Picking a Brazilian All-Time Flair XI Feat. Pele, Socrates, Ronaldo and Co.
Picking an all-time best side is always a difficult task. When it comes to a country like Brazil, that has had so may truly great players, it is made that much more difficult again.
This is not just a simple all-time best XI, though. The aim is to pick a "Flair XI", which will consist of the best attacking and creative talents that the Seleção have had to offer. Over the years, there have been plenty.
The key part in this task will be balancing style with substance. There have been many prodigiously talented individuals who have failed to make an impact with the national side.
We, though, must try to look to incorporate only those who have made a significant contribution for their country. After all, flair is no good if you are unable to display it.
So, who makes our all-time Brazilian flair XI?
Goalkeeper: Rógerio Ceni
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Rógerio Ceni's biggest achievements may have come at club level, but we need a keeper with some sort of attacking flair.
Now 39, the São Paulo goalkeeper is famed for his goalscoring ability from set-pieces and, in 2011, scored his 100th goal as a professional footballer—an impressive landmark.
He has 17 Brazil caps to his name and, courtesy of attending the 2002 World Cup as a reserve keeper, can add a winners medal from that tournament to his extensive collection.
A good, if maybe not top class goalkeeper, Rógerio may be best known outside Brazil for his memorable performance to deny Liverpool in the 2005 Club World Cup final.
The veteran will now be installed as the specialist penalty taker in our all-time flair XI.
Right-Back: Carlos Alberto Torres
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Pictured here in his time as coach of Flamengo, Carlos Alberto Torres is known as one of the greats of Brazilian football.
A 1970 World Cup winner, the right-back scored on eight occasions during his 53 caps and, most notably, was responsible for one of the best World Cup goals ever scored (YouTube).
Brazil is famed for its wing-backs and, from the likes of double World Cup winners Djalma Santos and Cafú, there is plenty of competition for a place in our team.
In terms of attacking flair though, Carlos Alberto outshines them both and his goal contribution for his country demonstrates that fact.
A star for Santos at club level, his role in his country's 1970 World Cup win is still very much a model for Brazilian full-backs to this day.
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Another 2002 World Cup winner, Lúcio takes the first centre-back slot in our team.
Centre-back is always going to be a difficult position to add flair to, but the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan defender always managed to combine his defensive duties with attacking intent.
At international level, Lúcio boasts only a modest return of four goals from 105 appearances.
However, many people's abiding memory of the central defensive colossus will be his charges forward with the ball at his feet.
It is this genuine attacking intent and footballing ability that earns his place in our side.
His pedigree cannot be contested. Lúcio has, indeed, been truly mountainous presence in Brazil's recent past.
Centre-Back: David Luiz
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No doubt, the inclusion of David Luiz is going to be a controversial call.
The Chelsea centre-back, 25, has yet to win a World Cup, and has never scored a goal for his country. So, what makes him deserving of inclusion in our side?
David Luiz, as Premier League fans will attest, is no normal centre-back. Attacking from the base of the side is a key part of his philosophy—he is the very epitome of a defender with flair.
His achievements may not match up to the likes of the greats—Aldair, Bellini, Mauro Ramos etc. However, not one of those players can legitimately claim to match up to Luiz in terms of natural flair.
Moving back to the present, Luiz has plenty of time to possibly add a World Cup title to his trophy cabinet, and, who knows, may eventually come to be regarded as a defensive midfielder.
When it comes to the Vítoria-developed defender, talent will never be the issue.
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Choosing a left-back for our side is nearly impossible. Nilton Santos and Roberto Carlos are both outstanding candidates, but lose out to our eventual choice.
Two 5th place finishes were the best Júnior ever managed at a World Cup. However, his 1982 World Cup side is widely regarded as one of the best footballing sides in history never to have claimed the main prize.
Six goals in 74 Brazil appearances represent a fine goal return, but Júnior's all around play was his biggest strength.
Two-footed, Júnior would play a variety of positions during his career, and earn a reputation for his dribbling ability and vision.
Following retirement, he would go on to excel at international level on the beach football circuit.
Central Midfield: Sócrates
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The intellectual midfielder, Socrates came to define an entire generation of Brazilian football for many observers. His style, both on and off the football pitch, ensured that the Corinthians icon became a legend of the game.
Another who failed to win a World Cup, Sócrates' inclusion in this side was never in doubt. A one-in-three goalscoring record for Brazil is impressive. However, it is not that statistic that earns his inclusion.
Rather, it is the flair with which he ran the game at the heart of midfield for the great side of 1982.
