Ranking the greatest Brazilians to grace football in Europe

(Photo credit ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazil as a nation is renowned for producing lots of the greatest talents football has witnessed since its inception even till date.

From players like Pele – who is considered the greatest player to ever kick a football to Fred, Brazil have always set the pace in terms of footballing talents with their famous ‘ Samba style’.

Incidentally, since the inception of the FIFPro World XI, at least one Brazilian has featured in each of the World eleven.

WD Sportz takes a look at the “greatest Brazilians to feature in Europe”.

Taking into consideration the level of success on both club and individual levels or just their mind defying brilliance.

Now, lets take a dive:

P.S. This list is in no particular order and does not place any player above the other.

15. Dani Alves

Brazil right back Dani Alves
This man certainly loves trophies (Photo by Shaun Botterill – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Despite still being currently active in football in his native club Sao Paulo, Dani Alves has cemented himself as one of the greatest Brazilians to play in Europe.

Primarily a right back, Alves is one of the most decorated footballers in history with nine European medals to his name.

The 38-year-old had successful spells in Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris-Saint-Germain before returning to Sao Paulo.

The Brazilian redefined the role of fullback with his crossing, pace and vision.

He was named in the FIFPro World XI eight times – the second most for a defender.

14. Lúcio

O Cavalo
O Cavalo (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Brazil is known for producing great attacking talents, they also boast of outstanding defensive minds.

Lúcio, a tall and physically strong defender had an illustrious career across Europe spanning over a decades.

The Brazilian represented Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Juventus in a successful career, being a significant part of Inter’s treble winning season.

Lúcio was known for his long, surging, galloping runs on the ball, which earned him the nickname O Cavalo (“The Horse”, in Portuguese).

The 43-year old was also part of the 2002 World Cup winning squad and hung up his boots in 2020 at Brasiliense.

13. Rivaldo

Brazilian attacker Adriano
That left foot wreaked a lot of havoc (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

A part of the formidable triple-axis with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup.

At the peak of his career, Rivaldo was arguably one of the greatest strikers of his generation.

The left footed Brazilian who could play either as an attacking midfielder or second striker enjoyed a successful career at Barcelona and Milan.

Considered one of the most skillful and creative players of his generation, Rivaldo was feared for his bicycle kicks, feints, bending free kicks and powerful ball striking from distance.

Often credited with scoring the greatest hattrick ever, Rivaldo won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or at Barcelona in 1999 and the Champions League at Milan in 2003.

12. Júlio César

Júlio César
The General between the sticks (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Surely not the Roman general, However, he was a commanding presence between the sticks.

Known for his time at Inter, Júlio César spent seven years with the Nerazzurri in a trophy laden spell.

The highlight being the treble winning season in 2009/2010 with the Brazilian making crucial saves en route the final to help Inter win the Champions League against Bayern Munich.

He was named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year in both 2009 and 2010, and was nominated for the 2009 Ballon d’Or, where he was voted into 21st place. He was also named UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year after the 2009–10 season.

11. Marcelo

Brazil left back Marcelo
There are few left backs who have four UCL titles, are there? (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)

Probably one of the greatest modern left backs of all time.

Is Marcelo a left back OR an attacker? That’s probably a debate for another day.

The skillful defender has amassed a total of twenty two (22) trophies at Madrid in a glittering career spanning over a decade.

Roberto Carlos named Marcelo as the world’s best left back, saying. “He had more ability than me with the ball and he joins in better,” and even called him his heir.

A definition of the attacking full back with his trickery, pace and crossing.

Marcelo has lifted the UEFA Champions League a whooping four times alongside four league titles at Madrid.

He has been named in the FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year six and three times respectively.

10. Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva
The 21st century Central defender (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Silva, definitely in the debate as one of the finest defenders of his generation.

Currently plies his trade with Chelsea in England, however, he burst onto the grand stage in 2009 after he was signed by Milan.

Silva lifted the Serie A title at Milan in the 2010-11 season and was later snapped up by Paris-Saint-Germain in 2012 – making him the second most expensive defender at the time.

He went on to lift the Ligue 1 seven (7) times – a joint record and helped his team to their first UEFA Champions League Final in 2020 which they lost to Bayern Munich.

The Brazilian was named in the FIFPro World XI three times.

Franco Baresi, regarded as one of the greatest defenders in football history, has gone on record to state that Silva is the defender who most resembles him.

9. Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos
We all know where that’s going, right? (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

If Marcelo perfected the role of the modern left back, then Roberto Carlos surely invented it.

A combination of pace, power, shot, bend. Name it, he had it all.

A renowned dead ball specialist, scoring a memorable bending free kick from an impossible distance – an attempt considered the greatest free kick of all time.

The Brazilian enjoyed a successful career at Real Madrid, though he had a brief stint at Inter.

He won four La Liga titles and the UEFA Champions League three times in his stay at the Spanish capital.

8. Dida

Nélson de Jesus Silva (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Nélson de Jesus Silva commonly known as Dida.

The first Brazilian goalkeeper to be nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, that speaks volumes.

One of the finest goalies in his time, renowned as a penalty-kick saving specialist.

Dida spent a total of ten years in Milan, winning one Serie A title and two UEFA Champion League titles.

He won Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year in the 2003-04 season – the first non-Italian to do so.

The Afro-Brazilian shot stopper was named in The FIFPro World XI once – becoming the first Goalkeeper of the Year.

7. Kaka

Not everyone wins the Ballon d’Or (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images), Italy.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite – Yeah, that’s his name.

The world knew him as Kaka. Kaka was an epitome of calm, trickery and intelligence on the ball.

The 39-year-old enjoyed his best years in Milan, helping them lift the Champions League in 2006-07 season in a famous revenge victory over Liverpool.

