Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former Internazionale goalkeeper Júlio César made his debut for new club Toronto, in Major League Soccer, this past weekend, and won 2-1, although César picked up a yellow card. The 33-year-old is currently the first-choice goalkeeper for the Seleção, the Brazil national team, and the clear favorite of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Yet Felipão is taking an enormous risk in sticking with his current number one. César has barely played first-team football this season after finding himself frozen out of the picture at London second division club, Queens Park Rangers.
He is reported to have turned down moves to Italian outfits AS Roma and ACF Fiorentina last summer, citing his wife’s preference for staying in London, despite the obvious jeopardy to his career, already in its twilight, not to mention the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent his country at home in a World Cup tournament.
With just a few months to go, the Champions League winner has at least taken the step of ensuring some game time prior to the most important World Cup for Brazilians in over sixty years. But one has to question the kind of competition César will be facing in the Major League Soccer.
Scolari may be better served looking closer to home when it comes to choosing his first-choice goalkeeper for the World Cup. Following a call-up for the South Africa friendly earlier this month, it is abundantly clear that Botafogo stopper Jefferson will be in Scolari’s 23-man squad, to be officially announced on May 7th.
The third keeper would appear to be a straight choice between Fluminense’s Diego Cavalieri and Atlético-MG’s Victor. The former was part of the Seleção’s successful 2013 Confederations Cup campaign, whilst the latter earned high plaudits for his performances on the road to Atlético’s Copa Libertadores title.
All have been playing regular football over the last two years. More to the point, all have been playing at a vastly higher level than Júlio César is on his new venture in Toronto.
At the time of the last World Cup in South Africa, César was justifiably considered one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. It’s very clear that this is not the case in 2014.
He struggled to hold down a place in England’s second tier and is only now beginning to play regular football, three short months before Brazil’s World Cup opener against Croatia in São Paulo. Whilst he may be physically fit, goalkeepers need to be fully focused for the full 90 minutes – something César has not been accustomed to over recent months.
For that vital reason alone there are more qualified candidates for the ‘No. 1’ jersey at this World Cup. Scolari’s insistence on sticking by an old favorite may cost the country dearly at a crucial moment and the nightmare of 1950 would be relived in the present day.