Fabulous Fred is happiest at home

The Confederations Cup expunged a few modern myths about international football; people do care about it, it can be entertaining and no, Brazil are not ‘rubbish’.

Another cardinal rule of international football was, however, reinforced; there’s nothing like having a good international tournament to inflate a player’s value.

With one of the major problems of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s second spell in charge so far being the quest to find the right centre-forward, Fred’s fine tournament was especially eye-catching and came just at the right time for him, as well as his head coach.

Yet the speculation that has followed, linking him with a return to Europe (perhaps even with Manchester City), shows that a few heady internationals still have the potential to completely detach us from reality.

This is no slight on Fred. He is in the driving seat to lead the line at the World Cup, and rightly so having scored six in his last seven internationals. The Fluminense striker also provides a useful counterpoint to the pace of Hulk, the verve of Neymar and (should he be recalled) the dribbling skills of Lucas Moura. Fred has the strength to hold up, he’s good in the air and the manner of his goals in the final hammering of Spain was another reminder that he is a master poacher.

Long-term Fred watchers will argue, however, that he is simply not cut out for Europe. Plenty of Brazilians flunk their first test in European club football – another seleção centre-forward Luis Fabiano and Fred’s old Lyon teammate Cris immediately spring to mind – but his tale is a little more complex. 

Arriving at then-Ligue 1 champions Lyon at 21 for €15m, Fred made an instant impact, scoring two memorable goals on his October 2005 debut in a win over Monaco. This wasn’t necessarily a harbinger of success; Lyon’s last centre-forward purchased from Brazil, Nilmar, also hit a brace on his debut at Rennes the previous year and never scored again in the French top flight.

Fred’s overall record in France was pretty healthy – he scored at almost a goal every two games, won three league titles and made his Brazil debut. He matured little off the pitch, however, reacting badly when a young Karim Benzema pushed him out of the team. Fred let himself get out of shape, and memorably returned a week late from one winter break, arriving at the training ground with a big grin on his face and a white stetson on his head. Having spent so much to acquire him, Lyon let him go for free in February 2009, keen to minimise any disruption.

The idea of his subsequent move to Fluminense was that it would be a transient step; somewhere where he would rehabilitate his fitness and form (mental and physical) before having another crack at Europe. Yet it hasn’t happened, and his success with the seleção can’t hide that there are reasons for this.

Fred has scored plentifully for Fluminense, winning the Brasileirão twice since he’s been back. Not everybody is convinced. “I am not looking for nice guys, because my daughter is already married,” Scolari’s predecessor Mano Menezes said dismissively in September when brushing off questions about recalling him.

His return to the Brazil side has been somewhat by default, but he’s making the most of it. What better preparation could there be for 2014 as far as Fred’s concerned than another year in Rio, “where I can live the life of a single man,” as he puts it? He hasn’t changed much, but for now, Brazil don’t want him to.

Read Andy Brassell's previous columns here