20 Brazilian wonderkids who flopped in Europe

There's no greater excitement in football than watching a South American teenager take the European stage by storm, particularly when they've been blessed with the silky samba skills of Brazil.

We have been incredibly fortunate to witness some of football's most naturally gifted players grace our pitches, from the explosive arrival of Ronaldo to the exciting rise to fame of Kaka or Ronaldinho.

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Of course, not all Brazilian exports land on their feet. The leap from South America to Europe is a vast one, and one which many wonderkids fail to survive.

Football has seen its share of top talent lost along the way, but who are some of the biggest disappointments to have experienced stage fright in our theatres of dreams?


Vampeta played a huge role in football history | Claudio Villa/ Grazia Neri/Getty Images

Vampeta may not be a household name among football folk, but his story is one of the most important in history. He initially dazzled upon arriving in Europe with PSV Eindhoven, but he returned to Brazil in 1998. From there, he joined Inter in 2000, but he failed to live up to the hype, making only one appearance for the Italian giants.

I Nerazzurri sent him back to Brazil in a deal which saw a certain Adriano head to San Siro in exchange. I think it's fair to say that Inter got the better end of the bargain with that particular transfer. Without Vampeta, we may never have had Adriano.


Ganso was not the star we all anticipated | Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Ganso burst onto the scene for Santos back in 2008, around the time that Neymar was wowing us with his tricks and skills YouTube compilations. The duo were battling for the limelight and a move to Europe - a tussle that Neymar ultimately won.

His former teammate eventually switched to Sevilla in 2016, but after three disappointing years in Europe, he returned to Brazil with Fluminense.

Denilson de Oliveira Araújo

Everyone was left scratching their heads at this one | Getty Images/Getty Images

This is arguably one of the worst pieces of business that any team has ever pulled off. Real Betis paid a club-record fee to sign winger Denilson from Sao Paulo back in 1998, splashing £21.5m on the starlet. Incredibly, he put pen to paper on a10-year contract, such were the hopes of him being a long-term superstar.

However, Betis were relegated at the end of Denilson's debut campaign, and he played a bit-part role in their return to La Liga and rise up the Spanish rankings. They eventually offloaded the flop in 2005 - four years before his contract ended. There's a lesson in there, somewhere...

Denilson Pereira Neves

Denilson never lived up to the hype | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Denilson joined Arsenal from Sao Paulo in 2006, with many tipping him to take charge of the Gunners' midfield in the coming years. It wasn't to be. The youngster never truly adapted to the demands of the Premier League, and although he showed flashes of his ability, it wasn't enough, and he returned to Sao Paulo in 2015.

Alexandre Pato

An ambitious transfer | James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

It hurts to include Alexandre Pato in this list, considering the excellent few years he enjoyed with Milan at the beginning of his career. But since 2011, the striker has found it difficult to hit the back of the net, and has endured poor stints with seven different clubs. Let's hope he's found a loving and successful home in Orlando City.


Far from a Premier League star | Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Premier League giants Chelsea paid more than £6m to sign Kenedy back in 2015, but he has gone on to play for four different teams since making the move from Brazil.

He was recently on loan at Newcastle United, where during a game against Cardiff City he should have received a red card for a kick out at an opponent, failed to complete a pass in the first half, and missed a penalty in the last minute, costing his side two points. Vintage.


A big flop | Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images

Manchester City broke their transfer record with the £19m signing of Jo in 2008. Ah, simpler times. He arrived off the back of three excellent seasons with CSKA Moscow, but his next three years were nothing short of miserable. He scored one league goal for the Citizens, and five in a loan spell at Everton, before heading back to Brazil.


Oh Barca... | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Keirrison, named after rock and roll stars Keith Richards and Jim Morrison, may well be the worst of a terrible bunch. Barcelona signed the €14m man against coach Pep Guardiola's will, and that was the story for the forward, who was loaned out five times, never stepping onto the pitch for La Blaugrana.


Geovanni flopped hard at Barcelona | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Premier League lovers may remember Geovanni as the man who created his own goal of the season competition during a scintillating campaign with Hull City, but prior to that, he had been a massive waste of money in Barcelona.

Barça allowed him to leave for free in 2003, having paid $18m for the winger in 2001. Another solid piece of business from the Catalan giants.


Rare footage of Kleberson kicking a ball for Man Utd | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Manchester United signed Kleberson in 2003, but the World Cup winner never got the hang of that Premier League malarkey. He was ultimately shown the door two years later, where he would join Besiktas. Not to be.


Kerlon the seal man | AFP/Getty Images

That's right everyone, it's time for Kerlon the seal man. Kerlon shot to internet fame after videos surfaced of him dribbling (and often getting hacked down) while balancing the ball on his forehead. It was a skill that Europe wanted to have on its shores - but one we just weren't ready to embrace.

He joined Chievo in 2008, but injuries halted his progress and robbed him of his chance to shine in Serie A. After making only a handful of appearances, he returned to Brazil in 2011, and has since retired from the game.


Breno wasn't the right man for Bayern | OLIVER LANG/Getty Images

Bayern won one of the most fierce races in Europe to land Breno in 2009, a teenage centre-back from Sao Paulo. However, following a couple of poor seasons, he was arrested on 'suspicion of aggravated arson', and was subsequently sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

Fabio da Silva

Not as successful as brother Rafael | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Much was expected of Fabio da Silva, who broke into the Man Utd team a fraction later than twin brother Rafael. He failed to hold down a regular spot at Old Trafford, and after a couple of unsuccessful spells at Cardiff and Middlesbrough, he left England for Nantes.

Caio Ribeiro

Italian giants Inter took a £3.5m punt on Brazilian forward Caio Ribeiro, who had impressed during his debut season with Sao Paulo. Two shocking years with Inter and Napoli would see him return to Brazil in 1997 - without a single goal to his name.

Evandro Roncatto

Evandro Roncatto was a legend for those who wasted hours on Championship Manager back in the day, and Portuguese outfit Belenenses took the decision to bring him to Europe in 2007. It was a poor decision though, as the forward scored only five goals in over 50 appearances. He is now with the 20th club over his illustrious career.

Gabriel Barbosa

Gabigol | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

When Gabriel Barbosa joined Inter from Santos in 2016, the hype was real. He spent one year in Italy, scoring a solitary goal in nine appearances, before disappearing back to Brazil on loan.

He wrote himself into Flamengo history in 2019, scoring a brace in the Copa Libertadores final to clinch the trophy in the most dramatic of circumstances. A happy ending for Gabigol.

Lucas Piazon

Lucas Piazon was one of Chelsea's longest serving stars | Pete Norton/Getty Images

Lucas Piazon was snapped up by Chelsea in 2011, and he was tipped to become the next big thing. He spent a decade in west London, although he only made three appearances for the Blues, as well as enduring seven loan spells away from the club. He's now finding happiness at Braga. Good for him.


Real Madrid were faced with the dilemma of signing either a promising youngster by the name of Alipio back in 2008, or snatching an unknown Philippe Coutinho. One you've never heard of, the other is a €160m baller. Guess which is which?

Carlos Alberto

A Champions League winner | Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

It's not often that one of our flops has won and played a vital part in a Champions League success, but Carlos Alberto is a special case. The youngster scored in the final for Jose Mourinho's Porto in 2004, but nothing really went right from that moment on.

Vitor Flora

Liverpool supporters were curious over the purchase of Brazilian starlet Vitor Flora back in 2008, and their curiosity was never quashed, as he failed to make a single senior appearance for the Reds.

Source : 90min