Brazil has proven fertile shopping grounds for Eastern European clubs
Giuliano is one of the brightest prospects produced by Brazilian football in recent years. A midfielder of talent, versatility and intelligence, he captained Brazil's Under-20s with distinction in the 2009 World Youth Cup. Last year he was chosen as the star player in the Copa Libertadores -- his goals, many of them after coming on as a substitute, helped Internacional of Pôrto Alegre claim South America's premier club title. And a few months ago he made his debut for the senior Brazil team.
Out of the blue earlier this year came a bid for his services from Ukraine club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Internacional valued Giuliano at 8 million euros. Dnipro came straight in offering 10. Not surprisingly, Inter were keen to sell. The player himself wavered for a few minutes. Some around him advised him not to go. But the offer proved too tempting to refuse. Giuliano signed a five-year contract. With a long term perspective of astonishing maturity for someone aged just 20, he came to the conclusion that in five year's time he will be financially secure, and also a free agent able to play wherever he likes. And so he joined the growing Brazilian contingent in the two major leagues of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine.
Many see these as unlikely destinations for Brazilian talent. But the global market has its own dynamism. Fifteen years ago England was looked on in the same way. Now it is entirely normal for Brazilians to feature in the Premier League -- seven English-based players have featured in the last two Brazil squads.
Professional footballers have always followed the money -- and at the moment, bankrolled by ambitious tycoons, clubs in Russia and Ukraine have powerful financial muscles to flex. They have chosen to do much of their shopping in South America.
The process started almost a decade ago. For a while, those Brazilians heading for Russia or Ukraine all seemed to be signing from the same song sheet. Their new destination was their port of entry into European football. They would show their worth and then move on westward to the more glamorous leagues of Spain, England or Italy.
Some of these dreams have come true (although with mixed results. Manchester City must surely be ruing the massive transfer fee they paid for striker Jo, who had been so successful in Russia with CSKA Moscow). In many cases, though, the glamour move never materialized. Clubs from the West proved unwilling or unable to match the transfer fees and the wages paid out by the newly-rich Eastern Europeans -- a process amplified by the global financial crisis. Hence the fact that Giuliano signed for Dnipro in the expectation of spending the full five-year term of his contract with the Ukraine club.
But that does not mean that a Brazilian playing his football in Russia or Ukraine is necessarily trapped in a gilded cage. True, until comparatively recently it was certainly the case that a Brazilian based there was out of sight, out of mind. But things are changing. Toward the end of last year Brazilian TV was even screening the occasional game from Russia. And the history of Shaktah Donetsk's attacking midfielder Jadson should serve as an inspiration to all Brazilian players in Eastern Europe.
Jadson made his name in 2004, when his clever passing was the main supply line for striker Washington in the Atletico Paranaense side that came second in the Brazilian championship. From the provincial southern city of Coritiba, Atletico are not one of Brazil's glamour sides. So when Jadson joined Ukraine club Shaktah the following year it was all too easy for him to be forgotten back at home. There was no press lobby in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro calling for him to be included in the national squad.
This year, though, Jadson has forced his way in. Six years away, with no noticeable constituency in Brazil, and at the relatively advanced age of 27, Jadson has been brought in from the cold. Brazil coach Mano Menezes was crying out for an attacking midfielder with good passing skills. Jadson came off the bench to give a bright cameo in his international debut against France in February, and produced a sound display 10 days ago when selected from the start to face Scotland. And where Jadson has gone, other Brazilians based in Eastern Europe can follow.
Clearly, Jadson's claims have been boosted by Shaktah's run to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But he is only one of a Brazilian group which gives the side its attacking force. If Eduardo da Silva, a naturalized Croatian but Brazilian born and bred, is included, then of the 18 goals the team have accumulated so far in the competition, all but five have been scored by Brazilians.
Strong center forward Luiz Adriano is a possible contender for future international recognition. Left footed attacking midfielder Douglas Costa has already been included in the senior squad, while his colleague Willian has played for Brazil at Under-20 level, at which dynamic midfielder Fernandinho (currently injured) was a world champion in 2003.
He was fit for action in the Shaktah team that won the last version of the UEFA Cup, beating Germany's Werder Bremen 2-1 in 2009. Willian also played, and the goals were scored by Luiz Adriano and Jadson. That was an excellent achievement, but the Champions League carries a far greater weight, and the recent home and away wins over Roma have done wonders for the profile of the club in Brazil and elsewhere.
Now, though, comes the supreme test -- Barcelona in the quarterfinals. If Shaktah can put up a good fight against the Catalan giants then top clubs in Western Europe may yet be tempted to consider an offer for members of the club's Brazilian contingent. But as they showed in 2009, and as Jadson has demonstrated this year, these South American pioneers do not necessarily have to leave Ukraine to have a taste of glory with club and country.