Shiny foreign hires showcase Brazilian league’s riches

By Andrew Downie ,Reuters

SAO PAULO –Two of Brazil’s biggest soccer clubs presented newly hired foreign imports on Saturday, in the latest manifestation of the newfound spending power that has recently helped keep some of the country’s own talent from moving abroad.

Clarence Seedorf and Diego Forlan debuted for Botafogo and Internacional, respectively, as the Dutch and Uruguayan veterans, long past their prime in the marquee leagues of Europe, keep their careers going in a Brazilian league that has been reinvigorated in recent years because of a recent economic boom in South America’s biggest country.

Brazilian clubs often repatriate their own ageing stars when their careers in Europe are over. Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Luis Fabiano, and others have come back to the country in recent years. Growing wealth among Brazilian teams has also enabled them to keep young talents like Neymar, the ascendant Santos forward, from following their predecessors across the Atlantic, much less to developing leagues in China, the United States, or the Middle East.

A strong Brazilian currency, and lucrative sponsorship deals, mean many young Brazilian players can earn as much as they would by making the move to Europe.

With more than 30 million Brazilians having entered the middle classes over the past decade, advertisers are investing heavily in sponsorships. Television companies this year more than doubled the amount they pay clubs for broadcast rights.

Brazilian teams, however, have rarely signed marquee foreigners.

So the arrival of Forlan and Seedorf marks a new willingness by Brazilian clubs to invest in banner players. Forlan, 33, was named best player at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while Seedorf, 36, won Champions League titles with Ajax Amsterdam, Real Madrid, and AC Milan.