As the global COVID-19 pandemics continue to forbid any football activity, why not make an all-time squad of the Top 11 Brazilian players in Serie A? Ever since the ‘70s, Brazilians have been migrating from their home league towards European football and the Italian top league has been one of their preferred destinations.
The only rule to make it to our list is that the player must have spent at least two seasons in the Italian top league and we will be judging them primarily on the time spent in the world of calcio. That’s why some great players won’t be making the list. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Goalkeeper: Julio Cesar (Inter)
The man between the sticks is former Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar. In his seven-year stint with the Nerazzurri, Julio Cesar managed to rack up 228 appearances in one of the club’s most successful periods. A brave and commanding presence, he was regarded by many as one of the world’s best goalkeepers in his prime. Technically gifted for a goalie, he was known for his skill, ball distribution, and penalty stopping abilities. The impressive number of trophies won while at the San Siro (5 consecutive Serie A titles, 3 Coppa Italia, 4 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 Champions League, and 1 FIFA Club World Cup) wins him a spot in our Top 11.
Right-Back: Cafu (Roma, Milan)
The man, the legend. One of the easiest choices even though there’s no shortage of great Brazilian right-backs to have played in the Italian first league. But Cafu is not only the best Brazilian right-back to play in the Serie A, he is also one of the best right-backs to ever play the game. A sensational player, the simple fact that he is Brazil’s most-capped ever player speaks volumes about the man’s ability on the pitch. A modern full-back, he was known for his enormous stamina, superb skill on the ball, and great leadership. Despite playing for two of the league’s giant clubs, Roma and Milan, Cafu has only 2 league titles to his name in his 11 seasons spent in the Italian top flight but he remains our undeniable starter in his position.
Center-Back: Aldair (Roma)
Another legendary figure, Aldair is Roma’s most capped foreign player ever. In the 13 years he serviced the club, Pluto earned himself a spot in the Giallorossi Hall of Fame, the club deciding to retire his number 6 shirt after he left the club. Aldair was a rock-solid defender that also possessed the skill and elegance of a midfielder. He could easily play the sweeper role and had great long-range passing often creating chances for his teammates from the back-line. Also excellent in aerial duels, Aldair’s only “weakness” was his lack of pace but he made up for it with his capability of reading the game and anticipating the opponent’s movement thus positioning himself in the right place every time. An example on and off the pitch, he was instrumental in Roma’s last title-winning campaign back in 2001.
Center-Back: Lucio (Inter, Juventus)
We all know José Mourinho is a master tactician and has always had an eye for defenders. In the historic treble-winning season of 2009-2010, his main man in the defensive line was none other than our second starting center-back Lucio. The ball-playing defender made a name for himself at Bavarian giants Bayern Munchen but, after his move to Inter, he finally got his hands on a European title. Already 31 years old in 2009 when he joined the Nerazzurri, Lucio formed a great partnership with fellow South-American Walter Samuel in the center of Inter’s defense. A tall, fast, and skillful player, Lucio is the best partner in crime for Aldair.
Left-Back: Alex Sandro (Juventus)
The only player who is still active in our Top 11, Alex Sandro is sometimes underrated but the simple fact that he managed to rack up 23 caps for the Selecao so far is no simple feat. Especially when your competition is a certain Marcelo, one of the world’s greatest men to ever play in that position. With a style of play that reminds us of the great Roberto Carlos (who spent only one season in Italy, by the way), Alex Sandro is a force to reckon with both defensively and offensively. Ever since arriving at Juventus in 2015, the Brazilian has been winning back-to-back titles taking his tally to four Serie A trophies as we speak.
