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Wednesday 21. September 2005 - 13:09

Brazilians set the rhythm at Barca and Real

Clashes between Primera Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid will have a distinctly Br azilian flavour this season.

Barcelona, or "Brasilona" as some commentators have christened them, have six Br azilian-born players on their books including world player of the year Ronaldinho, defender Juliano Belletti and midfielder Deco, who hails from Sao Bernardo do Campo but now plays international football for Portugal.

Real have four in their squad -- Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Julio Baptista and the spectacular youngster Robinho -- and former national team boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo is in charge of the team.

The nine-times European champions have also secured an option on Br azilian international defender Cicinho, who is expected to join the club from Sao Paulo during the January transfer window.

It is not just in Spain that Br azilians have made their mark; the Italian, German, English, French and Russian leagues have all looked to the South American country for new players.

"In almost every country teams have been hiring Br azilians and I don't think it is just a passing fashion," Ronaldinho told Reuters in an interview. "I think Br azilians do a good job and have brought good results with them so that makes them very interesting for teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid."

There was a time when having a Br azilian in your squad was a rarity, something of an exotic indulgence. Br azilians' famous "saudade", or yearning for home, made them uncertain investments and many clubs preferred not to take the risk.

The success of Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, however, all of whom played for Barcelona in the 1990s, helped to pave the way for an ever increasing number of their compatriots to make the move to Europe.

Not only were Br azilian players often available at a far lower price than European counterparts but their presence on the pitch was usually a guarantee of the sort of entertainment that would bring fans flocking into stadiums.

Juninho's influence at Middlesbrough was a prime example. The diminutive Br azilian became a hero on Teesside for his skill, commitment and dedication to the cause, even if the trophies did not materialise.

Ronaldinho has performed a similar role at Barcelona. Joining the Catalans in July 2003 from Paris St German when the club was in a crisis, he became the catalyst for their revival.

He scored 14 league goals in his first campaign and inspired the club to a 17-game unbeaten run which lifted them to second place in the title race. The following season he helped to guide them to their first league title in six years.

"I think Br azilians have a different style that attracts football fans and the public in general," says Ronaldinho.

"But what I think attracts teams most about Br azilians is that they can help bring trophies to the club. Br azilians are experiencing success and that is why doors are opening here in Europe."

Br azil and Barcelona team mate Belletti agreed. "It was different in the past, Br azilians came to Europe and couldn't adapt," he said.

"It was more difficult then, but now that Br azilians are helping their teams win trophies, that motivates them to sign more Br azilians."

The success of the national team is another incentive for European clubs to look to Br azil. The five-times world champions have already booked their place in next year's World Cup and, unlike four years ago, they have qualified with ease.

Their spectacular attacking style and array of talent have already drawn comparisons with the great team that won the 1970 World Cup.

The latest high-profile Br azilian to make the switch to Europe is Robinho, the 21-year-old prodigy who helped to steer Santos to two Br azilian championships in 2002 and 2004.

With his dizzying "pedaladas" (step-overs) and limitless repertoire of ball skills, Real Madrid are hoping their new recruit will help them to win a first trophy in three seasons as well as allowing them to match Barcelona in the entertainment stakes.

"He's a huge player," said Ronaldinho. "He's a great friend and I wish him all the luck in the world and hope he can go far."

Belletti sounded a note of caution, saying that a move to Europe was not always a guarantee of success.

" Robinho has the ingredients to be one of the best players in the world," he said. "He has personality, he is in the Br azil national team and now is at Real Madrid, but when Denilson came here he was in almost the same situation as many thought he could become the best player in the world."

Denilson, touted as one of the country's most talented players when he joined Real Betis for a world-record $35 million in 1998, sank without trace in Spain and has recently been loaned out to French side Bordeaux in an attempt to resurrect his career.

" Robinho's advantage is that he has a Br azilian coach in Luxemburgo," said Belletti. "He knows him and he coached him before and the fact that he will play alongside people he knows like Ronaldo will also help him a lot."

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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