Manuel Veth –
Brazil’s new national team coach, Tite, has finally announced his new squad, and the team includes two players that are currently plying their trade in the post-Soviet space.
In midfield, Tite has called up Guiliano from Zenit Saint Petersburg and, up front, the squad includes Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Taison. Taison and Guiliano aside, the squad includes several players who have a past in Russia and Ukraine.
In midfield, Tite has called up Atlético Mineiro midfielder, Rafael Carioca, who between 2009 and 2015 played 112 games for Spartak Moscow, as well as former Shakhtar Donetsk, and Anzhi Makhachkala playmaker, Willian. Furthermore, the Chinese Super League based player, Paulinho, also has a past in the post-Soviet space, as he started his career with the Lithuanian based club FC Vilnius.
Former Spartak Moscow coach, Valery Karpin, was not particularly surprised about Carioca’s call up. as the Russian manager had worked closely with Carioca during their time together at Spartak Moscow.
Karpin told Sport-Express that Carioca’s call up to the Seleção was logical: “I am happy for Carioca, as his talent is finally recognized. He has been worth a call up for a long time. He arrived at Spartak as a 19-year-old, but now he is all grown up, and strong. It was always clear that Rafael is talented, and it was clear to many in the past, and he could have been important for Spartak.”
Seleção Represents Global Economic Trends
What is another interesting trend is the fact that Titi has called up three players from the Chinese Super League—Olympic gold medal winner Renato Augusto (Beijing Guon), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), and Gil (Shandong Luneng).
The Brazilian Twitter blogger Paulo Freitas announced that the Brazilian contingent in China has grown to such an extent that the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) has put together a scouting team just for China.
Yet, just three players from China made the cut, which leaves off players such as Ramires and Alex Teixeira (both Jiangsu Suning). Alex Teixeira, especially, has been outspoken in the past about wanting to be called up to the Seleção.
Alex Teixeira may have had that end in mind when he appeared to force a move to Liverpool of the English Premier League last January, but at the end of the day a move to England didn’t materialize. After Liverpool failed to meet Shakhtar’s demands, many expected that Teixeira would hold out till the end of the 2015-16 season, and then join in Brazilian colleagues Roberto Firmino and Coutinho at LFC.
But following the failed deal with Liverpool, Alex Teixeira received a gigantic offer from Jiangsu Suning, and he decided to move to China rather than waiting for a high profile move to a big European team.
China the Future, but not the Present!
Indeed, Tite’s decision to scout the Chinese Super League may indicate that players from China will have a chance to make the Seleção. But the actual squad list instead indicates that the focus remains on Brazilian and European based players.
Of the 23 players called up, eleven are based in Europe, and nine players are based in the Brazilian Serie A. The latter is not a big surprise given the fact that Tite, as a manager who has spent almost his entire career coaching in Brazil, is most familiar with Brazilian football.
But one also has to keep in mind that, of the nine Brazilian based players, Gabriel Jesus, has already announced his move to Manchester City—the transfer will be completed after the Brazilian championship has been concluded in December—and Santos striker, Gabriel Barbosa, is also expected to move to Europe as early as this summer.
Brazil has always been the trendsetter in terms of globalization. In fact, Brazil’s most prominent export has always been football players, and the recent trend of high profile players going to China is, therefore, is also represented in the most recent edition of the Seleção.
But if the Seleção is indeed a barometer for trends in football globalization, there is also the indication that China, despite all it’s spending, has not yet caught up to European football—yet. At the same time, however, the fact that Tite has introduced a special scouting department for China indicates that this could change in the near future, and that more and more players from China could find their way into the Seleção.
European Players Still Represent the Backbone
European based players, however, will most likely remain the backbone of the Seleção as, like the Chinese Super League, most of the bigger European leagues have no restrictions on how many foreigners can be fielded at one time. Of the top ten European leagues only Russia and Ukraine have foreign limitation rules, which is also reflected by the fact that Tite has only called up two players from those leagues.
Yet at the same time, the fact that many players have their background in smaller Eastern European leagues highlights that Brazilian players often have to travel a hard and stony path to the biggest European leagues, and in turn to the national team.
After all, six players of the current squad managed to rise to the top via the post-Soviet route, and it can be expected that many more players will have to take that route in order to be discovered by a major European squad. Indeed, clubs from Eastern Europe rely on the cheaper talent from South America and, already, on the road to the Champions League, we have seen clubs such as Ludogorets Razgrad, and more famously Shakhtar Donetsk from Ukraine rely heavily on talent from Brazil.
Hence, the Seleção will always remain a global squad, and a barometer for the globalization of world football. What remains to be seen, however, is whether Tite can manage a squad that has been put together from all corners of the world, and whether he can return the Seleção to the very top of world football.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and a writer for Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.