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Best XI Best Brazilians Ever to Play Club Football in Europe

Christopher AtkinsContributor IMay 24, 2013

Best XI Best Brazilians Ever to Play Club Football in Europe

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    No country has quite such a rich footballing history as Brazil, and that history has managed to extend itself to the four corners of the planet.

    Such is the depth and quality of Brazilian football, that the country's players appear in leagues in almost every country imaginable. Where they appear, also, they generally make a significant impression.

    It is the major leagues of Europe, and Champions League football, that generally sees the very best that the country has to offer. For the past 20 years, talent has drifted from Brazil to Europe in astounding numbers.

    It has been on this stage, rather than in the Brasileirao and Copa Libertadores, that the modern Brazilian greats have made their names.

    Let's, then, take a look at the best XI of Brazilians to have played in Europe.

    n.b. The likes of Zico, Didi, Junior and Socrates all played in Europe and would get in this side if based on talent and overall achievement. However, I have also tried to factor in performances in Europe as a decisive element.

Goalkeeper: Claudio Taffarel

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    Former Parma, Galatasaray and Reggiana goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest in Brazilian history, with his 1994 World Cup heroics fondly remembered by all.

    With over 100 caps to his name, his status to the selecao cannot be underestimated, while he would spend a total of 10 years playing in top-flight European competition.

    In that time, he would seal two continental honours (UEFA Cup Winners Cup 1992-93 and UEFA Cup 1999-00), as well as two Coppa Italias and two Turkish league titles. He is an iconic figure at both Galatasaray and Parma to this day for his heroics.

    A renowned saver of penalties, Taffarel helped his sides win both the UEFA Cup and World Cup on penalty shootouts.

Right-Back: Cafu

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    After a brief spell with Spanish side Zaragoza in the early 1990s, Cafu would return to Europe in 1997 for what would turn out to be a glorious 11-year sojourn in Italy.

    In that time, split between AS Roma and AC Milan, the full-back would go on to win two Serie A titles, a Champions League crown and a FIFA Club World Cup—all on top of his two World Cup titles and 142 caps for Brazil.

    Cafu is rightfully acknowledged as one of the great modern full-backs for the lung-busting nature of his work on the right flank, and his time in Italy was a major contributor to that status.

    Every club in the world would have gladly accepted Cafu in the early 2000s, but it was Roma and Milan who were fortunate enough to see the best of his work.

Centre-Back: Julio Cesar

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    Former Montpellier, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund defender Julio Cesar may not have won as many international caps as most on this list, but he is still widely regarded as one of the finest defenders in Europe of his time.

    A UEFA Cup winner in his time in Italy, he would go on to achieve greatness with Dortmund where he would help his side to both a Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League title.

    Voted the best defender of the FIFA World Cup in 1986, he may never have gone on to further success at international level, but his career at club level more than made up for that disappointment.

Centre-Back: Aldair

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    Having played over 400 games for Roma in Serie A, Brazilian centre-back Aldair is undoubtedly one of his country's best performers in European football.

    An Italian Cup and a solitary Serie A title may not have been just rewards for his efforts, but his talents were noticed by those who watched him play on a regular basis—with Roma eventually retiring the No. 6 shirt in his honour.

    Aldair would represent his country at three World Cups in the 1990s, appearing in two finals and winning the 1994 tournament in USA. In total he would make 81 appearances in the canary yellow shirt of Brazil.

    Besides being one of the greatest defenders in Roma's history, it should also be said that the elegant centre-back was one of the finest defenders anywhere in Europe for the majority of his time in Italy.

Left-Back: Roberto Carlos

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    Another iconic player of the modern game, former Real Madrid star Roberto Carlos was the other half of the famous double act with fellow full-back Cafu.

    While Cafu offered stamina even into his late 30s, Roberto Carlos' game was built solely on power. He would charge forward from defence with breakneck speed, while his shooting power is the stuff of legend.

    In 11 years in the Spanish capital, the full-back would win four league titles and an incredible three Champions League titles, placing him among the most decorated players in European football.

