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Jan 18, 2007

I'm a Brazilian... Get me out of here!

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - In a month rife with transfers and speculation, one name has been curiously absent from the lists of sought after stars - and he's desperate for a move.

Elano, the former Santos player whose dashing performances in midfield have made him the symbol of Dunga's new look Brazil side, is desperate for a move. Languishing in the frozen wastes of Ukraine, the Shaktar Donetsk star is refreshingly straightforward about his desire to head for pastures new.

'I want a transfer,' he said in a telephone interview from the Ukrainain city. 'I need a change, I need new challenges. I want to win European titles. I am in the Brazil side and I am playing well and so this is an important moment for me and I think I need to take advantage of that right now while I can.'

British clubs should be chided for not taking more notice. The 25-year old has accumulated a cabinet full of winner's medals during his time with Santos and Shaktar, and his stylish presence on the right side of midfield so impressed Dunga that he has selected him for every one of his six games in charge.

Performances like the one in London, in which he scored two goals against Argentina in September, should have put Elano at the top of many a European shopping list. That he is not is probably down to his whereabouts in the heart of Eastern Europe.

Shaktar Donetsk is a big club by regional standards and has a rich and influential president who in addition to signing six Brazilians has brought in players from Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland and Nigeria. But the Ukranian championship is a perennial two-horse race and one that does not attract much attention outside the former Soviet Union and its neighbours. With only European matches televised, getting noticed is not easy.

'There are two big teams here, Shaktar and Dynamo Kiev,' Elano said on the eve of Shaktar's pre-season tour to Spain. 'These are the two big teams that fight for the title every year and the rest fight for the UEFA Cup places. It's always those two.

'The infrastructure here is impressive, the chairman has invested a lot of money and it is of a very high level. I think that in four or five years this will be one of Europe's big clubs.'

'(But) I'd like to play in a more competitive league in front of bigger crowds.'

Indeed, Donetsk is a far cry from the country where football is a religion and particularly from the sun-drenched hinterlands of Sao Paulo state, where he grew up in impoverished surroundings as the son of a sugar cane farmer who cut more than cane in an effort to fund his son's dreams of footballing greatness.

Elano Blumer started off as a striker, making his name first with local side Guarani and then at Internacional de Limeira, where he went on loan and scored 13 goals to end the 2000 season as top marksman for their junior side. Such performances soon attracted the attention of scouts from bigger clubs and he was snapped up by Santos and made his debut for the storied side in January 2001.

It was the start of a golden era for both the player and the club, with Elano, now having dropped back to right midfield, one of the lynchpins in a team that played some of the most exciting football seen in Brazil in years.

The game here is about strength first and skill now and then.
Brazil international Elano

Alongside players like Robinho (now Real Madrid), Diego (Werder Bremen), Alex (PSV Eindhoven) and Renato (Sevilla), Santos won the Brazilian League Championship twice and brought back a glory and style that the Vila Belmiro had not seen since the days when Pele graced the side.

But the team would inevitably break up and although Elano stayed longer than most, the big offers from Spain, Italy or England did not arrive and it was Shaktar who signed him for €10million in February 2005.

The well-mannered Elano has no regrets about heading east and he speaks highly of the club and the opportunities time there afforded him. He is particularly aware that the league's reliance on strength and stamina may have helped him win a place in a Brazil side Dunga has instilled with his own characteristics of organisation and discipline. He is also confident they will hold him in good stead for Europe's top leagues.

'The game here is about strength first and skill now and then,' he said. 'But I have no regrets, I came here to learn and I have done that, even though there is still a lot more to learn.

'I can't say I have regrets because this was the option that I had and I've done well, I've won my place in the Brazil line up and so I can't say it's been a bad move. Now I need to focus and get my head in the right place and then have faith and determination and I think that I have that. I think that I am going to get a transfer.'

Elano confessed a preference for Spain, Italy, France or England but he has an open mind about where to go next. It just has to be a bit warmer than the Ukraine.

'It's freezing here,' he said, with a wry laugh. 'I've played in temperatures of minus 15 and minus 20. I want to leave for professional reasons. But the personal ones play a part too.'


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