- What if he goes abroad next month, dad?
Sure, the kid probably didn’t know the exact numbers of players flocking to the airport (around 7.700 between 2003 and 2011, in case someone is interested), but in the last three seasons he should be worried for different reasons: his choice of player might suddenly be replaced by a superstar. At the same time Brazil has been shipping over a thousand players a year, repatriations have been higher than ever. In 2010, there were 135.
Although this number was formed by a majority of flops, especially in the case of adventures in non-traditional soccer nations such as Vietnam, which has received more Brazilians than the Premiership, big names are increasingly fancying a go on the pitch back home. Only in the last few months, Elano and Luis Fabiano, two players who arguably could still find a place at a top level European club, returned to Brazil.
It’s different from the arrival of Ronaldo to Corinthians in 2009, which looked more like a swan song for the player. Adriano’s recent signing by the same club has a precedent: two years ago, he almost single-handedly took Flamengo to their first Brazilian title in 17 years. But he was much more interested in living near his family in Rio after years fighting depression and alcoholism in Italy. Ronaldinho would certainly not feel at home at Lancashire had he accepted the only serious offer for his services in Europe after being shown the door at AC Milan.
Players now see Brazil as a combination between decent wages thanks to the economic boom in the country and the chance to play in a league that has come a long way in the last decade. Still, it is a business for seasoned athletes. According to research by the Professional Football Players’ Observatory, the average repatriated player’s age is 29, while the number is 24 for the exported athletes, even with outliers like the Da Silva twins, shipped to United at 17.
Does it work? That will depend on which makes one happy. If there is no guarantee of immediate trophies it is clear that big names will excite crowds and sponsors. Corinthians finances experienced a massive boost in the two seasons Ronaldo spent there, even though the Brazilian Cup was the only expressive trophy they won. The older guys might end up helping clubs to retain talent for a while longer. That would already be a blessing for Brazilian fans.