Ranking the 8 Brazilians to Have Played for Arsenal

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2017

Sylvinho, Arsenal's first-ever Brazilian player.
Sylvinho, Arsenal's first-ever Brazilian player.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Eighteen years ago, Arsenal signed their first-ever Brazilian: marauding left-back Sylvinho. In the time since then, the Gunners have been represented by a further seven Brazil-born players.

In this piece, Bleacher Report sets out to rank Arsenal's samba stars. Crucially, they're being assessed on their performances in red and white, not elsewhere. That means a player who failed to shine at Arsenal but blossomed elsewhere will be lower than one who was briefly brilliant at Arsenal.

Who will come out on top in the battle of the Brazilians? Read on to discover Arsenal's best import from Brazil.

    

8. Juan

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM:  Arsenal's Juan (L) tussles with Grimsby Town's Paul Groves (R) in The Worthington Cup 4th round match at Highbury in London 27 November 2001. Arsenal's Brazilian player Edu scored an early first half goal to put Arsenal ahead 1-0
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Juan, or Juan Maldonado Jaimez to give him his full name, joined Arsenal from Sao Paulo in 2001. In three years in England, he managed just two first-team appearances, both of which came in domestic cup competitions. The second of those performances was an exciting display against Gillingham in the FA Cup, in which he created a goal for Ray Parlour with a dazzling run and cross.

Unfortunately for Juan, that was his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt. A knee injury in November 2002 effectively ended his Gunners career. Perhaps it was never meant to be: At 5'5", he never looked particularly likely to thrive as a Premier League defender.

Nevertheless, Juan did manage an impressive career back in Brazil, including spells with Fluminense, Flamengo and back with Sao Paulo.

    

7. Andre Santos

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United embraces Andre Santos of Arsenal prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 3, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The only reason Andre Santos isn't bottom of this list is that Juan featured so infrequently as to make him an automatic pick for eighth place.

Signed from Turkish side Fenerbahce in the infamous trolley dash of August 2011, Santos was a pretty disastrous buy for Arsenal. 

Although ostensibly a defender, the fact he chose to wear the No. 11 shirt was a clue to his attacking intentions—Santos simply wasn't focused enough on the defensive side of the game.

However, his nadir at Arsenal was ultimately more about his character than his playing style. In November 2012, he swapped shirts with Robin van Persie at half-time of the Dutchman's first appearance against his former club. In the eyes of the Arsenal fans, that was an unforgivable act.

Santos went back to Brazil, where he didn't fare much better—he was attacked by fans after a disastrous display for Flamengo against Internacional. He has since returned to Turkey, where he currently plays for Boluspor.

     

6. Denilson

Arsenal's Brazilian midfielder Denilson (L) vies with Leyton Orient's Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Dawson (R) during their FA Cup fifth round replay football match against Leyton Orient at the Emirates Stadium, London, England, on March 2, 2011.
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Denilson promised so much yet ultimately delivered so little. When he first arrived at Arsenal in 2006, the central midfielder was a hugely exciting prospect. His vision and preternatural tactical intelligence led to understandable comparisons with Cesc Fabregas, and for a little while, it looked as if that pair could form the future of the Arsenal midfield.

However, while Fabregas progressed to become a truly world-class talent, Denilson's development stalled. He became infamous for his unimaginative sideways passing. Arsene Wenger responded to his lack of invention by attempting to convert him into a defensive midfielder, but he simply didn't have the requisite cynicism to be an effective ball-winner.

Although a regular at almost every youth level, Denilson has never graduated to the full Brazilian international side. He is currently on loan at Cruzeiro from Abu Dhabi outfit Al Wahda FC.

     

5. Julio Baptista

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal's Brazilian midfielder Julio Baptista celebrates scoring  his side's third goal during the English Premiership match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, in London 17 April  2007. AFP PHOTO/CHRIS YOU
CHRIS YOUNG/Getty Images

Arsenal spent much of the summer of 2005 chasing Julio Baptista, then of Sevilla, only for the man dubbed "The Beast" to join Real Madrid. A year later, however, they got their man. Baptista joined the Gunners for a season-long loan that saw Jose Antonio Reyes move in the opposite direction.

