In the wake of Friday’s World Cup draw, Brazil finds itself well and truly at the centre of the footballing consciousness once again. This is true for Manchester United fans more than most, with the club currently heavily linked with current Brazilian Footballer of the Year Everton Ribeiro, an exciting midfield talent currently playing for Cruzeiro.
The fortunes of the Premier League’s Brazilian cohort have been mixed, but how well have those from the Samba nation fared at Old Trafford in particular? Unfortunately, the following list is largely one of mercurial, injury-plagued talents who have failed to ever reach the potential they hinted at in their youth. There is, however, one baby-faced right-back exception…
Kleberson, United’s first ever Brazilian signing, was acquired for £6.5 million after impressing as part of the Brazil team which won the 2002 World Cup. Intended as a replacement for Juan Sebastián Verón, he made just twenty league appearances in two seasons for United after picking up an injury in his second outing for the club. An attack-minded midfielder who at his best was characterised by energy and fast passing, Kleberson was unable to settle at United and departed in 2005. Following unimpressive spells at Besiktas, Flamengo, Atletico Paranaense and Bahia, he now plays on loan for Philadelphia Union in the MLS.
Despite scoring a penalty in the shootout of the Champions League final in 2008, Anderson has failed to fulfil his considerable potential whilst at United, and not for lack of opportunities. Once likened to Ronaldinho, Anderson at his finest is a bustling, skilful box-to-box midfielder, but has suffered repeated injury setbacks and fitness issues, many of which have been self imposed through poor dietary habits and a fondness for a night out. Despite United’s current alarming lack of central midfield options, Anderson has barely featured in his team’s recent games. If rumours are to be believed, his time at Old Trafford may be up as soon as January.
Another promising Brazilian central midfielder, Possebon was signed by United after impressing the same Brazilian scout who identified the Da Silva twins. After making his debut in August 2008, Possebon was injured in a challenge by Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz in a League Cup game in September 2003. Although fears that he had broken his leg were later dispelled, Possebon failed to respond effectively to his layoff, and left the club in 2010. He currently plays for Brazilian fourth division side Juventude.
The Da Silva twins
Thankfully, not all of United’s Brazilian signings will go down as talented but ultimately wasted prodigies. Indeed, there are few players who possess the same cult hero status amongst United’s current crop than the Da Silva brothers. Fabio’s time at Old Trafford may be drawing to an end, but despite struggling with injury and occasionally missing out to Chris Smalling this term, Rafael remains United’s best right back. Pacy, direct and with ever improving defensive skills, he could dominate the position for the next ten years, and may well go on to succeed where United’s other Brazilian imports have flimsily failed.