Brazil is a country with a lot of professional footballers. In fact, being a professional footballer is one of the most coveted jobs in the country. Footballers from Brazil move to countries across the globe and you can almost guarantee that there will be a Brazilian player in almost all the leagues on the planet.
The best Brazilian players play for the top clubs in Europe. For instance, except for Borussia Dortmund, there is at least one Brazilian player in all the other teams that qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League. For many teams, the Brazilian players are crucial first-team players like Marcelo at Real Madrid, Roberto Firmino at Liverpool, Fernandinho at Manchester City or Neymar at PSG.
Since there are so many top quality players available for selection for the Brazil national team, some of them don’t get a chance to represent their country of birth and choose to play for a country in which they acquired citizenship. For instance, Bayern Munich’s Rafinha was contemplating the decision to play for Germany due to lack of chances with Brazil.
Many Brazilians have gone on to play for a different country but none as famous as the ten players mentioned below.
Honourable mention – Mario Fernandes (Russia), Eduardo da Silva (Croatia), Eder (Italy) and Marlos (Ukraine)
#1 Deco (Portugal)
Wrapping up this list is one of the best players of the 21st century and a player who didn’t get the chance to play for Brazil due to immense competition for places.
Deco was born in São Bernardo do Campo and started his professional career with Corinthians before moving to Europe to play in Portugal. He rose to fame with Porto and in the 2001/02 season, he scored 19 goals for Porto from midfield.
Despite his impressive form for Porto, he didn’t receive a call-up to the Brazil national team for the 2002 FIFA World Cup as the squad already had other attacking midfielders such as Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Kaka and Juninho.
After failing to get the chance to represent Brazil at any level, he waited till he completed six years of residence in Portugal to receive the country’s citizenship in 2003.
The public opinion on including him in the Portugal squad was split as Porto’s rival fans didn’t want him in the squad. However, in 2003 he was included in the squad and coincidentally, his debut came against Brazil. Deco came on as a substitute in that match and scored a free-kick to win the game 2-1 for Portugal. This was also Portugal’s first win over Brazil since the 1966 FIFA World Cup.
His inclusion in the Portugal team for Euro 2004 didn’t go down with Luis Figo but Deco remained an integral member of the national team since his debut and represented them at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup before retiring with 75 caps and six goals.
#2 Diego Costa (Spain)
Diego Costa is one of the recent and most famous players to decline the chance to play for Brazil in favour of another country. He is also the fourth player in this list to play for Spain.
Costa was born in Lagarto, Brazil but he started his professional career in Portugal before moving to Spain with Atletico Madrid. He spent many years of his career in Spain with the same club which helped him gain Spanish citizenship.
Since Brazil were the hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they didn’t have to play any qualifiers and only played friendlies before the tournament. As a result, Costa’s only two appearances for the Selecao came in friendly matches and this helped him to switch his international allegiance.
Costa cannot be blamed for wanting to play for Spain as Luiz Felipe Scolari preferred Fred and Jo over him. Ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in his country of birth, he opted to play for Spain much to the anger of the people in Brazil.
The Atletico Madrid man represented Spain at two World Cups, played 24 games and has scored ten goals so far.
#3 Pepe (Portugal)
Kepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira or popularly known as Pepe was born in Maceió, Brazil and at the age of 18, he moved to Portugal to play for Marítimo. After impressing for Marítimo, Pepe earned a move to Portuguese giants, Porto, in 2004 where he rose to fame.
Pepe never represented Brazil at any youth level. According to the player’s father, in 2006, Brazil’s then head coach, Dunga, contacted him about a possible call-up which the player refused as he wanted to join the Portugal national team once he received Portuguese citizenship.
In August 2007, Pepe acquired Portuguese citizenship and made his debut for the national team later that year. He has gone on to play 103 games for Portugal which makes him the sixth most capped player for the country.
The veteran defender was a crucial part of the Portugal side that won the Euro in 2016 and he was named the man of the match in the final against hosts and outright favourites, France.
#4 Thiago Motta (Italy)
Thiago Motta is the third Brazil-born footballer on this list to have played for Italy at the international level.
He was born in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil but signed for Barcelona aged 17 from Clube Atlético Juventus. He progressed through the Barcelona academy and played 139 games for the senior team before leaving for Atletico Madrid in 2007. However, he left Spain for Italy after only a year with Atletico.
Motta’s Italian adventure started with Genoa but after only one season with the club, he moved to Inter Milan and won the treble in his first season with the club. Motta left Inter in 2012 and played for PSG for six more seasons before retiring at the end of the 2017/18 season.
He represented Brazil at the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup but he played for the Under-23 team and was thus eligible to play for another country. In 2010, he considered playing for Italy at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was eligible to do so as his paternal grandfather was Italian.
However, Motta only made his debut for Italy in February 2011. He went on to make 30 appearances for Italy with his last appearance coming at Euro 2016.
#5 Thiago Alcantara (Spain)
Thiago is the only player in this list who was not born in Brazil but he was eligible to play for Brazil nevertheless. He is the son of former Brazilian international Mazinho who won the 1994 FIFA World Cup with Brazil.
Thiago was born in Italy when his father was playing for Fiorentina which made him eligible to play for Italy also. He was eligible to represent Brazil through his father but he chose to play for Spain as he grew up in the country playing for Barcelona’s academy and later the senior team.