Given how Baptista fared in England, Wenger must have been glad he never bought him permanently. Despite his outstanding reputation in Spain, Baptista never really managed to hold down a regular place in an Arsenal shirt.

However, the reason that he is spared from figuring lower on this list is that he did at least provide Arsenal fans with some memorable moments. There was the four-goal haul at Anfield, as well as a brace against rivals Tottenham.

    

4. Eduardo da Silva

Arsenal's Brazilian-Croatian forward Eduardo in action during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal at Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, central England, on November 7, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Paul Ellis  FOR EDITORI
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Striker Eduardo is certainly the only player typically listed as a Croatian you will find in this piece. However, having been born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, it would seem churlish not to include him.

The prolific Eduardo certainly had the potential to be one of the Premier League's outstanding Brazilians. He was an incredibly smart striker, capable of making brilliant runs and finishing with a clinical coldness.

However, that terrible leg break of 2008 ultimately proved his undoing. Although he did manage to make a return to playing, he was never quite the same. In 2010, Arsenal decided to sell him to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Eduardo's story is rather a sad one—he was a very gifted player, prevented from fulfilling his potential by one ugly challenge.

     

3. Silvinho

18 Dec 2000: Silvinho of Arsenal gets away from Darren Anderton of Spurs during the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in the FA Carling Premiership at White Hart Lane, London. Digital Image. Mandatory Credit: Phil Cole/ALLSPORT
Phil Cole/Getty Images

It's a curious fact that of the eight Brazilian-born players to play for Arsenal, three have been left-backs. Of that trio, Sylvinho (or Silvinho as he was known in his Arsenal days) was undoubtedly the most successful.

His time in England was curiously brief. After arriving in 1999, he quickly set about establishing himself as the first-choice left-back. In 2000/01, he was voted into the PFA team of the year as the best left-back in the country. Then, just a few months later, he was unceremoniously sold to Celta Vigo.

Publicly, Arsenal insisted that Sylvinho was sold to make room for the emergence of young prospect Ashley Cole. However, a controversy over his Portuguese passport (h/t ESPN) may well have been the more pressing issue.

     

2. Edu

Edu was another of Arsenal's Brazilians who suffered passport problems. He was initially set to join the club in the summer of 2000, only for a problem with his documentation to delay the move by six months.

Even then, his Arsenal career did not get off to the best start. He was injured just 15 minutes into his debut and ended up barely figuring in that first season.

However, he slowly established himself as a essential part of the squad. Edu won two league titles and two FA Cups in his time with Arsenal, featuring in 30 league games during Arsenal's fabled Invincibles campaign of 2003/04.

Having gained British citizenship during his time with Arsenal, Edu flirted with the idea of representing England. However, he did eventually make the step up to represent Brazil at international level, earning 15 caps before his retirement. 

     

1. Gilberto Silva

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal's Brazilian captain Gilberto Silva  celebrates scoring his side's third goal from the penalty spot,  during the English Premiership match between Arsenal and Fulham, at the Emirates Stadium, London 29 April  2007. AFP PHOTO
CHRIS YOUNG/Getty Images

Arsenal signed Gilberto Silva off the back of his performances for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. Although not the most eye-catching player in that side, he still played an instrumental role, bringing balance and defensive stability to an otherwise attacking midfield. It was that role he would fill brilliantly in what was certainly Wenger's greatest-ever team.

Like Emmanuel Petit before him, Gilberto proved to be an ideal foil for Patrick Vieira. As Vieira matured, he broke forward more and more regularly, and Gilberto had the diligence and intelligence to sweep up behind him whenever required. His nickname of "The Invisible Wall" was well-deserved.

The decision to sell Gilberto to Panathinaikos in 2008 was arguably one of the worst of Wenger's Arsenal reign. Arsenal's midfield took years to recover from losing the Brazilian, who had served brilliantly as vice-captain for his last couple of years in north London.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and follows the club from a London base.

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