Picking a Best Brazil XI Playing in Europe This Season

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJanuary 23, 2014

Picking a Best Brazil XI Playing in Europe This Season

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    The finest plants of the Brazilian crop can usually be found plying their trade in the Old Continent. And it is to these fields that Selecao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will need to turn his attention during the final months of the season.

    Time is running out before Felipao must name his World Cup squad. There is only one FIFA date before the end of the European season, so domestic form may be key to Scolari's final decision. 

GK: Neto

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    Club: Fiorentina

    The most reliable Brazilian pair of hands in Europe and surely the long-term successor to the Selecao's No. 1 jersey, Neto has been a regular starter for club Fiorentina this season and has already kept eight clean sheets in the Italian Serie A.

    Standing well over 6'0", he is imposing, athletic and is showing the kind of consistent form that has often eluded current international first-choice Julio Cesar. Must be too late for a dramatic call-up prior to the World Cup though.

RB: Daniel Alves

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Club: Barcelona

    There are some players who are just too good to leave out, and Daniel Alves is one of them, last week making the 700th appearance of his distinguished career.

    For a decade now he has made his name in one of the toughest leagues in the world and has adapted effortlessly into arguably the greatest club side of all time.

    A full-back in the same mould as Cafu, Alves bombs forward with seemingly endless energy. His crossing and free-kick talents are second-to-none and are likely to be irreplaceable for club and country when he decides to hang up his boots.

    Alves has won a fascinating tug-of-war with rival Maicon for the Selecao No. 2 shirt. Now he can complete his incredible journey with World Cup success this summer.

CB: Thiago Silva

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    Thibault Camus/Associated Press

    Club: Paris Saint-Germain

    Quite possibly the greatest centre-half in the world right now. Strong, composed and excellent in the air, Thiago Silva is the foundation of the PSG and Selecao defensive unit.

    A natural leader, he wears the captain's armband at club and international level. The latest in a recent trend of fine Brazilian central defenders, he is now acting as mentor to compatriot and team-mate Marquinhos, who may well take over his mantle in the future.

CB: David Luiz

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Club: Chelsea

    The defensive sector is reading along the same lines as Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's frame of mind, but there is a reason the Brazilian back four picks itself.

    Luiz is probably the most improved defender in the Premiership over the last year, and his excellent form can in some part be attributed to new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

    The 26-year-old has cut out the rash mistakes that marked his early time in England and established himself alongside John Terry at the heart of the Stamford Bridge defence.

    Luiz has also proven himself at the international level alongside Thiago Silva, and barring injury should feature during the World Cup this summer.

LB: Filipe Luis

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Club: Atletico Madrid

    One of the understated players in Diego Simeone's revolution in the Spanish capital. Atletico stand toe-to-toe with Barcelona at the top of La Liga, missing the chance to go top after a 1-1 draw with Sevilla last weekend.

    Not as attack-minded as Daniel Alves on the right flank, Luis is nonetheless defensively sound and has the ability to put in a pinpoint cross. Should be in the Brazil squad for the World Cup, but may miss out on a starting berth to Real Madrid's Marcelo.

CM: Lucas Leiva

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Club: Liverpool

    A player reborn. After signing for Liverpool as far back as 2007, this season has seen the 27-year-old throw off the shackles and consistently perform as the club battles to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since elimination at the group stage in the 2009/10 season.

    Heartbreakingly, Lucas damaged a knee ligament against Aston Villa last week and now looks set to miss two months of the season, including Brazil's friendly against South Africa on March 5.

    However, if he can rediscover his form when he returns, it can only be to Liverpool and Brazil's benefit.

CM: Ramires

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Club: Chelsea

    Part of a quartet of Brazilians at Chelsea on top of their game, Ramires often doesn't get the praise his diligence and vision deserves.

    His hunger for battle belies his slight frame, and he has bulked up since arriving in England three-and-a-half years ago.

    With an eye for a defence-splitting pass as well as a tackle, Ramires is the personification of a box-to-box midfield player. Kept out of the national side by Tottenham's Paulinho, he could give Scolari a selection headache, especially if given the chance to start against South Africa.

AM: Douglas Costa

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Club: Shakhtar Donetsk

    Once talked about in Brazil in the same breath as Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, Douglas Costa was reportedly a target for a number of top European clubs whilst making his name at Porto Alegre outfit Gremio.

    Taking the path trod by so many young Brazilians, Costa arrived at Ukranian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk in January 2010 and hasn't looked back.

    Costa can play either in attacking midfield or attack, he has been a regular for Shakhtar since his arrival. This season he played in five of his club's Champions League games, notching two goals.

    Surprisingly is yet to make his full debut for Brazil, but if his talent continues to prevail, it cannot be too long until Europe's top clubs are making enquiries again.

AM: Oscar

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Club: Chelsea

    The third Chelsea piece in this Brazilian puzzle. It is not easy keeping a two-time Player of the Year on the bench, but that is what Oscar has managed to do, performing so well that Juan Mata may be off to Old Trafford in a matter of days.

    He has earned high praise from coach Jose Mourinho, who earlier this season described the 22-year-old as the best player of the season so far, as reported by The Independent.

    The former Internacional playmaker was making a name for himself at the same time as fellow visionaries Ganso and Lucas Moura, now at Sao Paulo and PSG respectively.

    The fact Oscar has made the Brazil attacking midfield role his own with little debate highlights the rapid progress he has made since arriving at Chelsea less than two years ago.

CF: Neymar

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Club: Barcelona

    Neymar's protracted transfer from boyhood club Santos to Catalan giants Barcelona threatened to overshadow the prodigious talent the young forward has.

    The poster boy for Brazil's World Cup bid, the world waited to see how he would react to no longer being the big fish. Now surrounded by world-class talent, Neymar is growing each week, taking to the Barcelona philosophy like a duck to water.

    Before Christmas he became the first player in history to net a hat trick in the Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League in a tie against Glasgow club Celtic.

    Neymar's transfer came at the right time for the Selecao. A season at one of the greatest clubs on the planet can only be beneficial to the national team's efforts at the World Cup.

CF: Diego Costa

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Club: Atletico Madrid

    OK, so he has switched allegiance to Spain, but he is Brazilian born and bred so qualifies for this list. Every time Atletico sell a first-rate striker, another seems to be waiting in the wings.

    Fernando Torres left and Sergio Aguero stepped up. Aguero went to Manchester City and in came Radamel Falcao.

    The Colombian preferred the millions on offer at Monaco to a stint in the Champions League, but now Diego Costa has made sure fire power has not been lacking at Vicente Calderon.

    Quite possibly the most lethal centre-forward in the game at present, Scolari must be scathing over missing out on such a natural goal-scoring instinct.

    Whilst Fred and Jo are reliable, Costa is in the talent bracket above. Brazil's loss is Spain's gain.