By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following his heroics for the Seleção during last month’s FIFA Confederations Cup, football’s (soccer) international radar has been on Fluminense and Brazil number nine, Frederico Chaves Guedes, known simply as Fred. The 29-year-old netted five times during Brazil’s campaign, including a brace in the final against world and European champions Spain.
The player has been in excellent form on the international stage in 2013. He scored the first official goal at the reopened Maracanã against England and nine goals in nine internationals has led to speculative transfer gossip across Europe.
He was a target for English club Manchester City, whose interest was rebuffed by the player himself. “I’m staying at Fluminense. The club has helped me to realize my dream of playing for the national side,” Fred told television program Globo Esporte at the beginning of July.
Yet Fred’s recent rise to the top of world football has not been paved with gold. At 29, his position as one of the planet’s most consistent finishers has been carved from craft and consistency, particularly in the last four years at Rio de Janeiro club Fluminense.
Fred was born in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais and started his career at local club América-MG, where he scored the fastest goal in the history of Brazilian football. In 2003, representing the club in the Copa São Paulo de Futebol Júnior, Fred found the back of the net after only 3.17 seconds.
His form earned him a move to Minas giants Cruzeiro where his continued goalscoring prowess was rewarded with his first, and until now only, venture to Europe with then French champions Lyon. That side was the most successful Lyon side in history, winning seven straight French league titles and boasting such talents as Michael Essien, Juninho Pernambucano and star academy product Karim Benzema.
The emergence of Benzema forced Fred down the pecking order and in early 2009 the striker was agitating for a move. After being linked with possible transfers to English outfits Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City Fred signed for Fluminense in March 2009.
After missing a large part of the 2009 season through injury, he returned to help Flu avoid relegation on the final day of the national championship, with the side winning six of their last seven matches.
The club subsequently won the 2010 Brasileirão but Fred’s participation was again restricted thanks to a succession of injuries. Since 2011 he has remained largely injury free, and in a team which relies heavily on his penalty area presence and goal threat he has flourished.
In 2011 he netted 23 times in the Brasileirão tournament and earned himself a recall to the national side for the 2011 Copa America, having previously been part of Brazil’s 2006 World Cup squad. However a misunderstanding with then coach Mano Menezes left him exiled from the Seleção until Scolari’s return in November last year.
Twenty more goals in the 2012 Brasileirão earned Fred a second league medal and another crack at international football. Under Scolari he has scored ten goals and, barring injury, should start for the national side at next year’s World Cup.
On the European stage it would appear he still has some work to do to convince parts of the press of his abilities. Italian sports journalist Marco Mugnaiolo said, “In Italy he isn’t considered as good as his form suggested during the Confederations Cup… When I think about Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, they were much better players. But he fits Scolari’s style of play and is a good partner for Neymar.”
Although Fred may have spent his career in the shadow of bigger names, he nevertheless grabbed his chance when it came. He has the remainder of this season with Fluminense, and next year’s World Cup, to make his mark in history.
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