Returning to Brazil
Just a few months ago, the talk surrounding Brazilian football was all about how players were leaving the country to pursue their careers in Europe. Now, some of the leading lights of the Brazilian game are back in their homeland in a bid to show the world that Futebol Brasileiro still has a future.
Over in Argentina, two great stars of the past, Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian Veron, have boosted the profile of their domestic league by choosing to return to Boca and Estudiantes respectively, but with Robinho set to head back to his homeland on loan this month, Brazil's clubs are now beginning to boast a number of high-profile transfers.
The 'Little Robin' has a chequered history when it comes to transfers and has reportedly cried twice in a bid to be let go, first by Santos and then by Real Madrid. Having made his name at Santos at the age of 17, Robinho's form was hit by the kidnapping of his mother in the 2004-05 season and prompted a transfer request - enabling him to move to Madrid for €24 million.
Now it appears he is seeking solace back at his (and Pele's) old stomping ground after being branded 'lazy' and 'disruptive' during his time at Manchester City. He looks set to move on loan for six months to enhance his chances of playing for Brazil at the 2010 World Cup and will line up alongside a younger, quicker version of himself in 17-year-old Neymar, who is making waves after breaking into the first-team this season.
Of course, Santos have commercial reasons as well as footballing ones for wanting to bring Robinho back to the club, as they stand to make around £10 million in sponsorship deals from the deal, but without the financial clout to offer him the £160,000-a-week that he currently earns, Santos will require the player to take a pay cut of at least 30% if any deal is to go through. Brazilian football chiefs will be keeping their fingers crossed that it does.
Corinthians: Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Edu
Few clubs have done more for the profile of Brazilian football in recent months than Corinthians. Having bounced back from relegation, corruption and financial woes, one of the most successful clubs in the country, now in their centenary year, are spearheaded by a trio of former stars who have plied their trade in Europe.
Clearly El Fenomeno, whose goals led the side to the Paulista title and the Copa Brasil last year, has the starring role in his bid to reach full fitness again, but the acquisitions of former Arsenal midfielder Edu in the summer and legendary left-back Roberto Carlos in December speak volumes about the intentions of the club. Indeed, the ambition to win their first ever Copa Libertadores title may be driving force behind such moves but it was also an important factor in attracting a new class of player to the club.
While it represents a chance to play regular first-team games again, the 36-year-old Carlos has not hidden his desire to add to his trophy cabinet. "This title [Copa Libertadores] would mean the same, or even more, than the Champions League I won with Real Madrid in Europe. It's one of the few titles I haven't won in my career," he said upon joining. Edu, too, has been attracted by the carrot of the Copa - although, having begun his career with the club, he also has emotional reasons for his decision to return after being released by Valencia this summer.
Ronaldo's case is slightly different. His well documented battle with his weight and desire to regain his fitness have seen an incredible transformation occur back in his homeland, with a goal return of 23 in 38 games last year despite still being hindered by the occasional injury woe. His target of hitting 30 goals this season certainly looks attainable and we have seen something of the player who was once so feared by European defences, although any hopes of making the Brazilian World Cup squad in time for the summer are perhaps a little ambitious.
Flamengo: Adriano, Vagner Love
Flamengo, who won the Brazilian Campeonato title at the end of 2009, will also be defending the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) crown they won in the previous three years and have secured the services of two Brazil internationals to aid their cause. Adriano, viewed as a fallen hero by many, has turned his career around by continually finding the net for his new side since he joined in May after an unsuccessful loan spell with Sao Paulo.
The man who was nicknamed 'the Emperor' by the Italian press during his stint with Inter Milan began his career with Flamengo, which explains his decision to return, but he also still harbours ambitions of representing his country again in South Africa. It is not a stretch to imagine him back in Dunga's plans, as he played a part in three of the final few qualifiers at the end of 2009 and still looks a danger in front of goal, but he will have to overcome question marks over his temperament and desire first.
Alongside him, former CSKA striker Vagner Love has also returned to Brazil. Having been prolific in Russia, Love returned to his first club, Palmeiras, on loan in August but concerns over his safety led his deal to be cut short. Colourful hair and all, Love decided to stay in Brazil and joined his childhood favourites Flamengo in January 2010, netting twice on his debut. Having not made an impression on the national side since 2007, though, his hopes of making the Seleção are slim and the striker still has much to do to prove that he is worthy of a recall.
Another to impress on his debut back in March 2009 (when he scored twice), Fred made the move back to Brazil with Fluminense after a spell at Lyon. The French giants had taken him to Ligue 1 for around €15 million after he had impressed for Cruzeiro in 2004-05 but cut their losses after he made it clear that he wanted to leave France. His performances for 'Flu' have seen renewed speculation over his claims for a place in the Brazil set-up but, given that he has not made the step up since 2007, it would appear he has missed his chance. More likely, however, is his sale and return to Europe as Fluminense are crippled by financial woes that should see them cash in on their prized asset in the near future.