The Brasileirão has a recent history as an exporter’s league with transfers to Europe a common theme. In other words, it takes some of its great raw talents developed in academies at the club level and ships them over to Europe. More often than not, this happens when these players are teenagers. Therefore, they do not put out their brilliance at maximum capacity for some of the elites in Brazil. Had they stayed, the Brasileirão would be one of the best soccer leagues in the world.
Endrick is a particularly interesting case, as he is the most exciting prospect to come out of the Brasileirão. In a crucial league game against league-leading Botafogo, Endrick won the Man of the Match award for providing two assists and a hockey assist. Palmeiras closed the gap with Botafogo with its 17-year-old sensation leading the way in a comeback from three goals down to win, 4-3.
Palmeiras never had a real chance of retaining Endrick for the long haul. As a 16-year-old, Endrick made seven appearances in the Brazilian top flight last season. He scored three goals and added an assist. He dominated the youth competitions last season. While he has tapered off in the top flight this season, he is still just 17. Real Madrid is ready to welcome the Brazilian, who some unironically compared to Pele, with open arms.
Still, Endrick’s transfer represents a challenge for the league. If all these players had stayed, the Brasileirão would be elite. In the most recent Brazil national team for World Cup Qualifying, 17 of the 23 players played outside of Brazil. They all made moves from the Brazilian top flight, and more players continue to do so regularly. Europe’s gain for these players is the hindrance to what could be one of the world’s best competitions.
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What the Brasileirão would look like if it could hold onto its players
When looking at Brazil’s starting XI against Croatia in the World Cup, eight players made the move to Europe before they were 21. In total, all players represented European clubs during the World Cup. Just three players in the entire squad played in the Brazilian top flight.
Only a few of the best Brazilians in the world still play in the Brasileirão, as European transfers come calling in each window. This issue is not exclusive to Brazil, and it can be applied to other nations in South America. For example, just one player for Argentina still plays in the Argentine Primera. That is backup goalkeeper Franco Armani, who represents River Plate. Yet, if Brazil could hold on to its players, they would add to a league that is wildly exciting and already competitive against Europe’s elite.
The last four CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores winners came from Brazil, with Palmeiras and Flamengo each winning twice. Santos and Athletico Paranaense finished runner-up in two of those tournaments. This season, Fluminense is preparing to play in the Final against Argentinian side Boca Juniors. In addition to those clubs representing Brazil, each has made a key sale over the last five years of a player 21 years old or younger.
With the rate Brazil continually pumps out elite young players, it would be able to remain steady with several of the best clubs in Europe. For example, in the 2019 and 2021 FIFA Club World Cup Finals, Brazilian clubs forced extra time against Liverpool and Chelsea. Both those English clubs started players that developed in the Brasileirão before picking up transfers to Europe.
Twelve clubs stand out among the rest in Brazil. Each of these clubs can point to a prominent player in Europe they developed before selling. In that case, it can have the same level of parity as something like the Premier League when it comes to the race for the top spots and continental qualification.
Brasileirão owners benefitting from ballooning transfers
Brazilians have had a massive impact on the transfer market. Neymar remains the most expensive transfer of all time when he went from Barcelona to PSG. The movement from Brazil to Europe cannot be understated, though. European clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, or any other club simply have funds these sides cannot pass up.
It happens all the time, and it is not exclusive to any one club in Brazil. The fact remains that they all send players away because European clubs can pay massive sums. In 2013/14, Neymar set the record when Barcelona shelled out over $90 million for a 21-year-old sensation. Real Madrid and Barcelona have each paid around $50 million for teenagers from the Brasileirão in the last five years.
Those players, Vinicius, Rodrygo, and Vitor Roque, came from Flamengo, Santos, and Athletico Paranaense, respectively. Sao Paulo, Gremio, and Palmeiras also benefitted from the transfers of Lucas Moura, Arthur Melo, and, most recently, Endrick, respectively. Barcelona and Real Madrid are the most common suitors, but these transfers happen across Europe.
Based on trends, the Brazilian top flight is content with being a feeder league to the wealthiest of clubs in Europe. For Europe, that is great. Members of the current Brazilian generation are among the best in the world. However, for Brazil and the sporting culture in South America, it is a shame. Had these talents stayed with their clubs, they would be among the best sides in the world.
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