Don't expect the beautiful game as Ramires aims to get 'stuck in'
Saturday 28 August 2010
When Roman Abramovich acquired Chelsea in 2003 and was buying new players with indecent haste, he set his heart on bringing the flamboyant talents of Ronaldinho to Stamford Bridge and said as much to the then manager Claudio Ranieri.
The story goes that Ranieri authoritatively told the Russian that the Brazilian was too much of a playboy and would go off the rails in London. Instead he should spend his millions on recruiting the next big thing, Adrian Mutu of Parma.
Seven years later and Chelsea are still chasing Mutu through the law courts of Europe in an attempt to recoup some of their money following the Romanian's ban for snorting cocaine. And Abramovich has finally managed to land that expensive signing from Brazil.
Chelsea's £18.3m recruit Ramires has none of the glamour and little of the style of Ronaldinho, but that probably reflects the financial reality that now pervades the club.
Chelsea had spoken of their desire this summer to make what they called a "marquee signing" – as in one of the world's leading footballers, not a very large tent – yet their most expensive acquisition has proved to be a 23-year-old who played a bit part in Brazil's disappointing World Cup campaign.
Ramires, who is due to make his Chelsea debut today at home to Stoke City, represents very much the new breed of Brazilian footballers, professionals for whom hard work and perspiration are much more important than the ability to do multiple stepovers and then hit banana shots into the top corner.
Ramires is a player rooted in the grim reality of life in Brazil's teeming cities. He grew up in Rio de Janeiro but his story is not a tale of being discovered while playing barefoot on the sands of Ipanema Beach.
"I worked on a building site when I was younger to help at home. I'm not ashamed of that. That made me the man I am today, giving me the character I have now," he said.
"Tuesday and Thursdays I'd work 7am to 4pm because after that I had football practice. Then, on Saturday, I worked 7am to 11am. I was earning around 80-100 reals (£30-£36) every 15 days.
"When I look back at that time, that helps me keep my feet on the ground. When I go home, I still visit my friends and relatives. Everything I do is about helping my family back home, and that hasn't changed. All those experiences, working hard as I did, made me what I am today."
Ramires' humble beginnings and his self-confessed love of the physical side of the game will stand him in good stead in England, a land where few Brazilians have flourished. From Mirandinha to Robinho, the history of Brazilians in the English game is one of overwhelming disappointment. For every Juninho who does well, there are a dozen Klebersons, Roque Juniors and Jardels who flop all too quickly.
In many respects Robinho, the last and most famous of all Brazilian players to fail in the Premier League, harks back to an earlier era, when footballers from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were considered too lightweight and too individualist to be trusted. Juninho was the one Brazilian to come to these shores and touch the nation's soul with the dazzling brilliance of his pure talent.
Since Juninho's golden season 13 years ago, the only boys from Brazil to excel in England have been those players committed to the more mundane side of the game. Arsenal have led the way for Brazilian players, with Gilberto Silva, Edu and Sylvinho all enjoying productive spells in north London. However, in a team famed for its beautiful football, not one of those stood out for his ability on the ball, more for his willingness to work for the team.
At Chelsea Ramires will team up with the centre-half Alex, another player famed more for his destructive qualities than his creative ones, although he does possess a phenomenally hard shot.
At first glance Ramires would appear to fall squarely into this camp, the type of player only too happy to put the collective ahead of the individual. For this reason, he has a good chance of bucking the trend and becoming one of the few Brazilians to succeed in the English game.
He certainly expects football to be physically tough in England, citing Patrick Vieira as one of his heroes. "I know tackles will be flying in, and it'll be physical, but I can do that too," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting stuck in. I like that side to the game and I can stand up for myself. It's been a characteristic of my game in the past – I'm a tackler, so I'm relishing that side of the game over here.
"I understand what the Premier League is about. I've watched it on the television and physical strength is the main part of English football. But I'm hard, too. I'm tough. I'm a hard man, too. It's hard to put me down."
Ramires' comments were very much the words of a 21st-century Brazilian footballer, cut from the mould of Dunga and Lucio, not Pele and Zico. His prosaic talents are likely to fit well in England.
And if he plays half as tough as he talks, then Ramires has a genuine chance of being one of the few of his countrymen to make their mark on the Premier League in a positive way. Just don't look to him for jogo bonito – the beautiful game.
Brazilians in Britain
His first spell ('95-'97) was wonderful. Topped poll to find favourite Boro player.
Made debut in 2007 and last season under Carlo Ancelotti became first choice defender alongside John Terry.
Gilberto Silva: Arsenal
Key, if unprepossessing, member of Arsenal's "Invincibles" team of 2004. However he ended up being sold to Panathinaikos two years ago.
Robinho: Manchester City
Lost interest after decent first season and was loaned out to Brazil club Santos. Now looking for a move to Spain.
Kleberson: Manchester United
One of Sir Alex Ferguson's worst buys. Played just 30 matches before United cut their losses.
The first Brazilian in English football. Arrived with a huge fanfare but viewed as too selfish and liable to shoot on sight.
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