Central Midfielder: Toninho Cerezo (Roma, Sampdoria)
A tall slender figure on the pitch, he is regarded as one of Brazil’s greatest ever defensive midfielders. In 8 years playing for the Selecao, he made 57 appearances and scored 5 goals. It was in club football where Cerezo had a true taste of success. He was part of Roma’s finest-ever squad during the early 1980s, playing with greats such as Paulo Roberto Falcao, Bruno Conti, Agostino Di Bartolomei, and Roberto Pruzzo. The effortlessly elegant Brazilian midfielder played for Roma between 1983 and 1986 before he moved on to Sampdoria where he would also be part of the team’s greatest ever squad. He had another six successful years, winning a league title in the 1990-1991 season. He was also twice a losing finalist in the final of the European Cup, one with each of his teams.
Central Midfielder: Paulo Roberto Falcao (Roma)
Another Roma Hall of Famer, Falcao was once the highest earner in world football. You have to be pretty good to manage that. In 1980, Roma turned down the chance to sign Zico, rather going for a fairly lesser-known figure. The whole world laughed, but they weren’t laughing for long, as Falcao soon showed himself to be possibly the most complete midfielder in world football during the early 80s. Falcao was like a general on the field, brilliant tactically and technically and was nicknamed the “8th King of Rome.” He won the Scudetto in 1983, while he also excelled for Brazil, playing in their legendary 1982 World Cup team who is said to have been the best generation to win…nothing. He also scored in the classic 3-2 defeat to Italy during that famous tournament in Spain.
Left Winger: Ronaldinho (Milan)
One of the most charismatic and technically gifted players to ever set foot on a football pitch, Ronaldinho is the definition of Brazilian football and the famous Joga Bonito style. Always with a trick up his sleeve, he made dribbling some of the world’s best defenders look like a walk in the park. You just can’t hate the guy, even if he is playing for the opposition. This was particularly portrayed in his days playing for Spanish giants Barcelona when after a brilliant performance even the attendance at the Santiago Bernabeu of Madrid stood up applauding the Brazilian genius. Ronaldinho always played with a smile on his face and genuinely seemed happy every time he was on the pitch, a true embodiment of the beautiful game. Even though he hit his peak at the Camp Nou, his time spent at the San Siro with Milan was not neglectable at all winning a title in the 2010-2011 season.
Right Winger: Kaka (Milan)
Another player you cannot hate, Kaka was a revelation at Milan. In complete contrast to Ronaldinho, who was a renowned party boy and often seemed to take it easy on the training pitch – hoping to compensate with his enormous talent – Kaka was an example of dedication besides being blessed with enormous talent. A very religious man, he looked like your friendly neighbor from Sunday service but was capable of doing things with a football that most could only imagine. Mostly unknown upon his arrival at the San Siro, Kaka took the Seria A by storm and replaced another legend of the game, Rui Costa, in Milan’s starting XI. He was fast, strong, a great dribbler, a playmaker but also a finisher. It seemed like there was nothing the man couldn’t do. In the six years he played for the Rossoneri, Kaka won a league title, a Supercup, the UEFA Champions League, and a Ballon d’Or. He was subsequently sold on to Real Madrid for one of the club’s biggest fees.
Forward: Ronaldo (Inter, Milan)
There is not much that hasn’t already been said about this man. A true legend of the game, one can not help but wonder just how good he could have been, if not for his multiple injuries and weight problems. In his best days, the “original” Ronaldo was unplayable, nothing could stop him. An unseen combination of electrifying pace, strength, and finishing ability with either foot or head made the Brazilian superstar an absolute goal-machine. After making his name known in Europe playing for PSV Eindhoven FC Barcelona, Ronaldo was bought by Inter in 1997 for the equivalent of 27 million dollars, making him the first player since Diego Armando Maradona to break the world transfer record twice. It’s still odd how in the five years spent in the club, he couldn’t win Inter any national title but this doesn’t make him any less of a player.
Forward: José Altafini (Milan, Napoli, Juventus)
After scoring 89 goals in just 2 years for Palmeiras, Altafini embarked on a journey that would see him spend 18 years in the Italian peninsula. This was quite unheard of in years most Brazilian players opting to play for teams in their homeland. But Altafini made the right choice as he is still considered by most to be among the best Brazilian footballers to ever play in the Italian first league. Seven years for Milan, seven for Napoli and four for Juventus saw him win five league titles and be inducted into the Rossoneri Hall of Fame. Just imagine him pairing up with R9, this is the stuff of nightmares even for the world’s best defenders.
