Is Brazil Striker Fred The Most Underrated Forward in World Football?

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJuly 3, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 30:  Fred of Brazil  poses with his adidas Silver Boot at the end of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Brazil striker Fred finished the recent 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup with a Silver Boot award to his name and his reputation at its highest standing in many years.

Indeed, not since he first broke through in the Brasileirão and headed for Ligue 1 side Lyon in 2005 has there been quite so much praise heading in his direction.

With his selection in the national side having been continually criticised over recent months, it must be a relief for the Fluminense forward to have finally silenced at least some of his doubters.

Indeed, so big has the change in Fred's fortunes been that links with a move to European football have even resurfaced. While the reports have been played down by his Brazilian club, the Mirror newspaper insist that the striker is currently a major transfer target for Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City side.

Fred is a divisive figure both on and off the pitch in Brazil, with his off-pitch actions contributing to the arguments against his inclusion. However, with nine goals in 10 international appearances for his country this calendar year, those arguments have quietened down somewhat.

Following the 2011 Copa America, Fred's reputation hit its lowest ebb. Brazil had fallen out of the competition in uninspiring fashion, and the striker was seen as symbolic of the side's disappointing showing.

Having missed a large period of the 2010 season through injury, and seen Fluminense bow out of the 2011 Copa Libertadores earlier than expected, it was the culmination of an uninspiring year for the striker.

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However, following a series of negative press reports—including a confrontation with supporters in a Rio de Janeiro bar—the striker set about restoring his reputation.

For the next 18 months, he was simply sensational for the Tricolor Carioca, scoring more than 20 goals in consecutive Brasileirão campaigns. As a culmination of his revival, Fred was voted Brazilian Championship Player of the Year in 2012, having dragged Fluminense to a Brazilian league title.

That was enough to earn a long awaited recall to the Brazil squad upon the return of head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and, having seen off initial competition from Luis Fabiano, he would make the No. 9 shirt his own.

What makes life difficult for Fred is that he is simply not an outstanding player, he is just very good. Yet, Brazil is a country where they expect their attacking players to be among the best in the world. Fred isn't, and will never be, in that category.

However, he has improved with age. He may not be as quick as in his days at Lyon, but Fred is now a more intelligent forward, thriving on bringing those around him into play. His finishing ability, meanwhile, has never been doubted.

It is for this reason that Fred is so underrated. In a sense, his plight is similar to that of Serginho Chulapa in the great Brazil side of the 1982 World Cup. He looks very ordinary compared to the superstars around him but, in Fred's case at least, does a very important job for the side.

He is not as mobile as some would like, but Fred is the steadying influence at the point of the Brazil attack. His presence allows the likes of Neymar and Oscar behind him to wander from their positions and look to feed off his play holding up the ball.

He is comfortable enough linking into their quick passing moves, even if it is not his forte, but also offers an aerial threat that many colleagues do not possess. Brazil would love to have a Ronaldo or a Romario figure to lead the line, but Fred is currently the best alternative available.

If a move to a top European side does come off, it may be that his abilities come to earn wider respect. However, for the moment, he is most definitely an underrated player both inside and outside of Brazil.

It may be that he never wins over those doubters, as he will never be at the level of some of Brazil's great No. 9s. However, having led Brazil to the Confederations Cup, he will have a great opportunity at next summer's World Cup to ensure his name lives long in his country's football history.

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