He represented Spain at the U16, U17, U18, U19 and U21 level before making his debut for the senior team in 2011. He won the U17 Euro with Spain in 2008 and the U21 Euro with Spain in 2011 and 2013.
The Bayern Munich midfielder has 31 caps for Spain is now a crucial member of the squad following the retirement of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso.
Although Thiago played for Spain, his younger brother, Rafinha, who also came through the Barcelona academy and still plays for the club, chose to represent Brazil at the international level.
#6 Marcos Senna (Spain)
Marcos Senna was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and played for Rio Branco, America SP, Corinthians, Juventude and São Caetano in his native between 1997 and 2002 before moving to Spain to play for Villarreal.
Senna was a Villarreal player for eleven years during which he played 357 games and scored 33 goals while also winning the Intertoto Cup in 2003 and 2004.
In 2006, he was granted Spanish citizenship and was part of Spain’s squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However, the highlight of his playing career was in 2008 when he represented Spain at the Euro 2008.
He was a constant for Spain throughout the tournament and played the full 90 minutes in the final against Germany which Spain won 1-0. He was named in UEFA’s squad of the tournament while some pundits and journalists named him the player of the tournament.
Senna lost his place in the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad to Sergio Busquets and he was suffering from injuries at that point in his career. He represented Spain in 28 games before he quit international football.
#7 Jorginho (Italy)
Chelsea is managed by the Italian Maurizio Sarri but the two Italians in his squad are both naturalised players. The first player, Emerson Palmieri, is a fringe player but the second player, Jorginho, is a vital cog in his system.
Jorginho was born in Imbituba in Brazil but he moved to Italy at the age of 15 and joined the Academy of Hellas Verona. Although he was born in Brazil, he is of Italian descent through his paternal great-great-grandparent. He earned Italian citizenship through his grandfather who held an Italian passport despite being a Brazilian.
In 2012, he was called up to the Italy U-21 team for the first time and in 2014, he expressed his desire to represent Italy at the international level rather than Brazil. In March 2016, he received his first call-up to the senior team under Antonio Conte for friendlies but was excluded from the squad for Euro 2016.
Conte’s successor, Gian Piero Ventura, didn’t call-up Jorginho to the squad initially despite his impressive form for Napoli and there were rumours that Tite was considering Jorginho’s inclusion in the Brazil squad as the player didn’t represent Italy in any competitive game.
However, Jorginho denied that he wanted to play for Brazil and went on to play for Italy in a competitive game. He is now a regular for Italy under Roberto Mancini and earned ten of his thirteen international caps in 2018.
#8 Cacau (Germany)
Cacau was born in Santo André, São Paulo in Brazil but he spent almost his entire professional career in Germany. He started with lower division team Türk Gücü München before switching to Bundesliga side 1. FC Nürnberg in 2001.
During his club career in Germany, he most notably spent eleven seasons with VfB Stuttgart scoring 109 goals in 346 games including 13 league goals in 2006/07 when Stuttgart won the league title. He had a brief stint in Japan with Cerezo Osaka in 2014 after which he returned to Stuttgart for a year to play for the reserve side before retiring.
Although he was born in Brazil, he was never called up to represent the Brazil national team because of the plethora of attacking talent the country had at that point. In February 2009, he became eligible to play for Germany as he acquired German passport having lived and played in Germany for over eight years.
He made his international debut in May 2009 and scored his first and second goals for the country a year later in a friendly against Malta. He represented Germany at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in which they finished third and scored a goal against Australia in a Group Stage game. By the time he retired, he scored six goals in 23 games for Germany.
#9 Rodrigo Moreno (Spain)
Rodrigo Moreno was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to former Brazilian professional footballer Adalberto Machado who played for Flamengo. He moved to Vigo in Spain at a young age where his father started a football school along with 1994 FIFA World Cup winner Mazinho – the father of Thiago and Rafinha Alcantara.
Rodrigo started his football education in Brazil with Flamengo and continued it in Spain with the Celta Vigo academy before joining Real Madrid Castilla. He didn’t play for the Real Madrid senior team but found success with Benfica and his current club Valencia.
Although Rodrigo was eligible to play for Brazil, he represented Spain from the U19 level to the senior team. He notably scored 15 goals in 16 games for the Spain U21 team and won the Under-21 Euro in 2013.
He made his debut for the senior team in October 2014 and assisted two goals coming off the bench. However, his next appearance for Spain came only three years later. The 27-year-old is currently a regular in the Spain squad and has four goals in 15 games for La Furia Roja.
#10 Emerson Palmieri (Italy)
Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri dos Santos was born in Santos, Brazil in 1994 and he came through the famous academy of Santos before making his professional debut in 2011.
After playing 33 times for Santos senior team, Emerson left Brazil in August 2014 to play for Palermo in Italy. A year later, he joined AS Roma and played 47 times for the club before switching to Chelsea in January 2018.
Emerson represented Brazil at the junior levels and was part of Brazil’s U17 side that won the South American Under-17 Championship in 2011. He also represented his country of birth at the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Cup.Advertisement
He didn’t receive a call-up to the Brazil senior team and understandably so as Brazil had Marcelo, Alex Sandro and Filipe Luis as options in the same position. In March 2017, Emerson acquired Italian citizenship and switched his allegiance to Italy.
Emerson received his first call-up to the Italy team in June 2017 but was withdrawn from the squad due to an injury. This happened again in May 2018 under new manager Roberto Mancini. He eventually made his international debut as a substitute against Portugal in a UEFA Nations League match in September 2018.