Goalkeeper: Dida (Milan)
A longtime servant to the Rossoneri, Dida spent 10 years playing for the Milanese club. At his peak, he was probably one of the best goalkeepers in Brazil’s history. It’s been a very difficult choice between him and Julio Cesar but the Inter goalkeeper narrowly won the race, mainly due to the league titles won during his spell in Italy which outnumber Dida’s five to one.
Center-Back: Thiago Silva (Milan)
Another Milan player and another narrow decision. Silva arrived at Milan in 2009 joining the side from Fluminense and shortly established himself as one of the world’s best center-backs. In his three years at the club, he managed to win one title in 2010-2011 when he was also voted “Milan player of the season.” A wonderful player and leader, he could easily replace either of the starters.
Right-Back: Maicon (Inter, Roma)
A four-time Serie A winner with a Champions League under his belt and several cup titles, Maicon had a fruitful six years playing for the Nerazzurri. He was one of the world’s best during those years and managed to earn 76 caps for the national team with such fierce competition as the person of Dani Alves. Although past his prime, he proved to be a very useful player in his three-year spell at Roma as well and would make the perfect back-up option for our first XI.
Central Midfielder: Dunga (Pisa, Fiorentina, Pescara)
A strong, no-nonsense defensive midfielder, Dunga wasn’t much appreciated for his style of play in Brazil being far away from the Joga Bonito that the fans love so much. But that didn’t matter, Dunga played how he knew best, and his leadership and determination proved essential as he captained Brazil in two World Cup tournaments, winning one and coming runners-up in the other.
Winger: Jair (Inter, Roma)
A lightning-paced winger, Jair won trophies galore at Inter during his two spells. Technically gifted like most Brazilians, he would sometimes play as a striker letting his finishing ability shine. He won four league titles with Inter and two European Cups scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over Benfica in the 1965 Final. He has just one cap for the Brazilian national team but that may be because the position was filled in those years by one of Brazil’s most beloved children – Garrincha.
Offensive Midfielder: Zico (Udinese)
You don’t get nicknamed the “White Pele” if you’re not good – and Zico was not only good, he was brilliant. One of Brazil’s most beloved players in history, he is still considered by many in his homeland to be their greatest ever footballer. At 29, while at the peak of his powers, Zico was courted by many of Europe’s elite clubs with names like Milan, Roma, and Real Madrid all hoping to get his signature. The “Rooster,” however, chose Udinese as his first and only team in the Old Continent. His performances for the club were elite with him scoring 59 goals in 73 matches for the Friulani as he automatically became a fan favorite. Sadly for the Udinese supporters, who even named one of their groups after him, Zico chose to move away after just two seasons, plagued by injuries and frustrated at the board’s lack of ambition in strengthening the squad. Although he left without any silverware, his impact on the Italian first league will forever be remembered.
Forward: Adriano (Inter, Fiorentina, Parma, Roma)
“The Emperor” spent the majority of his playing career in Italy but will always be remembered for his spells at Parma and Inter. A freak of nature with immense force and speed, Adriano was also a cold-blooded killer in front of the goal. Sadly, even though blessed with all this talent, Adriano was never an example when it comes to working ethic and professionalism. A heavy drinker and a party animal, he often was overweight and seemed like he could do so much more. Despite all that, at his peak, he was so good that we just couldn’t let him out of this list.
Honorable mentions go to goalkeeper Claudio André Taffarel (Parma, Reggiana), defenders Roberto Carlos (Inter) and Dani Alves (Juventus), midfielders Emerson (Roma, Juventus, Milan) and Julinho (Juventus, Fiorentina), strikers Rivaldo (Milan), Careca (Napoli), Alexandre Pato (Milan) and Robinho (Milan)
Feature Photo Graphics by Andreea Stefanescu