The no-look back-heel pass became his trademark and, to use a word of the moment, there was a swagger about his play that few have managed to pull off since.
A wonderful passer of the football, Sócrates' innovation and ability to read the game will no doubt be invaluable to our flair XI.
It must be added, though, that Tostão is among those unlucky to miss out on a midfield position.
Central Midfield: Zico
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One of the iconic Brazilian No. 10's, Zico will take his place in the heart of midfield for our ludicrously attacking team.
A veteran of three World Cups, Zico never won the big prize. However, a return of 52 goals in 72 games for his country ensures that he will always be regarded among Brazil's elite, regardless of World Cup success.
A wonderful creative playmaker, Zico's performances enthralled supporters worldwide. His close control and ability to pick a killer ball set him apart from most around him. The goalscoring was a mere bonus.
Zico organized the sides in which he played. The game flowed through his feet and, at his best, he was untouchable.
Were it not for Pelé, Zico may well be regarded as the country's best ever footballer.
Attacking Midfield: Garrincha
Perhaps the most natural pick of them all for our flair XI, Garrincha is widely regarded as one of the greatest dribblers the game has ever seen.
While his life off the field was ultimately full of regret, his on-pitch achievements brought great joy to Brazil's supporters.
His unconventional style and ability to beat his opponent made him the perfect crowd-pleaser, and his "Alegria do Povo" (Joy of the people) nickname demonstrates his immense popularity at the time.
In over 50 games for Brazil, Garrincha lost just one encounter—his final international fixture at the 1966 World Cup. He scored 12 times for the Seleção in those fixtures.
The success and prominence of Pelé have meant that Garrincha's importance is often overlooked outside of Brazil. When it comes to flair though, the Botafogo idol was untouchable.
Attacking Midfield: Ronaldinho
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Gloriously talented, the biggest regret with 2002 World Cup winner Ronaldinho is that his era of domination did not last longer.
For a spell of three or four years in the mid 2000's, he was untouchable. There are, indeed, arguments that can be made to suggest that Ronaldinho's highs eclipsed even those of Messi now.
At his best, he made the unpredictable commonplace. To use a cliche, the ball stuck to his feet as though attached by string. There have been few players to ever play the game worldwide who could claim to possess a similar ability to control a football.
If Ronaldinho's international career is already over, he has left an indelible mark on the history of Brazilian football over the past decade.
The best thing is, though, he may not be done yet. Watch this space.
Among those in contention for attacking midfield roles in our side; Denílson, Jairzinho, and Kaká, can consider themselves honorable substitutes, should they ever be needed.
Support Striker: Pelé
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Is he the greatest? Better than Maradona and Messi? There are many who believe so.
The greatest ever or not, Pelé's influence on Brazilian football is phenomenal.
In 92 international appearances he scored a remarkable 77 goals—just a small fraction of the 1000-plus goals he scored in his career as a whole.
What set Pelé apart from the rest was his all around skill set. A fine dribbler and finisher, he was also renowned for his heading ability, his power, and, in direct contrast, his deftness in linking play.
His performances across three World Cup wins, although not always outstanding, captured hearts and minds worldwide.
An entire generation grew up with memories of watching Pelé at his best, and it is reflected in his elevated status in the footballing echelons.
His skill and dribbling technique is often under-appreciated among the numerous other attributes he brings to the table. He is, though, more than deserving of a place in our flair XI.
Perhaps, further down the line, we will be debating whether fellow Santos idol Neymar is worthy of this role in our team. For now, there is no debate.
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Had it not been for injury, there is an argument to suggest that Ronaldo would now be regarded as the greatest ever.
The top goalscorer in World Cup history, the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan forward had a handy knack of coming good for his country on the biggest stage.
Still just 21-years-old at the time of the France '98 tournament, Ronaldo had already scored over 200 career goals across four countries, won a World Cup in 1994, and twice been crowned FIFA World Player of the Year.
His "O Fenomeno" (the phenomenon) nickname could hardly be more apt.
From that early age on, his career was heavily disrupted by injury. He would go on to become top-scorer at the 2002 World Cup and clinch the second world title that had eluded him four years earlier.
At club level, following a move to Real Madrid, he went on to write himself into the history books at the Bernabeu, but sadly never won the Champions League title his talent deserved.
A terrific goalscorer, his ability to improvise should not be forgotten. His dribbling ability at high speed was key to his early success, and he deservedly takes his place as the final member of our flair XI.
Romário is perhaps the most unfortunate to miss out on claiming a striking role for our side.