    Beyond that, with 125 international caps and a World Cup to his name, his name in the pantheon of Brazilian greats is secured for a long time to come.

Central Midfield: Dunga

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    He may not be the most fashionable of players, or even the most talented, but the influence of Dunga on the Brazilian side of the 1990s should not be underestimated.

    After all, the former Fiorentina midfielder is the man who captained the selecao to consecutive World Cup finals in 1994 and 1998, winning the former.

    While Dunga may not have won anything in his four years at Fiorentina, he played well over 100 games for the Viola and wrote his name deep in the club's history.

    He would also represent Pisa, Pescara and Stuttgart in his time in Europe, before joining the stars heading to the J League in the mid-1990s.

Central Midfield: Mauro Silva

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    Winner of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, defensive midfielder Mauro Silva spent 13 years in Europe with Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna—with whom he would win a La Liga title and reach the UEFA Champions League semifinal.

    A forceful and committed player, Mauro Silva was known for his stamina and competitive nature in the middle of the pitch, providing a solid base for many of Deportivo's biggest triumphs.

    He may not always have received the adulation of those players further forward, but there can be no underplaying Mauro Silva's role in the finest period of Deportivo's recent history—even before considering his success at international level.

Attacking Midfield: Rivaldo

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    Former FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or Rivaldo enjoyed a 12-year career in Europe from 1996 to 2008, winning league titles in Spain and Greece, as well as a Champions League title with AC Milan.

    The elegant attacking midfielder often found the limelight snatched away by colleagues Ronaldo and Ronaldinho at international level, but still was arguably Brazil's best performer in both 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

    With 86 goals in 157 league games for Barcelona, his five-year spell at the Camp Nou will go down as the best of his career. It was at the Catalan club that he won major personal honours, as well as leading his side to the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.

    A spell at AC Milan would bring a European Cup title, while that would be followed by three titles in three years at Greek giants Olympiacos.

Attacking Midfield: Ronaldinho

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    For a few years in the middle of the last decade, Ronaldinho was simply untouchable at the top of the footballing world. His performances, and results, were a level above all his rivals.

    While his inability to produce such form over an extended period of time is a frequent point of dismay to many football fans, his performance levels in winning a Champions League and two league titles for Barcelona should not be forgotten.

    What the iconic Brazilian did so well was to combine YouTube-style moments of individual brilliance with regular match-winning contributions. It is a balance that few players ever manage to strike.

    Besides those five glorious years at the Camp Nou, Ronaldinho would also enjoy a fine early spell with Paris Saint-Germain before seeing out his time in Europe with AC Milan where he would add a Serie A title.

Striker: Romario

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    In a team of truly great players, Romario may just be the greatest of them all (although his strike partner would argue with that). His time in Europe was not as long as some would have hoped, but left glittering memories all the same.

    The Vasco da Gama idol began life in Europe with PSV Eindhoven, where his 96 league goals in 107 games helped the Dutch side to three league titles.

    He would then move to Spain with FC Barcelona, where he would add 34 goals in 46 games under the tenure of Johan Cruyff before a messy departure.

    Romario is now as famous for his headline making off the pitch as for his talents on it, but there can be no doubting the quality he possessed.

    A World Cup winner in 1994, he would later miss out on finals in 1998 and 2002 despite continuing to impress at club level.

Striker: Ronaldo

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    Had it not been for his injury problems in the four-year period between the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, there can be little doubt that Ronaldo would have placed himself among the very best players in football history.

    Sadly for us all, though, we were denied the chance to witness Ronaldo really stake a claim at that level. Despite that, though, there can still be no doubting that the Brazilian ranks among the top 10 or 15 players to have ever played the game.

    By the France '98 World Cup, at the age of 21, the prodigious youngster had already scored goals for fun in the colours of PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Inter Milan. He had also already won the European Golden Boot and had just won the first two of his three FIFA World Player of the Year crowns.

    On top of all that, of course, we are dealing with the all-time record goalscorer in World Cup competition.

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