If in doubt, always go Brazilian.
It works in Essex and it most definitely works at Hoffenheim.
The German side have struck on a reliable formula since earning promotion to the Bundesliga in 2008, climaxing in a Champions League group stage place this season.
That formula? When it comes to the transfer market, make sure at least one Brazilian arrives.
The 2011/12, 2014/15 and 2017/18 seasons were the only campaigns since Hoffenheim’s promotion in which no Brazilians were signed. Clearly the scouts got lost in the sauce of Rio Carnival.
Swapping the caipirinhas, Copacabana and capoeira of Brazil for a small suburb of 3,500 people might seem insane but, for the most part, it’s worked well for both player and club.
Naturally, there have been a couple of forgettable exceptions.
2008/09: Wellington (Internacional), Luiz Gustavo (Corinthians Alagoano) and Fabricio (Flamengo)
Carlos Eduardo, who had spearheaded Hoffenheim’s promotion push, was joined on a permanent basis by Gustavo after the midfielder’s impressive displays on loan from Corinthians Alagoano.
Not to be confused with the Sao Paulo giants of the same name, Corinthians are a tiny Brazilian club from Alagoas, whom Gustavo hadn’t even played a senior game for when he moved to Germany. We hope that scout got a pay-rise.
Gustavo spent two-and-a-half seasons in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim before joining Bayern Munich, where he won the treble in 2013.
Wellington was signed to score the goals, which weren’t forthcoming. He departed on more loan moves than a Chelsea youngster but was never prolific at any of his temporary homes. Hoffenheim cut their losses in 2013 and terminated his contract.
Fabricio’s loan move was never made permanent and he’s since embarked on a club-hopping journey around Brazil, via spells in Serbia, Thailand, Romania, Israel, Cyrpus and Kazahstan.
Spare a thought for his battered passport.
2009/10: Maicosuel (Desportivo Brasil)
Sounding like a Brazilian Frankenstein, a 23-year-old Maicosuel arrived for a thoroughly underwhelming season in 2009.
The no.10 was nicknamed ‘Mago’, or the ‘Magician’, but his only trick was regularly disappearing during his 27 Bundesliga appearances.
Maicosuel moved back to Brazil at the end of the season but embarked on a brief two-year foray back into European football between 2012 and 2014 alongside Antonio Di Natale and Medhi Benatia at Udinese.
If you’re interested, he can now be found on loan at newly promoted Brazilian side Parana.
2010/11: Roberto Firmino (Figueirense)
Firmino was discovered by a dentist, which won’t come as a surprise to those Liverpool fans blinded every time he reveals his pearly whites.
Upon his arrival, Firmino was in and out of the squad amidst discipline issues and a distaste for time keeping.
However, once that first settling-in season was over, Firmino never looked back. The Bundesliga Breakthrough of the Season award in 2014 was testament to his growing stature in the game.
That being said, few would have predicted his transformation from a hard-working no.10 to a world-class target man.
2012/13: Guilherme Biteco (Gremio), Heurelho Gomes (Spurs), Chris (Wolfsburg), Igor de Camargo (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Guilherme arrived from Gremio’s B team and made exactly zero appearances. Swiftly moving on, Chris joined on a free transfer from Wolfsburg and made, err… okay, we’ll move on again.
De Camargo was marginally more successful, scoring once in eight appearances after arriving on loan from Monchengladbach, and luckily Gomes was on hand to save the day, which was a rarity back in 2013.
The goalkeeper’s record was in tatters following a suspect season at Spurs but by the third game of his loan spell he was captaining Hoffenheim.
2013/14: Bruno Nazario (Tombense)
Another who came and went without making much of a mark.
Bruno’s arrival was slightly mysterious given he went from Figuernese to Hoffenheim via a non-playing spell at Tombense.
It was a similar route to the one that took Firmino to Hoffenheim, but unfortunately it didn’t wield the same results.
Maybe he should pay a visit to the dentist.
2015/16: Joelinton (Sport Recife)
Joelinton wasn’t a complete unknown when he left Serie A side Sport Recife for Hoffenheim in 2015, having been capped by Brazil’s Under-17s two years earlier.
That being said, he was hardly Neymar.
The forward was loaned to Rapid Vienna to spend two seasons adapting to European football in the Austrian Bundesliga, returning at the start of the current campaign.
It seems to have done the job, with Joelinton scoring a hat-trick in the German Cup against Kaiserslautern and netting in the Bundesliga against Borussia Dortmund.
Make sure your ‘new Firmino’ are polished and ready.
2016/17: Danilo Soares (Free transfer)
Walk around Hoffenheim and try and find one of the village’s 3,000-odd inhabitants to ask about Danilo Soares.
If you find someone, which isn’t a given, you’re likely to be met with a blank stare.
Danilo was signed as left-back cover having previously played a single Bundesliga game for Ingolstadt, but left without making an appearance.
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