7 Players to Watch in This Year's Brasileirao
Another Brazilian league championship has begun, though this year's World Cup has taken some of the gloss off the competition.
But the Campeonato Brasileiro is always a useful place to look for some of football's most prodigious talents and stalwarts of the Brazilian game. Here, we take a look at seven names that will be worth keeping an eye on during this year's league.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Winner of the Best Player Award in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro and the creative mechanism at the heart of the Cruzeiro offensive engine, but for the wealth of attack-minded playmakers at Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scoari's disposal, 25-year-old Everton Ribeiro may well have been handed a chance at international level by now.
Ribeiro has remained in Brazil despite interest from Europe as he fights for the Copa Libertadores with the Belo Horizonte club. He may well leave in the second half of 2014, however, with Manchester United rumoured to be in the market for his services, as reported by The Daily Star.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
2014 promises to be a pivotal year for the Uruguayan on two fronts. As well as trying to help his country navigate a tough group at the World Cup, he must take on more responsibility at club Botafogo after the departure of Clarence Seedorf at the beginning of the year.
Previously thought of as one of the most promising players in South America, a transfer to Dutch giants Ajax was hampered by a succession of injuries.
Lodeiro is slowly recovering form at Botafogo, but the club is going through the midst of a crisis. Early elimination from both the Campeonato Carioca and Copa Libertadores spelt the end for coach Eduardo Hungaro, while the squad recently held a protest in training over the late payment of salaries.
Having spent much of last year in Seedorf's shadow, now is the time for Lodeiro to emerge.
Leandro Damiao is no longer only fighting to save what looked to be a burgeoning international career. The 24-year-old must battle to recover the spilt remnants of his domestic game after a worrying stall.
The forward was excellent at the 2012 Olympic Games, netting six in six as Brazil won silver. It was considered a virtual given he would lead the line for the country at this summer's World Cup alongside other emerging youngsters Oscar and Neymar.
Instead, that honour goes to Fred while Damiao may not even find a place in the 23-man squad.
He swapped Internacional for Santos during the Brazilian offseason and is charged with the unenviable task of replacing the departed Neymar. If he can get the Vila Belmiro faithful to stop lamenting the loss of their starlet to Barcelona, Damiao will be getting back to where he belongs.
Club: Atletico Mineiro
Luan is arguably one of the finest prospects in Brazilian football right now. Happy in attacking midfield, up front or playing between the lines, it has been suggested that he was a like-for-like replacement for Bernard once he left for Ukranian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk.
Luan is actually a very different notion. Sticky and strong in comaprison to his slight former team-mate, his strength and vision are more prominent than either his trickery or habit of scoring wonderful goals.
Boasting the experience of Ronaldinho, Diego Tardelli and Jo, the 23-year-old Luan has the perfect platform on which to flourish over the coming season.
Club: Sao Paulo
It may seem odd to include a player who entered his fifth decade last year, but Rogerio Ceni is an exception to the norm. Last month he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season (link in Portuguese), meaning 2014 will be the final chance to catch one of the country's finest stoppers of the modern era.
The goalkeeper has already made history in a unique way, becoming the only player in his position to score 100 goals in 2011, as reported by The Daily Mail.
A one-club man, Ceni has been at Sao Paulo for over two decades. It would be no exaggeration to describe him as part of the furniture at the Morumbi.
Winner of three consecutive Brasileiro titles between 2006 and 2008, as well as having collected two Copa Libertadores medals, the No. 01 never quite managed to impose himself on the international scene in the same way and was usually overlooked in favour of Dida and Marcos.
He nevertheless picked up a World Cup winners' medal as part of Luiz Felipe Scolari's 2002 squad, but it is at Sao Paulo where his authority and sharp reflexes have allowed him to keep goal until the ripe old age of 41, and his free-kick talents will be sorely missed.
Elias was the at the centre of the biggest transfer saga of the Brazilian offseason. Having starred for Rio de Janeiro outfit Flamengo in their Copa do Brasil triumph last year, the club were desperate to land the 28-year-old on a permanent basis from Sporting Lisbon.
However, Sporting directors were demanding a high price for their asset, and a tug-of-war began between Flamengo and Paulista side Corinthians.
Last week he finally signed for the latter (link in Portuguese), uniting for a third time with boss Mano Menezes. An astute passer of the ball who can chip in with a few goals, Elias' form was fundamental to Flamengo's success last year.
After a lacklustre 2013, Corinthians will be looking to inject some energy into a side that could muster just 27 goals in last year's Brasileiro.
Michael is one of the most promising talents to emerge from Fluminense's bountiful youth academy in recent years.
After being banned for 16 months after testing positive for cocaine (link in Portuguese) last year, the 21-year-old is back with a point to prove. Almost a carbon copy of Flu and Brazil striker Fred, Michael is a hulking presence, who is good in the air and boasts a powerful shot from either boot.
He opened the scoring in the Fla-Flu Classico earlier this year, and should be given more chances as the season progresses should Fred receive a more lucrative offer after the World Cup.
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