up play and distributing the ball to those who were technically superior.
But make no mistake, Ramires could play ball. Take that goal against Barcelona, you know the one. A sublime finish. Valdes had no chance. Naughty little dink. Lovely. In fact, from start to finish, the goal perfectly encapsulates Ramires’ game. He collects the ball in his own half. Gets his head up. Bursts forward. Plays it into Lampard. Continues his run. Gets the return and then has the composure to find the back of the net. Brazilian magic.
Vincent Kompany. Yaya Toure. Sergio Aguero. Modern day Manchester City legends who’ve played a huge role in the club’s recent success. Add Fernandinho to the list too. Because the Brazilian has been a revelation since signing for the Citizens eight years ago. He makes City tick. Sitting in front of the back four. Breaking up play. Tracking back. Cleaning up the scraps. He does the dirty work, which is often overlooked.
The Brazilian is a four time Premier League winner and six time League Cup winner. Not a bad return for a £34 million signing. He’s a leader too. On and off the field. Now aged 36 and nearing the end of his career, City will do well to find a replacement anywhere near the same standard as the Londrina born defensive midfielder. Some player.
In 1995 a 22-year-old, 5’5”, Brazilian named Juninho Paulista was being tracked by some of Europe’s elite after making a name for himself at São Paulo. So when the attacking midfielder signed for newly promoted Middlesbrough, in England, it raised a few eyebrows. And no wonder. It was a massive coup for the club and the Premier League.
From Brazil to Boro, it’s like chalk and cheese. They don’t go together. A recipe for disaster. But, weirdly, it worked. Juninho loved Boro. And the Boro fans loved Juninho. It helped that the little wizard had an eye for goal. He fast become a cult hero helping the Teesiders to both the League Cup and FA Cup finals. However, he could do nothing to stop the club from being relegated in 1997. Soon after, he departed Middlesbrough but would return for a second stint 5 years later, righting the wrongs by winning the League Cup in 2002. Some story.
After an impressive World Cup in 2002, Gilberto Silva found himself penning a long term contract at Arsenal. Wenger had high expectations of the defensive midfielder and, it’s fair to say, the Brazilian well and truly delivered.
He made 244 appearances for the Gunners, winning two FA Cups, and, of course, was part of the famous ‘Invincibles’ in 2003/04, going the entire Premier League season unbeaten. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp provided the fire power up top, whilst Silva dominated midfield. Comfortable on the ball, Silva would often drop deep, allowing Arsenal to play out from the back. A tactic which was key to Wenger’s philosophy and style of play.