China calls for Brazil football player exodus

Still getting over Brazil`s World Cup semi-final debacle at the hands of eventual winners Germany, fears have been expressed for the future well-being of the domestic league amid an ongoing exodus to Europe, but also China.

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 26, 2015, 09:43 AM IST
China calls for Brazil football player exodus

Rio de Janeiro: Still getting over Brazil`s World Cup semi-final debacle at the hands of eventual winners Germany, fears have been expressed for the future well-being of the domestic league amid an ongoing exodus to Europe, but also China.

Top stars such as 2002 champions Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, as well as 1994 World Cup winners Romario and current coach Dunga have already plied their trade in Europe.

But whereas their generation left South America for fame and top honours, as well as fortune, with some of the Old Continent`s biggest clubs, the current crop of Brazilians are blazing a trail to less glamorous pastures.

The destination of choice is increasingly cash-rich Chinese clubs, and with most Brazilian clubs laboring under a debt mountain, doubts are increasingly being expressed as to where the `Brasileirao` goes from here.

Globo newspaper on Sunday dubbed China the "new Eldorado" after midfielder Ricardo Goulart signed for "Southern China Tigers" Evergrande for $13 million.

The former Cruzeiro star`s fee was a Chinese professional league record, landing a star years away from his peak and fresh from winning the league title.

Having only made his debut last August for a Brazil now looking to leave their World Cup nightmare behind them, the 23-year-old insisted the move to Asia would not dampen his chances of featuring regularly for the Selecao.

His move may earn him millions on a four-year deal but that did not stop Brazilian football blogger Mauricio Savarese dubbing him "Brazil`s biggest mercenary."

Savarese also forecast -- with a mixture of glee and regret -- that Goulart would become "submerged in a league even worse than our own."

With roughly one third of foreign players in the Chinese league from Brazil, Brazilian commentators are worried the sporting balance of power is tipping the same way as its economic counterpart, where the Asian giant dominates.

Noting that China is Brazil`s biggest trade partner, Globo observed that "China principally used to buy iron ore and soya (from Brazil). Today, it`s buying footballers."

With Diego Tardelli, albeit a comparative veteran at 29 but also a Brazil international, having swapped Atletico Mineiro for Shandong Luneng, where Brazilian Cuca is coach, respected Folha Sao Paulo commentator Juca Kfouri likewise sounded a warning.
"Minas Gerais (the home state of Goulart`s and Tardelli`s former clubs), over the past couple of years a Brazilian footballing center of excellence, is swapping production of milk for the export of (footballing) labor," lamented Kfouri.

Beating a footballing path to China is a recent phenomenon.

But Kfouri lamented that even Ukraine, where several dozen Brazilians were registered at the start of the season, appears a more attractive destination than Brazil, not least for the likes of striker Luiz Adriano of Shakhtar Donetsk, where no fewer than 12 squadmates are compatriots.

"We are miles away from exploring the full potential of our league," insists Kfouri, who complains Brazil is ill-prepared for the sporting consequences of globalization.

With the national team only just getting off the canvas after its German lesson last July and as top flight clubs fight to pare down mountains of debt -- not least by selling their best players -- the state league is increasingly losing its allure.

"Brazil is on the fringes of globalization," says Fernando Ferreira of Pluri consultants of a country which threw billions at building new stadiums and refurbishing old ones for the World Cup, regardless of the fact that several -- notably in the capital Brasilia and Manaus -- have no top-flight teams to fill venues now looking like white elephants.

Noting the "strong political influence" which persists at the heart of Brazilian clubs in an era where foreign ownership in the major European leagues has become almost de rigueur, Ferreira concluded: "The economic gap is huge."