By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense and Botafogo’s impressive performances in the 2010 Brasileiro has led to their star players being linked with moves to Europe. Fluminense wrapped up their first league title since 1984, and as a result two of their leading lights have been scouted by European clubs with Champions League pedigree. Meanwhile, Rio legend Adriano could be on his way back to his native Brazil.
Fred and Dario Conca were linked with Italy and Portugal, respectively, during July and August, but both decided to stay with Fluminense and try to secure the national crown. Now that they’ve achieved this goal, they could both be seeking new pastures, despite Fred signing a new five-year deal in July.
Napoli are keen on the Fluminense front man, who twice won the Ligue 1 golden boot in France with Olympique Lyonnais. However, with a massive release clause in his contract, it is debatable whether the Italian outfit can afford the striker.
But there is a real danger Dario Conca will be departing from Laranjeiras before the new season gets underway. FC Porto, champions of Portugal, had a bid accepted for the Argentinian in August, but the playmaker opted to stay in Rio and see the job through with Fluminense.
At 27, this could represent Conca’s last chance to make an impact in Europe at a top club. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to represent his country at an international level, and has so far found himself down the pecking order, behind even Inter’s Andres d’Alessandro, who suffered an indifferent season. A move to Europe could catapult Conca onto the international stage.
Over at Botafogo, coach Joel Santana has a real job on his hands keeping his successful squad together. Botafogo finished the season in sixth place, a mere four points off Copa Libertadores qualification. It was an excellent season for Fogão, after many experts had predicted they would struggle to light up the league in 2010.
As ever, smaller club success brings its own perils and German clubs have started taking an interest in two of the leading lights at Botafogo. German tabloid Bild reported last week that Bundesliga side Hamburg were eyeing up a double swoop for Maicosuel and Herrera. The pair of offensive midfielders were instrumental in Botafogo’s season, and to lose them in Europe’s January transfer window could prove catastrophic for Santana’s 2011 preparations.
Yet there is some excitement among all the pillaging. Former Flamengo and Brazil striker Adriano could be making a swift return to Brazil after failing to settle at Italian side AS Roma. The man known as Imperador has failed to start a single league match for the team, and recently refused to come on as a substitute in the 86th minute of a game.
Relations are already strained with coach Claudio Ranieri and three clubs are ready to welcome him home with open arms. Corinthians, Flamengo and Fluminense are all vying for the striker’s signature and, after Unimed pledged to invest more money into Fluminense to add more depth to their squad, they could be the only ones able to afford the player’s hefty wages.