Since the early 1990s and even before, we've seen no shortage of genuinely great Brazilian attackers cross the Atlantic in order to seek their fortune in Europe's finest leagues. Romario, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and, more recently, Neymar; between them, they have conquered all of Europe, and then some.
For whatever reason, until the very recent history, samba football has never really translated into English.
Prior to 2015, tricky attacking midfielders Juninho Paulista, Philippe Coutinho and Willian at Chelsea had enjoyed some success, but they were exceptions rather than the rule.
In fact, up until very recently, when asked to think of Brazilian forwards in England your mind would have conjured up the unfortunate spectres of Robinho and Jo at Manchester City, Afonso Alves at Middlesbrough and maybe even the (very) brief appearance of Mario Jardel at Bolton.
Defenders and holding midfielders from Gilberto Silva to Edu to David Luiz seemed to excel in Blighty but forwards, not so much.
In order to buck the trend and kick-start an influx of Brazilian frontline imports, you felt there had to be one player to lead the way and show that it can, in fact, be done. Perhaps a certain number nine to come in and, in four short years, surpass the goalscoring feats of every one of his countrymen who had come to the league before him.
In case you missed it, Liverpool's Roberto Firmino became the only Brazilian in history to hit 50 in the Premier League when he took Mohamed Salah's pass and slammed it past Nick Pope before the international break. Not content with reinventing the fundamental understanding of what a striker can be in a direct, high-tempo team under Jurgen Klopp, his feats have opened the doors of the Premier League to a new generation of attackers from his native country.
Not single-handedly, of course. The money and challenge on offer has, without a doubt, played a big part in Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Lucas Moura, Felipe Anderson, Joelinton, Wesley and others making the jump to the Premier League. But to say it's coincidental that the Brazilian influx has largely come since Firmino's move from the Bundesliga is reaching somewhat.
In the 23 years between the launch of the Premier League era in 1992 and June 2015, there had been 13 attackers of Brazilian descent to score in England's top flight. In the four since, we've seen eight imports hit the back of the net, and the standard looks lightyears ahead, with the Premier League finally a feasible destination alongside (or even ahead of) Italy and Spain for the country's top forwards.
|Pre Firmino||Post Firmino|
|Isaias (Coventry)||Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)|
|Juninho (Middlesbrough)||Evandro (Hull City)|
|Julio Baptista (Arsenal)||Lucas Moura (Tottenham)|
|Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough)||Richarlison (Watford, Everton)|
|Geovanni (Manchester City, Hull)||Felipe Anderson (West Ham)|
|Jo (Manchester City, Everton)||Bernard (Everton)|
|Elano (Manchester City)||Wesley (Aston Villa)
|Ilan (West Ham)||Joelinton (Newcastle)|
|Robinho (Manchester City)|||
|Alexandre Pato (Chelsea)|||
|Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)|||
It would be too easy to pin this on Firmino 'showing his compatriots how it's done,' but beneath the surface, his tenacious spin on the traditional false nine has gone some way towards dispelling the frequently peddled myth that South American stars aren't 'physical' enough for the English top flight.
He gets stuck in as much as anyone for Liverpool, frequently dropping deep to offer additional defensive cover for a midfield that would be perilously exposed with a Mauro Icardi-type poacher leading the line. You can see that influence rubbing off on the likes of Merseyside counterpart Richarlison, who has averaged three tackles per 90 this season (WhoScored) - bettered only in the Everton ranks by Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin.
In any case, it does seem now as if the Premier League is now a favourable destination for some of the most highly sought-after Brazilian strikers, and that has never been the case before now.
It will be interesting to see how it develops in the years to come, but as more and more Brazilian prospects view the Premier League as a viable option and the English-based contingent within Tite's national team continues to swell, it seems more and more like the trend that perplexed us all for decades has finally been bucked.
And Firmino's 50 goals have had had no small part to play in that.
Source : 90min