Monday, 20 February 2017

Gabriel Jesus' breathtaking ascent to the top – told by those who helped make it happen at Palmeiras

He faces a couple of months on the sidelines, but that won't stop Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian teenager has been on a mission since the start of his teens, cruising over every obstacle placed in his way with that trademark brand of serenity and flair.

After his lightning start to life at Manchester City – three goals and two assists in his first three starts – I got in contact with some of those who knew him best during his time at Palmeiras, where he blossomed from a coltish upstart into a genuine star.


I spoke to his former coach, Cuca, who told me why he's best played through the centre. Fernando Prass, the captain of the São Paulo outfit, recalled Gabriel practising his finishing after training until he could shoot with both feet. Matheus Sales and Agustín Allione shared their experiences of seeing the forward at close quarters.

You can have a read of what they all had to say in this piece for The Independent.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Brazil swoons over Gabriel Jesus, the thoroughbred export making a mockery of country's "mongrel complex"

Anyone who has spent time in Brazil will probably have heard the phrase "complexo de vira-lata". It translates as "mongrel complex" and refers to a self-imposed feeling of national inferiority. "Brazilians are upside-down narcissists who spit on their own image," Rodrigues wrote.

One of the symptoms of the affliction – and we are of course generalising here – is that Brazil cares what others think. This can be seen in everyday language and, most significantly, in the media, where outlets frequently carry stories about how local events are being covered around the world.


The recent spate of violence in Brazilian prisons, for instance, hit the headlines around the world and those headlines were pumped back into the echo chamber. Stories about outrageously outmoded beauty contests and governmental corruption follow a similar pattern. Often, this is done with cringe implied; at the embarrassment Olympics, Brazil always sees itself as a medal contender.

Now and then, though, the mongrel complex is turned on its head by events that prompt a swell of pride. At which point, enter Gabriel Jesus: instant Premier League idol and Brazil's new leading export.

Read the rest of this piece on the Mirror website.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Ronaldinho's sugar-rush genius in 11 moments

This month's FourFourTwo magazine is a South American special, featuring interviews with Robinho, Arturo Vidal, Solomon Rondon and plenty more besides.

The cover star is Ronaldinho, who reflects on his career, talks about Brazil's emerging generation and swoons over Dele Alli.


To coincide with the issue, I picked out 11 of the most memorable moments of Ronaldinho's career, including that goal against England, his stunning toe poke at Stamford Bridge and – hopefully – a couple of stunning bits of skill that you've never seen before.

Have a read here.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Brazil and Colombia honour Chapecoense victims in Rio, but half-empty stadium provides pointed contrast

It was always going to be emotional. Two months after the tragic plane crash that robbed 71 people of their lives and a football club of its happy anonymity, Brazil welcomed Colombia to Rio de Janeiro for a meeting that was not about the match.

The marketing men had dubbed it 'The Game of Friendship', but the feelings ran deeper than that. In the first instance, it was a chance to pay tribute to the fallen – to the players, officials and journalists who boarded LaMia Flight 2933 and never returned home.


Beyond that, this was also an opportunity for Brazil to say thank you to Colombia. Footballing relations between the two countries have not always been the warmest, but the humanity with which the Colombian people reacted to November's devastating events struck a real chord among their south-eastern neighbours.

Yet for all the heartening brotherhood on display, it was hard to deny that there was something a touch unsatisfying about the occasion. Find out why by reading my ESPN FC piece.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Brazil's 2002 World Cup winners: Where are they now?

The three Rs, Cafu, Roberto Carlos... Brazil's squad for the 2002 World Cup was certainly not lacking in star power or quality. Under Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Seleção made amends for the disappointment of 1998 by taking their fifth title, seeing off Germany in the final.


You'll know what happened to quite a few of the players in the years following that success. But which member of the squad appeared in a reality show? Who is still playing in India? And who has a zoo animal named in his honour?

I've taken a look at the 2002 heroes for the latest instalment in FourFourTwo's Where are they Now? series.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Porto Alegre giants Internacional facing up to life in the second flight after year to forget on and off the pitch

2006 was a high watermark in the history of Sport Club Internacional. The side from Porto Alegre won the Copa Libertadores for the first time and, just before Christmas, came to global attention by beating Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup.

Under normal circumstances, the tenth anniversary of that golden year would have prompted a fresh wave of celebration; Brazilian clubs rarely need an excuse to hark back to past glories, after all.


But few fans had much time for the commemorative medals and sticker books that hit the market in 2016, for Inter endured an annus horribilis both on and off the pitch.

You can read about their plight in the February edition of When Saturday Comes magazine, which is available in newsagents and on their website.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The new Rivellino, the ultimate utility man, 'Jorge Alba' and more Brazilians YOUR club should be trying to sign

After a five-month wait, Gabriel Jesus could make his debut for Manchester City this weekend.

The Brazilian, who joined the Blues in a £27million deal before being loaned back to Palmeiras, is hoping to be in Pep Guardiola's squad for the visit of Tottenham.

Of course, England has not always been a fruitful stomping ground for Brazilian players. For every Juninho, there has been an Afonso Alves; for every Gilberto Silva, a Paulinho. Yet the success stories are becoming more and more frequent: Willian, David Luiz, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Fernandinho have all thrived in the last few seasons.


Those players, admittedly, did not come directly from Brazil, but via other European clubs. But if Gabriel Jesus can settle and live up to his colossal potential, other clubs will be tempted to dip into the Brazilian market in search of rough diamonds.

I picked out five that should be your club's radar, for Mirror Football.