He won the FIFA World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or and the UEFA Player of the Year in that year (2007).

The Brazilian had a successful in European Heavyweights Milan and Real Madrid was named in the FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year three times.

Kaka is one of eight players to have won the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League and Ballon d’Or.

His gait, particularly when in possession, was mesmeric. Reasonably unusual in stature for a playmaking midfielder at a little over six feet tall, Kaká could still turn and accelerate past a defender in the same way the smaller, low-centre-of-gravity No. 10s would manage—but that same elegant, long-legged stride made him unstoppable on the run

Karl Matchett

6. Cafu

The synonym of the word full back is Cafu (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Known for his pace and energetic attacking runs along the right flank.

Cafu is regarded as one of the greatest full-backs of all time and one of the best defenders ever to play in the Italian Serie A.

Does any player in the world personify a position on the pitch like Cafu? He became the standard for the present day fullbacks.

As a player, he was renowned for his dynamism, energy, pace, and tactical intelligence and was famous for his spells in Roma and Milan.

He lifted the UEFA Champions League with Milan in the 2006-07 season and named in the FIFPro World XI in 2005.

5. Neymar

Neymar Jr
Neymar doing what he loves best (Photo by Julian Finney – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Love him or despise him! He is the most expensive player ever in the history of the game.

I think that earns him a place on this list.

Enough with the “best player in the world” line. Neymar, the youngest in this list is also as much deserving of a place in it.

Neymar signed for Spanish heavyweights Barcelona from Santos in 2013 and was part of the historic treble winning team in 2015.

A part of the famous ‘MSN’ trio, Neymar lifted the UEFA Champions League in 2015 scoring in a 3-1 win over Juventus.

He finished third in the Ballon d’Or ranking that year behind only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In 2017, Neymar made a controversial record breaking move to Paris-Saint-Germain and has lifted three Ligue 1 titles in that time while reaching the UEFA Champions League Final in 2020.

Known for his tricks and flair, Neymar remains one of the brightest talents in the game.

Though he has garnered a lot of criticism for some parts of his game – showboating, diving and lack of discipline. He can still surpass the greatness of previous Brazilian greats. Hopefully!

4. Adriano

What if…? (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

Perhaps a controversial addition to this list, Adriano was marked for great things but struggled to live up to the billing.

Despite that his talent was phenomenal and cannot be undermined.

Adriano was a left-footed player, who was gifted with excellent ball control, dribbling ability, and creativity.

The Brazilian lifted the Scudetti four times in his stay at Inter despite his inconsistencies.

Though, Initially touted to be the “new Ronaldo”, his career rather had an anti-climatic ending with the striker receiving the Bidone d’Oro Award a record three times, a prize given to the worst Serie A player during a particular season.

I played with great champions. I played with players that were already…wow. I played with players that I saw were a talent and became…wow, but the one I felt could do it longer, and he didn’t do it, was Adriano when I was at Inter. He could shoot from every angle, nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic speaking about Adriano

3. Ronaldinho

Brazil superstar Ronaldinho
This guy made us love the game (Photo credit LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

The man who made us fall in love with the game with his flying locks and enchanting smile.

However, don’t be deceived, He could leave you for dead in a split second with a piece of unnatural trickery.

Ronaldinho – The name speaks for itself. Considered one of the greatest players of his generation and all-time.

The flamboyant midfielder featured for the likes of Paris-Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan in an enviable career.

He was a major force behind the rise of Barcelona at the beginning of the decade – earning him two FIFA World Player of the Year awards and one Ballon d’Or.

Ronaldinho received a standing ovation from Madrid supporters at The Bernabeu after an outstanding performance – with only Diego Maradona previously accorded that recognition.

A set piece specialist, one of the most prolific free-kick takers in history, the Brazilian is renowned for his skills, flair and creativity.

2. Romario

Brazilian Legendary StrIker Romario
1000 goals! That’s a lot (Photo by Paul Marriott/EMPICS via Getty Images)

The Brazilian Legend. The Prolific striker. The sixth-highest goal scorer in football history.

Do I need to go on? Considered by many as the greatest of all time.

Romario was a god in the box and a terror to the opposition defence with his low centre of gravity and renowned finishing.

The Brazilian goal factory lit up Europe with dazzling spells at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona.

Romario won the Eredivisie three times and scored 165 goals in 167 games for the Dutch club.

He won the La Liga in Spain in his first season and finished as top scorer with 30 goals in 33 games while reaching the 1994 UEFA Champions League Final which they lost to Milan.

A FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after being runner-up in 1993.

“Romário was the most decisive player who I played with, he was a great goal scorer, finisher, skillful, opportunist. I think I learnt all of that from him”

Ronaldo on Romario

1. Ronaldo

Brazil Ronaldo - "the real Ronaldo"
United fans will never forget this day (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Phenomenon. R9. Some call him the “Real Ronaldo” – No disrespect to Cris!

Ronaldo Nazário burst onto the grand stage and revolutionized the centre forward position.

Regarded by many as one of the best to play the game. de Lima tore Europe apart despite playing on one knee.

The Brazilian striker played for PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Milan in a successful career which was hampered only by injuries.

Ronaldo turned heads everywhere he went across Europe plundering defences and scoring goals.

He won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or thrice and twice respectively – becoming the youngest recipients of both awards.

Extremely fast, excellent with both feet and unnatural dribbling ability, O Fenomeno was aa specimen.

He failed to lift the Holy Grail of club football and retired from football a bit too early due to recurring injuries.

Brazil legend Ronaldo
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

“the greatest player I have ever seen in my life”, I have no doubts. Ronaldo is the best my eyes have seen”

— Jose Mourinho

What are your thoughts on our selection? Who would make your list?

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