This year, as well as 2016, are shaping up to be massive years for Brazilian football – what with the country hosting this year’s World Cup and the Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But beyond that, something is different within the Brazilian national team itself.
The team is slowly phasing out the superstars of old – Kakà and Ronaldinho come to mind here – while they are focusing more on youth to help lead the team to glory this summer. With younger players such as Neymar, Oscar and Lucas Moura quickly ascending the ranks in the football world, the Seleção are asserting themselves to continue being a world-beating superpower for years to come.
While some may consider this current crop of Brazilian footballers to be raw and unproven as compared to superstar players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrés Iniesta in world football, many of these 10 men are hungry to prove that they are as good as the best of them. With the World Cup being held in their home country this summer, the pressure will be on like never before, and they’ll be determined to deliver for their fans watching both in the stadiums and at home across the country.
Some of these players are still playing in the European leagues with prominent roles for their clubs, even if they’re in the twilight of their careers, while others are young and relatively new to the European game, but are adapting themselves nicely.
On top of their footballing exploits, they’re also bringing in boatloads of cash every year, and their reputation on the pitch certainly justifies the type of money they’re earning. Without further ado, here are the 10 Brazilian footballers who hope to add to their earnings with a successful performance at their country’s World Cup – and even better, win the whole thing.
10 Ronaldinho, Atletico Mineiro, $3.9 million
At 33 years of age, Ronaldinho’s days as one of the top dogs in the game are now well behind him. However, the footballer born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira is still kicking with Atletico Mineiro in his native Brazil, and his reputation as one of the best to ever do it is probably why he makes this list, regardless of where he’s currently at with his career. The odds of him making his country’s World Cup squad this year are fairly slim at this point, but with a salary of about $3.9 million, Ronaldinho is still raking in some pretty solid cash.
9 Lucas Moura, Paris Saint-Germain, $4.1 million
While he’s been consistently linked with a move away from the Parisian giants, Lucas Moura is still one of the best young players Brazil has produced over recent years despite his up and down performances at PSG. Moura is making about $4.1 million this season, and the attacking midfielder is hoping to showcase his skills in his home country this summer. This is despite his playing time at PSG being somewhat limited at times. His place on Scolari’s 23-man list for this summer is not guaranteed, but he’ll be looking to fight his way onto it whether at PSG or elsewhere for the rest of the season.
8 David Luiz, Chelsea, $4.7 million
While he may attract some criticism for his approach while playing as a centre-back, David Luiz is still one of Chelsea’s go-to guys at that position. Adept in central defense as well as in a defensive midfield role, the wildl-haired Brazilian hopes to be one of the guys the national team counts on when they take the pitch at the World Cup. With the Blues, David Luiz makes about $4.7 million this year, and his success with Chelsea, after signing there from Portuguese giants Benfica for about $34 million, has been enough to justify his paycheck.
7 Ramires, Chelsea, $4.8 million
Known for being one of the best central midfielders currently in the Premier League, Ramires has been keeping up his good form at Chelsea, and will hope to ride this momentum into this summer’s World Cup despite being omitted from Brazil’s squad at the Confederations Cup this past summer. Ramires is currently making $4.8 million with the Blues, and his contract runs until 2017, keeping him at Stamford Bridge for the next three years. With a Champions League title to his name, the player born Ramires Santos do Nascimento will be looking to add to his tally with a Jules Rimet trophy this summer.
6 Julio Cesar, Queen’s Park Rangers, $5.1 million
Although he’s a favorite of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s between the sticks for the Brazilian national team, Julio Cesar hasn’t even made the bench at Championship side Queen’s Park Rangers this season. Needless to say, it means he’s not going to get first-team football with QPR anytime soon, and that could surely hurt his chances of playing at the World Cup. He’s still on QPR’s books at about $5.1 million this season, but the veteran goalkeeper must find a new club – at least on loan – to keep his World Cup hopes burning brightly. Cagliari, Sampdoria and Leeds United have all been linked with him this transfer window.
5 Hulk, Zenit St. Petersburg, $6.8 million
He may be somewhat difficult to Google, given his name’s similarity to the comic book hero, but this Hulk is expected to be one of the starting 11 for his country come the World Cup this summer. The Zenit St. Petersburg man is raking in about $6.8 million this season, though he has been linked with a move out of Russia this transfer window, with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur apparently interested. Hulk – born Givanildo Vieira de Souza – is also looking to avenge a disappointing performance at last summer’s Confederations Cup by performing well with his national team on the world’s biggest stage this summer.
4 Dani Alves, Barcelona, $10.3 million
Being the consistent starting right-back for one of the most storied clubs in footballing history is no small feat. For Dani Alves, it’s a role he’s been used to for some time now. The Brazilian is making $10.3 million this year, and his hefty paycheck with Barça is bound to be rewarded with also being the starting right-back for his national team at his country’s World Cup this summer. With the Blaugrana, he’s won La Liga four times, the Champions League twice and has made the FIFPro World XI on four occasions. Clearly, Alves has what it takes to help lead his country to footballing glory this summer.
3 Neymar, Barcelona, $10.5 million
He’s arguably already got a reputation as one of the most lethal strikers on the planet, with Brazilian legend Pelé saying he can be better than Lionel Messi. That latter statement is stretching things a bit, but at age 21, Neymar’s potential is gigantic. After joining Barçelona from Santos this past summer, he has started to adapt well to the Spanish game, getting goals and assists at nearly a point-per-game pace with the Blaugrana. Neymar is currently making about $10.5 million this year, although his contract with the Catalan giants is under quite a bit of scrutiny, and an investigation regarding the nature of his contract is ongoing.
2 Kaká, AC Milan,$12.3 million
Although he’s certainly lost a step since his days as one of the best players in the game, Kaká is starting to find his form again after returning to Milan, and is hoping to make a last-ditch effort to force his way into Scolari’s squad for this summer’s World Cup. The attacking midfielder born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite is making $12.3 million this year, and he has started recovering from his disappointing stint with Real Madrid, being named a vice-captain upon his return to the San Siro. The former Ballon d’Or winner may not end up doing enough to win a spot at the World Cup this summer, but his reputation is already solidified.
1 Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain, $16.4 million
He’s built up a reputation as one of the best – if not the best – centre-backs in world football for club and country. This summer, Thiago Silva will be counted on to lead the back-line for Brazil at the World Cup. His mammoth $16.4 million paycheck this season with a contract running through 2018 is likely due to him being a member of big-spending Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain, but Silva’s reputation on the pitch is not to be overlooked. He has won a Serie A title with Milan and a Ligue 1 title with PSG, as well as a Confederations Cup title with Brazil last summer – not to mention a number of major individual honors. With the World Cup just around the corner, Thiago Silva will be looking to add to his already glistening resume.